Mad World

Learn How To Play Mad World

Chords and Guitar Lessons

Watch This Video

Complete song – Acoustic guitar and vocals


Mad World is a song written and first made famous by Tears For Fears in 1982. Two decades later, Gary Jules had a Christmas #1 with it as a cover.

My version is a one guitar arrangement based on Gary Jules’ piano ballad.

The song’s key center is not in the traditional natural minor (Aeolian, chord VI). Instead, Mad World’s key center is Dorian (chord II), just like I Wish and Scarborough Fair.

This is the second song in the course and already we use Mad World to examine what a mode really is.

Chord progression

There are relatively simple chords for Mad World, the verse is just this.

| Em | G | Dsus2 | A |

The intro/chorus/bridge/outro is even simpler.

| Em | A | Em | A |

All chords are from the key of D major, however, D is not the home chord, Em is (chord II).

Guitar Lessons

Mad World – Step 1 (Free Preview)

To learn how to play Mad World, we start by looking at the verse. First, practice all examples to the loop as the TAB display, then start mixing the patterns up.

This composition is in Dorian, which means chord II is our home.

Go to Mad World step 1.

Mad World – Step 2

In this step, we learn how to play the chorus. There are three examples to first learn before you start improvising.

The chorus only moves between the II and V chord, a very common movement.

Go to Mad World step 2.

Mad World – Step 3

Let’s take a look at how to play the intro/instrumental melody. To understand how a melody is constructed, we must anchor it in the chord shapes and think about intervals.

This will also help with remembering it, as well as understanding music and the guitar neck on a deeper level.

Go to Mad World step 3.

Mad World – Step 4

In this step, we play the complete song. You get a loop and TAB for practicing.

When you’re comfortable playing this, try it with me and the singer as well.

Go to Mad World step 4.

Mad World – Step 5

In this step, we explore how to play all Em and A chords using the CAGED system.

These two chords are a II – V and what you play in the chorus of Mad World.

Go to Mad World step 5.

Mad World – Step 6

Today we do what we did to the chorus in the last step to the verse. As there are four chords rather than just two, it may be a bit more difficult.

Persist and you will soon master the CAGED system.

Go to Mad World step 6.

Mad World – Step 7

With a capo on fret 2, we are set up to think of Mad World in the key of Dm.

We can now play the intro melody using open strings and add a sus4 instead of a sus2 to our I chord which is now a C.

Go to Mad World step 7.

Mad World – Step 8

In this final step, we fit a capo to fret 5. This means we now must think in Bm. Bm being chord II.

To make the chorus work better with the capo, I use a Bm7 instead of a Bm.

What will you play when you play along with me and the singer one final time?

Go to Mad World step 8.

Related Pages


Mad WorldAll around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere

Go to Mad World lyrics.

Gary Jules

gary-jules-thumbGary Jules is an American singer-songwriter, best known for his cover of Mad World by Tears For Fears. It became the UK Christmas number one single in ’03.

Following the worldwide success, Gary Jules kept selling his own CDs on CD Baby, as well as having the song released through a big label.

Go to Gary Jules biography.

Tears For Fears

tears-for-fears-thumbTears for Fears are an English pop band that has sold more than twenty-two million albums.

With hits like Mad World, Seeds Of Love and Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears For Fears were one of the biggest bands around in the 80s.

Go to Tears For Fears biography.


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

The intermediate songs require you to learn barre chords and pentatonic scales. This will be revolutionary for your understanding of the guitar fret board.

Go to Intermediate guitar course.

Intermediate Acoustic Songs

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

A Change Is Gonna Come, American Pie, Angie, Babylon, Blowin’ In The Wind, Dreadlock Holiday, Fast Car, Hey There Delilah, I Can’t Stand The Rain, I’m Yours, Kiss Me, Mad World, Red, Starman, Sunny Afternoon, and Whistle For The Choir.

Go to Intermediate acoustic songs.


All those open position chords you learned in the beginner course now become barre chords and pentatonic scales.

We’ll use this to map out the entire fret board. Everything becomes easier to visualize once this foundation is laid.

Go to Intermediate guitar exercises.

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Including detailed, but bite-sized explanations on how the music theory of each song is applied to the neck.

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