Roxanne chords



You can learn how to play Roxanne by The Police!

Roxanne was the first single from the world-famous British band, The Police. It was written by Sting who in ’84 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, he has surrounded himself with the best session musicians that money can buy.

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


Roxanne chords and lyrics – Capo 3


Chords for Roxanne

Roxanne’s verse chord progression descends from VI – V – IV – III – II, before it moves up again from V to VI. The V chord could also be described as chord III, with its m3rd in the bass.

This means you can call it a D6 or a Bm/D, should you have a capo on fret 3. Without a capo, it would be an F6 or a Dm/F.

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.

Using a Cm-shaped chord for the initial Em, we get a very compact sounding chord, this works great for an acoustic version of Roxanne. Using the lyrics from verse 1, the chords look like this.

| Em | Bm/D | Cmaj7 | Bm |
Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light.
| Am7 | Dsus4 | Esus4 | Esus4 |
Those days are over, you don’t have to sell your body to the night.

The last chords are neither major nor minor. This means that when the verse starts again, you really feel at home in Aeolian (chord VI), clever stuff!

The bridge recycles the second half of the verse progression.

| Am7 | Dsus4 | Esus4 | Esus4 |
Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light.
| Am7 | Dsus4 | Esus4 | Esus4 |
Roxanne, you don’t have to put on the red light.

The chorus, which feels at home in major, uses the chords I, IV, V, and VI, with the IV and II chords as quick passing chords.

That’s G, C, D, Em, and Am7 if you put the capo on fret three. Here this is displayed with lyrics.

| G5 | G5 C | D5 | D5/C# D5 | Em | Em Am7 |
||: Roxanne (put on the red light) :|| x3
| G G5 | G5 C | D5 D5/C# | D5/C# D5 | Esus4 | Esus4 |
||: Roxanne (put on the red light) :||

There is also an instrumental section following the chorus. Here we pivot between an Em and an Em/D.

||: Em | Em/D :||


In the guitar course

My 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 and playing lower strings to imitate the bass line from the original recording.

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 (see notation further down this page).

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

Even though the song never changes key, it does clearly move from a minor verse to a major chorus.

This is seemingly the simplest way to write a song, few artists do it 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 advanced acoustic guitar course, we don’t just learn the tune, we learn from it.


Course preview (Guitar Lesson – Step 1)

In the video above, starting at 3:14, you find a preview of Roxanne’s guitar lesson, it’s the beginning of step 1 of the course.

Here we start by looking at the original guitar part and how it lines up with the bass and drums. There’s some notation available below in order to visualize this better.

To get all other TAB for how to actually put all this together into a one acoustic guitar part, there are 4 more examples in this step.


Roxanne – Guitar Lessons

Roxanne is, once you can play the verse, pretty easy. We’ll learn how to play it in just four steps in the course.

Following this, we play the vocal melody, practice Aeolian, and improvise using the mode over the verse progression.

Go to Roxanne guitar lessons.


Roxanne – Lyrics

Roxanne, 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,
you don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right.

Go to Roxanne lyrics.


The Police – Biography

The Police was a New Wave band from England comprising of Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland.

Unusually, it was Stewart’s father, Miles Copeland III who managed the band and later, Sting’s solo career.

Go to The Police biography.


Sting – Biography

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

Formed 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.


Advanced Acoustic – 10 Songs

You can learn how to play these 10 advanced acoustic songs!

Angels, Blackbird, Cannonball, I Shot The Sheriff, Over The Rainbow, Roxanne, Scarborough Fair, Sunshine Of Your Love, Take Me To The River, and Wish You Were Here.

Go to Advanced Acoustic Songs.