I Shot The Sheriff chords



You can learn how to play I Shot The Sheriff by Bob Marley!

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

Great care had to be taken in order to fit that legendary bass line in, paired with the reggae strums, played in a varied way so it sounds like a band jamming.

I’ve also transcribed several licks from the original recording and managed to fit these into this one acoustic guitar arrangement, it took a long time but was well worth it.

The various recordings Bob made of this fantastic song really is a treasure with so much to learn from.

In the course, I’ll break each section down for you and provide individual loops to practice along with.

The chords for I Shot The Sheriff may seem simple, but what we can do with them is seemingly endless!


I Shot The Sheriff chords and lyrics


Chords for I Shot The Sheriff

| Gm | Cm Cm7 Cm Cm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 |
I shot the sheriff, but I didn’t shoot no deputy, oh no! Oh!
| Gm | Cm Cm7 Cm Cm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 |
I shot the sheriff, but I didn’t shoot no deputy, ooh, ooh, oo-ooh.

| Eb Dm7 | Gm7 | Eb Dm7/A | Gm7 |
All around in my hometown, they’re trying to track me down.
| Eb Dm7/A | Gm Gm7 Gm | Eb Dm7/A | Gm Gm7 |
They say they want to bring me in guilty, for the killing of a deputy,
| Eb Dm7 Dm | Gm/D |
for the life of a deputy. But I say.

||: G Minor Pentatonic riff :|| 2/4 Gm |

| Gm | Cm Cm7 Cm Cm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 |
Oh, now, now. Oh! (I shot the sheriff.) – the sheriff, but I swear it was in self-defense. Oh, no! (Ooh, ooh, oo-oh)
| Gm | Cm Cm7 Cm Cm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 |
Yeah! I say: I shot the sheriff – Oh, Lord! – And they say it is a capital offense. Yeah! (Ooh, ooh, oo-oh) Yeah!

| Eb Dm7 | Gm7 | Eb Dm7/A | Gm7 |
Sheriff John Brown always hated me, for what, I don’t know.
| Eb Dm7/A | Gm Gm7 Gm | Eb Dm7/A | Gm Gm7 |
Every time I plant a seed, he said kill it before it grow.
| Eb Dm7 Dm | Gm/D |
He said kill them before they grow.

||: G Minor Pentatonic riff :|| 2/4 Gm |
And so, read it in the news.

| Gm | Cm Cm7 Cm Cm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 |
(I shot the sheriff.) Oh, Lord! But I swear it was in self-defense, where was the deputy? (Oo-oo-oh).
| Gm | Cm Cm7 Cm Cm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 |
I say: I shot the sheriff, but I swear it was in self-defense. (Oo-oh) Yeah!

| Eb Dm7 | Gm7 | Eb Dm7/A | Gm7 |
Freedom came my way one day, and I started out of town, yeah.
| Eb Dm7/A | Gm Gm7 Gm | Eb Dm7/A | Gm Gm7 |
All of a sudden I saw sheriff John Brown, aiming to shoot me down.
| Eb Dm7 Dm | Gm/D |
So I shot – I shot – I shot him down and I say.

||: G Minor Pentatonic riff :|| Gm | Gm |
If I am guilty I will pay.

| Gm | Cm Cm7 Cm Cm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 |
(I shot the sheriff), but I say (But I didn’t shoot no deputy). I didn’t shoot no deputy (oh, no-oh), oh no!
| Gm | Cm Cm7 Cm Cm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 |
(I shot the sheriff) I did! But I didn’t shoot no deputy. Oh! (Oo-oo-ooh).

| Eb Dm7 | Gm7 | Eb Dm7/A | Gm7 |
Reflexes had got the better of me, and what is to be must be.
| Eb Dm7/A | Gm Gm7 Gm | Eb Dm7/A | Gm Gm7 |
Every day the bucket a-go a well, one day the bottom a-go drop out,
| Eb Dm7 Dm | Gm/D |
one day the bottom a-go drop out, I say.

||: G Minor Pentatonic riff :|| 2/4 Gm |

| Gm | Cm Cm7 Cm Cm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 |
I – I – I – I shot the sheriff. Lord, I didn’t shot the deputy.
| Gm | Cm Cm7 Cm Cm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 |
I – I (shot the sheriff). But I didn’t shoot no deputy, yeah! No, yeah.

||: Gm | Cm Cm7 Cm Cm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 | Gm7 Gm Gm7 :|| x3
| Gm | Cm |


I Shot The Sheriff chord progression

The chord boxes above the lyrics and chords may be helpful in order to remember the opportunities you have to move the chords for I Shot The Sheriff around the fretboard.

It’s important to understand that almost none of these are played with all notes at the same time, they’re all broken up. This means that the best way to learn this is to use the TAB.

Without TAB, you simply won’t get all the small nuances that are what make the arrangement work.

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 verse 1 look like this.

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

The chorus is (seemingly) even more simple, moving just between Gm and Cm, or the VI and II chord. To create movement, we go between the minor chord and the min7.


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
  • Harmonizing 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 maintaining the rhythm. Or alternatively, extend the notes into chords and even vary the rhythm.

In the advanced acoustic guitar course, first practice along to all TAB loops, before you start jamming or writing your own variations on the various themes the original recording of I Shot The Sheriff provides us with.


Course preview (Guitar Lesson – Step 8)

In the video above, starting at 4:43, you find a preview of I Shot The Sheriff’s guitar lesson, it’s the beginning of step 1’s lesson from the course, cut to the final step. This is three hours of video lessons later!

Now, armed with playing bass lines, CAGED chord shapes all over the neck, the verse vocal melody, and the harmonized chorus melody you can play the final challenge which puts all this together.

Below, there’s TAB for what you find in this final challenge between 11:25 – 11:51, the verse melody.


I Shot The Sheriff – 8 Guitar Lessons

To play I Shot The Sheriff on just one guitar we must study what the bass is playing on the original recording.

Once this is established, everything else falls into place. After learning the complete song step by step we also tackle the vocal melody.

Go to I Shot The Sheriff – 8 Guitar Lessons.


I Shot The Sheriff – Lyrics

I 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 was a Jamaican singer, songwriter, guitarist, and activist.

Marley is the most widely known performer of reggae music and is 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.


Eric Clapton

As well as a member of bands like Derek & The Dominos, The Yardbirds and Cream, Clapton has successfully played sessions for more stars than any other guitar player.

His long career earned him three inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

Go to Eric Clapton – Biography.


Advanced Acoustic Songs

These songs use big chord extensions and sometimes, unique and complex chords that incorporate open strings.

Study these in-depth and you will gain a complete understanding of the fretboard, including how to build any scale, arpeggio, and chord, anywhere on the guitar.

Go to Advanced Acoustic Songs.


The professional guitarist Song Book

The greatest asset you as a guitarist can acquire is a repertoire.

If you learn the songs listed on these pages you can take the step from being a bedroom player to playing with a band. Learn enough of them and you can become a professional guitarist.

Go to Song Book.


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