In 1973, the singer-songwriter Steve Nicks, then 27, had been supporting herself for years by waitressing and housecleaning, and felt old and tired, as she told The New York Times in a 2014 interview. Nicks channeled her weariness into the song “Landslide,” which would be released on her band Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled 1975 album, at which point her days in the service industry were long past.
“Landslide,” with its gently rolling arpeggios and moderate clip, has earned its status as one of the great ballads in the rock canon. Though the original recording is built from layered, interlocking acoustic guitars, for your convenience I’ve arranged it here for a single instrument, which is just as effective. The song is fingered in the key of C major, with a modulation at the chorus to G major, and with a capo at the third fret causing it to sound in Eb and Bb—which is unusual for rock.
Begin learning “Landslide” by polishing off the intro’s two-bar pattern. Hold down each chord shape for two beats, letting it all ring throughout, while picking the notes on strings 5 and 4 with your thumb, and those on the higher strings with your index and middle fingers. Note that the straight-16th-note rhythmic action is disrupted by an eighth note on the and of beats 2 and 4 in each measure, so take care not to rush those spots.
Once you can play the intro cleanly, commit it to memory, as it also forms the bulk of the verse. Heads up on the first ending, where the G/B chord is delayed by a beat, appearing on beat 4.
The chorus is a little trickier to play than the intro and verse. This new section introduces simultaneously picked notes on the treble and bass strings, embellished with hammer-ons and pull-offs. As with the previous sections, the chord shapes themselves don’t really require explanation, though I would suggest that you use either your second finger or thumb to play the low F# on the D7/F# chord—whichever is more comfortable for you. But the chorus will benefit from slow and intentional practicing—make sure that the hammered-on and pulled-off notes aren’t swallowed by the bass notes, and that these slurs also fall correctly in time.
The original studio recording of “Landslide” features an electric guitar solo, rendered expertly by Lindsey Buckingham (who also handled the acoustic guitars on the track). It’s played without a capo, and incorporates string bends that are easy to produce on the electric but not so much on the acoustic. Because it’s such an attractive solo, I’ve arranged it here for the steel-string, with a capo at the third fret to match the rest of the song, using slides and hammer-ons instead of bends. Check out how Buckingham’s lyricism and restraint make the solo an essential part of this classic song.
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 March/April 2019 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine, you will find the music on page 55.
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