American Pie chords by Don McLean


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American Pie | Chords and lyrics

Intro

| G D/F# Em | Am C | Em D Dsus4 | 2/4 Dsus2 D |
A long long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile.
| G D/F# Em | Am C | Em C | D Dsus4 D Dsus2 |
And I knew if I had my chance, that I could make those people dance, and maybe they’d be happy for a while.
| Em Am | Em Am | C Gsus4/B Am | C D |
But February made me shiver, with every paper I’d deliver, bad news on the doorstep, I couldn’t take one more step.
| G D/F# Em | C D | G D/F# Em | C D | G |
I can’t remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride, but something touched me deep inside, the day the music died.

Chorus 1

| G C | G D | G C | G D |
So bye-bye Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry.
| G C | G D |
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing,
| Em | A7 | Em | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D |
this’ll be the day that I die. This’ll be the day that I die.

Verse 1

| G | Am | C | Am | Em | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D Dsus4 |
Did you write the Book of Love and do you have faith in God above, if the Bible tells you so.
| G D/F# | Em | Am | C | Em | Am | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D Dsus4 |
Do you believe in rock n’ roll, can music save your mortal soul, and can you teach me how to dance real slow.
| Em | D | Em | D |
Well, I know that you’re in love with him, ’cause I saw you dancing in the gym.
| C Gsus4/B | Am | C | D Dsus4 |
You both kicked off your shoes, man I dig those rhythm & blues.
| G D/F# | Em | Am | C |
I was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck, with a pink carnation and a pickup truck,
| G D/F# | Em | C | D | G C | G D Dsus4 |
but I knew I was out of luck, the day the music died.

Chorus 2

| G C | G D | G C | G D |
So bye-bye Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry.
| G C | G D |
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing,
| Em | A7 | Em | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D |
this’ll be the day that I die. This’ll be the day that I die.

Verse 2

| G | Am | C | Am | Em | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D Dsus4 |
Now for ten years we’ve been on our own, and moss grows fat on a rolling stone, but that’s not how it used to be.
| G D/F# | Em | Am | C | Em | Am | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D Dsus4 |
When the Jester sang for the King and Queen, in a coat, he borrowed from James Dean, in a voice that came from you and me.
| Em | D | Em | D |
Oh, and while the King was looking down, the Jester stole his thorny crown.
| C Gsus4/B | Am | C | D Dsus4 |
The courtroom was adjourned, no verdict was returned.
| G D/F# | Em | Am | C |
And while Lenin read a book on Marx, the quartet practiced in the park,
| G D/F# | Em | C | D | G C | G D Dsus4 |
and we sang dirges in the dark, the day the music died. We were singing.

Chorus 3

| G C | G D | G C | G D |
Bye-bye Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry.
| G C | G D |
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing,
| Em | A7 | Em | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D |
this’ll be the day that I die. This’ll be the day that I die.

Verse 3

| G | Am | C | Am |Em | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D Dsus4 |
Helter Skelter in a summer swelter, the birds flew off with a fallout shelter, eight miles high and falling fast.
| G D/F# | Em | Am | C | Em | Am | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D Dsus4 |
It landed foul on the grass, the players tried for a forward pass, with the Jester on the sidelines in a cast.
| Em | D | Em | D |
Now the half-time air was sweet perfume, while the Sergeants played a marching tune.
| C Gsus4/B | Am | C | D Dsus4 |
We all got up to dance, but we never got the chance.
| G D/F# | Em | Am | C |
‘Cause the players tried to take the field, the marching band refused to yield.
| G D/F# | Em | C | D | G C | G D Dsus4 |
Do you recall what was revealed, the day the music died. We started singing.

Chorus 4

| G C | G D | G C | G D |
Bye-bye Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry.
| G C | G D |
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing,
| Em | A7 | Em | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D |
this’ll be the day that I die. This’ll be the day that I die.

Verse 4

| G | Am | C | Am | Em | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D Dsus4 |
Oh, and there we were all in one place, a generation lost in space, with no time left to start again.
| G D/F# | Em | Am | C | Em | Am | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D Dsus4 |
So come on, Jack, be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack Flash sat on a candlestick, ’cause fire is the devil’s only friend.
| Em | D | Em | D |
Oh, and as I watched him on the stage, my hands were clenched in fists of rage.
| C Gsus4/B | Am | C | D Dsus4 |
No angel born in Hell, could break that Satan’s spell.
| G D/F# | Em | Am | C |
And as flames climbed high into the night, to light the sacrificial rite,
| G D/F# | Em | C | D | G C | G D Dsus4 |
I saw Satan laughing with delight, the day the music died.

Chorus 5

| G C | G D | G C | G D |
He was singing, bye-bye Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry.
| G C | G D |
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing,
| Em | A7 | Em | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D |
this’ll be the day that I die. This’ll be the day that I die.

Verse 5

| G D/F# Em | Am C | Em D | 2/4 Dsus2 D |
I met a girl who sang the blues and I asked her for some happy news but she just smiled and turned away.
| G D/F# Em | Am Em | Em C | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D |
I went down to the sacred store, where I’d heard the music years before but the man there said the music wouldn’t play.
| Em Am | Em Am | C Gsus4/B Am | C D | 2/4 Dsus2 D |
And in the streets the children screamed, the lovers cried and the poets dreamed. But not a word was spoken, the church bells all were broken.
| G D/F# Em | C D | G D/F# Em | C D | G |
And the three men I admire most, the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost, they caught the last train for the coast, the day the music died. And they were singin’.

Chorus 6

| G C | G D | G C | G D |
Bye-bye Miss American Pie, drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry.
| G C | G D |
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye, singing,
| Em | A7 | Em | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D |
this’ll be the day that I die. This’ll be the day that I die. They were singing.

Chorus 7

| G C | G D | G C | G D |
Bye-bye, Miss American Pie, drove my chevy to the levy, but the levy was dry.
| G C | G D |
And them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye,
| C D | G C G | G |
singing this’ll be the day that I die.


You can learn how to play American Pie!

The chord progression can be tricky to remember since the same chords seem to be repeated in lots of different ways.

Thinking of them as numbers really will help as every number has a sound. If you can tap into this, you can hear where the progression wants to move next.

On my top 10 chord progression list, American Pie can be found in three positions.

  • #1 spot – The I – IV (GC)
  • #2 spot – The IV – V (CD)
  • #10 spot – The VI – II (EmAm)

One of the chords in the song is an X chord (a chord that should have been minor but has been changed to major).

Using only open-position chords, may all seem easy at first, but as you’ll soon find out, playing open positions chords well has more to it than one may first believe.

Below, you find two guitar lessons covering how to play American Pie’s verse and chorus. Complete with TAB loops to practice with, you can learn how to play this epic Don McLean tune, enjoy!


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American Pie chorus chords and strumming

Since the chorus is the least complicated section, let’s start with learning how to play this section.

I’ve got two TAB loops for you. In the first example, we pick some of the bass notes.

American Pie Chorus TAB – example 1

The second example has more strumming, looks like this.

American Pie Chorus TAB – example 2

If the loop is too fast, try it on your own using a metronome, gradually building it up to speed.

After some time, you’ll get this perfectly nailed down. Now, and not before, play it without looking at the TAB, combining the single bass note with big strums in an improvised way.

Since this is not a riff, natural variations in the strumming are a good thing. Next, we look at the verse, it has a much more intricate chord progression than the chorus.


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American Pie verse chords and strumming

Let’s continue our discovery of how American Pie can be played on just one guitar. The verse is what is up for grabs here and as it is so long, I’ve had to divide it up in halves.

The first half gets two TAB loops, the 2nd only one. As you will soon find out, there are a lot of chords and TAB for just one verse!

Here’s the first half, example 1.

American Pie Verse TAB example 1

Ensure you can play this, if not along to the loop, at least on your own before you try example 2.

American Pie Verse TAB example 2

Here’s the second half of this epic verse. Practice with the TAB loop in the video playlist.

American Pie Verse TAB – 2nd half

In the next step, we work out how to play the intro and outro. There will be two very long TAB loops to practice along with. Luckily, they are pretty similar to each other.

Following this, we play the complete song and then invent a 2nd guitar part so you, me, and the singer can play American Pie together.

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The day the music died

American Pie is a single by Don McLean from the album of the same name about “the day the music died”, a reference to Buddy Holly’s death.

A lyrical masterpiece, American Pie tells the story of how Don McLean, as a paperboy, finds out that three of his musical heroes have died.

The deaths of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper in a plane crash on February 3rd ’59 may have been described in many ways, but no one ever forgets to mention Don McLean’s classic American Pie, in which the story is told so beautifully through a song.

Don himself claims “It’s not analysis, it’s poetry.” When asked what the song meant to him, he answered grinning “It means I never have to work again”.


American Pie | Related pages


American Pie – 8 Guitar Lessons

What’s more epic than American Pie?!? This lyrical masterpiece must be played to be fully appreciated.

Let’s break down each section, practice to loops, and then finally, invent a 2nd guitar part.

Go to American Pie – 8 Guitar Lessons.


Don McLean

Don McLean is an American singer-songwriter most famous for his ’71 songs American Pie and Vincent.

When McLean’s indie label Media Arts got sold to United Artists, he got an unexpected chance to make his second album for a major label.

Go to Don McLean.


Intermediate Acoustic Songs

Intermediate Acoustic Guitar Songs

The intermediate songs can not be played using just basic open-position chords. We have to move up the fretboard and play CAGED barre chords as well.

We incorporate bass lines, licks, extend chords, and play vocal melodies. Most importantly, we invent 2nd guitar parts and play these songs together.

Go to Intermediate Acoustic Songs.


Song Book

As a guitarist, a repertoire is the greatest asset you can acquire. It is your ticket to playing with other musicians.

To help you on this journey, I’ve gathered tunes I play with acoustic duos, Jazz trios, Indie/Rock/Party bands as well as large Soul/Motown ensembles.

Go to Song Book.


Copyright + Comments

Studying great songs is the best way for a musician to develop, we believe displaying chords and lyrics falls under “fair use in education”.

If you are the copyright holder and do not wish to be represented in this way, or want to comment on anything in these lessons, do reach out.

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