Learn ‘Pachelbel’s Canon’ on Guitar

"Pachelbel's Canon" is an often-requested composition for gigging guitarists. Here's a compact arrangement that sounds just as good on the steel-string as nylon-string.

By the 1980s, “Pachelbel’s Canon,” as it’s informally named, was one of the most well-known pieces in the classical canon—at least by the general public. Its stately, repetitive chord progression continues to make it a remarkably common selection for wedding processions.

A recent survey of AG readers suggests that they have either attended or performed at an abundance of weddings, as “Pachelbel’s Canon” was an often-requested selection. Due to popular demand, the composition is presented here for guitar in a compact arrangement that will sound just as good on the steel-string as the nylon-string.

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The piece is in the key of D, and the arrangement is in dropped-D tuning, as the open sixth string adds depth and richness on select D chords. That familiar four-bar progression of D–A–Bm–F#m–G–D–G–A, two chords per measure, repeats throughout while the melody receives a bunch of variations.

These variations can be played on guitar with pretty standard fingerings—remember to fret the low G with your fourth finger, and the melody notes should fall into place. Things get a little tricky, though, in bars 14–15 and 17–20, where the fretting hand needs to do a bit of gymnastics to play the melody. Follow the suggested fingerings, or work up some of your own. 

Pachelbel's canon in D on guitar music notation sheet 1

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Pachelbel's canon in D on guitar music notation sheet 2

This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.


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Adam Perlmutter
Adam Perlmutter

Adam Perlmutter holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and a master's degree in Contemporary Improvisation from the New England Conservatory. He is the editor of Acoustic Guitar.

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