Learn to Play “Tonight You Belong to Me” on Acoustic Guitar

This simple arrangement allows for easy, primarily open chording.

“Tonight You Belong to Me” is a delightful 32-bar song that goes back to the Roaring Twenties. Written by Billy Rose and Lee David, it was a big hit for singer Gene Austin in 1926 as well as Roger Wolfe Kahn and others around the same time. The song began to pick up steam again in the early ’50s when Frankie Laine recorded his sophisticated big band version, but the big hit came in 1956 with a version by the teen sister duo of Patience and Prudence, which hit No. 4 on the charts and sold over a million copies.

“Tonight You Belong to Me” has been recorded by many other artists since then, from Dottie West to Eddie Vedder and Chan Marshall (Cat Power). It has been heard in commercials, films, and television shows; Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters famously sang it in a charming scene in the 1979 comedy The Jerk

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As per our usual modus operandi, let’s keep this arrangement simple and in a key (namely, D major) that allows for easy, primarily open chording. Though we’re using more chords than usual—a total of nine, some of them jazzy—they’re all pretty easy to form. Note the use of the Gm7 chord (G Bb D F), which is borrowed from the key of D minor, adding a sophisticated flavor. 

I like to fingerpick the simple accompaniment pattern shown here, but it will work just as well with a pick. Whichever technique you choose, be sure to play the song with a gently loping feel, as indicated by the swing eighth notes symbol at the beginning of the notation. In other words, instead of playing two even notes per beat, play them long-short. If you are unsure how to do this, just follow along with the video.

Learn to pick, strum, and sing simple arrangements of 25 classic tunes with Campfire Songs for Acoustic Guitar.

Maurice Tani
Maurice Tani

Maurice Tani is a veteran singer-songwriter and alt-country band leader based in California.

2 Comments

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  1. Hi Maurice and greetings from across the pond in Kent , England. could you tell me the name of the acoustic guitar you are using – it sounds very sweet, is almost parlour size and the headstock seems to show Delcis but that is not a name / brand / luthier / guitar maker Ican find ?

    Cheers, safe passage and Merry Christmas to you and yours

    Joe

  2. Just wanted to say Im really enjoying Maurice Tani,s campfire songs and videos. I bought the book and am learning something new with every song.

    Thank you

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