How to Play the Indigo Girls’ Folk-Rock Anthem “Closer to Fine”

With tight harmonies, sturdy twin guitar strumming, thoughtful lyrics, and a bit of vocal countermelody, the song has all the hallmarks of the duo's style.

Ever since the Indigo Girls released “Closer to Fine” on their Grammy-winning self-titled album in 1989, the song has been in wide circulation—embraced by legions of fans for its hooky chorus and timeless message of seeking and self-acceptance. But who could have imagined that one of the defining pop culture images of 2023 would be Barbie and Ken, aka Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, singing along to “Closer to Fine” in a pink convertible?

“Closer to Fine” dates back to the beginnings of the Indigo Girls, when Emily Saliers and Amy Ray were just out of college and playing bar gigs. The song already had the hallmarks of their style, with tight harmonies, sturdy twin guitar strumming, thoughtful lyrics, and a bit of vocal countermelody. The duo’s original track, with sparse instrumentation beyond their two acoustic guitars, pops up several times in the Barbie movie; for the expanded soundtrack album, Brandi Carlile contributed a slowed-down, dreamy interpretation sung with her wife, Catherine Carlile.

To play “Closer to Fine” in the Indigo Girls’ style, capo at the second fret and use G shapes, which sound in the key of A major. Both Saliers and Ray play out of this position, using slightly different voicings. The guitar notation here draws on elements of both of their parts. 

ADVERTISEMENT

In the intro, hold down the top two strings at the third fret while you change from G to A7sus4, Cadd9, and Dsus4, then follow with a classic Dsus chord embellishment. The A7sus4 shown is the shape that Ray uses; Saliers plays an Am7 at the same time, so the underlying harmony is minor. Maintain a similar driving rhythm pattern throughout the song, with plenty of down/up eighth note strums.

ADVERTISEMENT

In the third and fourth lines of the verse, Saliers uses the Dadd4add9/A and C/G shapes, fretting the sixth string under both chords, while Ray plays standard D and C shapes.

The one place where the strumming rhythm pauses is in the short instrumental bridge, where Saliers picks a little melody on D and C chords as shown in the example.

Thanks to the Barbie spotlight, this classic song is finding its way into the ears and sing-along repertoires of an entirely new generation.


Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to post notation or tablature for this musical work. If you have a digital or physical copy of the January/February 2024 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 54.


Acoustic Guitar magazine cover for issue 344

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers
Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers

Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, founding editor of Acoustic Guitar, is a grand prize winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and author of The Complete Singer-Songwriter, Beyond Strumming, and other books and videos for musicians. In addition to his ongoing work with AG, he offers live workshops for guitarists and songwriters, plus video lessons, song charts, and tab, on Patreon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

ADVERTISEMENT

Circa74 amplifier from Taylor Guitars photographed with a modern blue-green background
2-in-1 acoustic and vocal amp.
Rich, warm sound. Intuitive controls.
Simply stylish.