Learn How To Play Roxanne

Chords and Guitar Lessons

Watch This Video

Complete song – Acoustic guitar and vocals


Roxanne was the first single from The Police. It was written by Sting who eventually left the band to pursue a solo career.

Originally part of a new-wave/punk-pop band, Sting later settled down and wrote more jazz-influenced material. Since The Police, Sting has surrounded himself with the best session musicians that money could buy.

We can all learn a huge amount from how this prolific songwriter pens a hit song, be it an early or late composition.

Chord progression

Roxanne’s verse chord progression descends from VI – V – IV – III – II, before it moves up again from V to VI.

To make this work as a one guitar arrangement, place a capo on fret three and think of Roxanne as if in the key of Em, like this:

Em | D | Cmaj7 | BmAm7 | Dsus4Esus4 | Esus4 |

The last chord is neither major nor minor, when the verse starts again you really feel the minor chord, clever stuff.

The chorus uses the chords I, IV, V and VI.

That’s GCD and Em if you put the capo on fret three.

Roxanne in the guitar course

Spytunes’ version of Roxanne is an attempt to capture what the band played, but on just one acoustic guitar. We achieve this by breaking up the strumming, playing lower strings when the bass played on the original.

In the first step, we look at a transcription of the guitar, bass and drums to work out what rhythm is best suited for the verse.

This gives us four examples to play the verse. This is then easily developed for the bridge.

Roxanne never changes key, it does however clearly move from a minor verse to a major chorus.

This is seemingly the simplest way to write a song but actually, it’s the hardest as you have no tricks to rely on. Few artists can do this well, Sting is one of the masters.

In just four lessons, you have everything you need to play Roxanne, just like I do in the video above. But we don’t stop there.

Following learning the one acoustic guitar arrangement, we play the vocal melody (with extreme attention to detail) and even improvise over the verse progression.

In the course, we don’t just learn the tune, we learn from it.

Guitar Lessons

Roxanne – Step 1

In the first step, we work on four different ways to play the verse of Roxanne.

Each example corresponds with the actual verses played in the complete song arrangement.

Go to Roxanne step 1.

Roxanne – Step 2

Let’s learn the bridge of Roxanne as that is what connects the verse and the chorus.

This is much easier than the verse, especially as you spent so much time practicing already.

Go to Roxanne step 2.

Roxanne – Step 3

Let’s learnt hat chorus. The bass lines chromatic notes have been added sparsely, as incorporating all of them clashed with the vocal.

The final example of the chorus doesn’t have any rests, this is done to emulate the outro chorus where the band plays more frenetically.

Go to Roxanne step 3.

Roxanne – Step 4

The time has come to play the complete song with a singer, simply play along with us to learn it. Having practiced all previous steps, this is easy.

There is complete TAB available as well as a TAB loop for practicing the intro.

Go to Roxanne step 4.

Roxanne – Step 5

If you really want to get much better at playing guitar and writing songs there is only one way forward.

You must transcribe vocal melodies and solos. In this step I have done this for you.

Go to Roxanne step 5.

Roxanne – Step 6

In this step, we practice Aeolian in Gm. We do this as a master exercise by adding and taking away intervals.

There is TAB and loops for everything, your goal is to not read the TAB.

Go to Roxanne step 6.

Roxanne – Step 7

You’ve heard about playing over changes, right? And everyone has probably told you how it’s better to do this than to use a blanket scale, right?

When I discovered a third way, my mind was blown. Roxanne’s verse is perfect for exploring this.

Go to Roxanne step 7.

Roxanne – Step 8

In the last step, you discovered an alternative to playing over changes, it was pretty mind blowing, how can we possibly improve on this?

By flipping the script, that’s how.

Go to Roxanne step 8.

Related Pages


RoxanneRoxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light
Those days are over
You don’t have to sell your body to the night
Roxanne, you don’t have to wear that dress tonight
Walk the streets for money

Go to Roxanne lyrics.


sting-thumbSting is an English musician who, prior to his solo career, had a band called The Police, with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers.

Formed by drummer Stewart Copeland in 1977, The Police reached worldwide success after releasing their first single Roxanne only a year after they formed the band.

Go to Sting 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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