Learn to Play Richard Shindell’s Song ‘Your Guitar’ from His Album ‘Careless’

Any guitarist who’s ever scored a vintage instrument has likely wondered about the music, travels, and caretakers it has known. That reflection is the inspiration behind Richard Shindell’s “Your Guitar,” from the singer-songwriter’s most recent album, Careless (Continental Record Services).

Shindell recorded the song not on an old guitar, but a recent Fairbanks homage to a vintage Stella 12-string. He tuned the instrument to C G C F G C (relative to D A D G A D, but down a whole step), but in concert he plays the song on a Martin D-18 in straight D A D G A D, to avoid tuning hassles on stage.


Though the verse has a rich modal sound (specifically, D Mixolydian: D E F# G A B C), you can play most of that section just by moving your first finger along the third string. Pretty much any strumming pattern in 3/4 time will do, but start by trying out the ones shown here in the first two bars of notation, with a fuller voicing on beat 1, and upper-string notes on 2 and 3.

On the studio recording, particularly in the first verse, Shindell tends to avoid strings 6 and 5—an effective strategy that keeps the guitar from overwhelming his voice—but feel free to use these low notes to bolster any of the D-type chords. Also, try sliding into each new chord like Shindell does, as shown in the last two bars of notation.

The instrumental section that proceeds the second verse can provide a nice showcase for your guitar. Using the suggested strumming patterns, try improvising a little solo from within the D Mixolydian mode—you can do it as before, all on string 3—and let your guitar tell the story it wants to.

your-guitarCopyright: Words + Music By Richard Shindell, © 2014 Amalgamated Balladry

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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