I Shot The Sheriff

Learn How To Play I Shot the Sheriff

Chords and Guitar Lessons

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Complete song – Acoustic guitar and vocals


This one guitar arrangement of I Shot The Sheriff is inspired by the original Bob Marley recording.

The verse chord progression is simple and very Aeolian sounding. Using the IV and III chords to constantly point back to chord VI. Being in the key of Gm, the chords for the verse spell:

||: Eb Dm | Gm :||

The chorus is even more simple, moving just between Gm and Cm, or the VI and II chord.

The world famous riff following “…and I say” uses the Minor Pentatonic scale.

Building a one guitar arrangement

When you build a one guitar arrangement you have to first work out what the most important parts are. To build I Shot The Sheriff, I focused on:

  • The bass line
  • Variations on the upbeat rhythms
  • The bass drum rhythm for the verse
  • Harmonising the riff
  • Moving and extending CAGED chord shapes
  • Combining many examples in order to achieve the sound of a jamming band
  • Transcribing and incorporating licks from the original recording

Make sure the bass line is rhythmically solid and dynamically well pronounced.

You can vary it in an improvised way by changing the notes, but maintain the rhythm. Or alternatively, extend the notes into chords and even vary the rhythm.

For best results, practice along to all TAB loops, before you start jamming or writing your own variations on the various themes I Shot The Sheriff provide us with.

Guitar Lessons

I Shot The Sheriff – Step 1 (Free Preview)

In this first step, we look at some bass line transcriptions from the original recording for the chorus and verse.

This is followed by playing some back beat rhythms using all our CAGED chord shapes. Do this to map out the fretboard.

Go to I Shot The Sheriff step 1.

I Shot The Sheriff – Step 2

Let’s start working on how to combine the bass line of the chorus with some chords.

This will eventually become a one acoustic guitar part that can be either memorised or improvised.

Go to I Shot The Sheriff step 2.

I Shot The Sheriff – Step 3

In this step we, we keep working on that chorus part, now focusing on the 2nd half of the chorus.

This is more complicated, but using the TAB loops you will soon be able to play the chorus in its entirety.

Go to I Shot The Sheriff step 3.

I Shot The Sheriff – Step 4

It’s time to work out how to play the verse, now the original bass line won’t be able to form the foundation like it did in the chorus.

Instead we have to create a part that incorporates the bass drum on beat 2 and 4, into our one acoustic guitar part.

Go to I Shot The Sheriff step 4.

I Shot The Sheriff – Step 5

In this first step, we look at how to strum the verse/chorus as well as the more complex intro.

To make it sound nice, focus on how you change the dynamics of your strumming hand, maintaining the rhythm.

Go to I Shot The Sheriff step 5.

I Shot The Sheriff – Step 6

Finally, you get to actually play the complete song. I walk you through all the TAB in detail before you play with me and the singers.

You can then choose to improvise up a part along with us, copy me, or find parts that work with what I play. Or even better, do all these things!

Go to I Shot The Sheriff step 6.

I Shot The Sheriff – Step 7

Let’s understand, learn and develop the chorus vocal melody.

Since this is sung in harmony, it’s not easy to identify what the actual melody is.

Go to I Shot The Sheriff step 7.

I Shot The Sheriff – Step 8

In this final step, we put the verse vocal melody under the microscope as we play along with the singer, note for note.

This is followed by a very difficult 2nd guitar part which will give you plenty of ideas to play with me and the singers again.

Go to I Shot The Sheriff step 8.

Related Pages


I Shot The SheriffI shot the sheriff
But I didn’t shoot no deputy, oh no! Oh!
I shot the sheriff
But I didn’t shoot no deputy, ooh, ooh, oo-ooh

Go to I Shot The Sheriff lyrics.

Bob Marley

bob-marley-thumbBob Marley was a Jamaican singer, songwriter, guitarist, and activist.

Marley is the most widely known performer of reggae music and regarded by many as a prophet of the Rastafarian religion.

Few artists have had such widespread recognition as Bob Marley.

Go to Bob Marley biography.


Learning how to play guitar is best done through playing and learning from songs.

The advanced songs require you to learn 7th note chords and modal scales. This will be revolutionary for your understanding of the guitar fret board.

Go to Advanced guitar course.


You can learn how to play these advanced songs on the acoustic guitar.

Angels, Baby Won’t You Please Come Home, Blackbird, Cannonball, Don’t Wait Too Long, I Shot The Sheriff, Over The Rainbow, Roxanne, Scarborough Fair, Sunshine Of Your Love, Take Me To The River, Tears In Heaven, and Wish You Were Here.

Go to Advanced acoustic songs.

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