Toggle Menu

Love Me Tender (aka Aura Lee) - A fingerstyle guitar lesson

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Beginner-Intermediate


Love me Tender - The Lesson explained

I remember quite clearly hearing this tune on the car radio in 1956. I was 7 years old, living in Havana Cuba at the time and Elvis was just starting his amazing career. What I didn't know then, and only just found out in the last couple of months, is that 'Love Me Tender' was in fact taken from an older tune called 'Aura Lee' which was first published in 1861, making it Public Domain today. As such, I'm perfectly entitled to turn it into a lesson for you all without fear of retribution form the dreaded copyright police.

It's a gem of a tune, such a melancholy melody line, such an evocative chord progression ... I love playing it and listening to it.

I've done it in the key of C. For once, G was not the best key fingering wise, C is just right. It does bring up F and Fm chords, but I've arranged it in such a way as to avoid the barre versions, which no one likes.

It's in two halves: the first is very basic, just melody line with simple bass line. If you're just starting out with fingerstyle, this first half should be quite easy to nail down. The only bit you might find tricky is where I use my thumb to grab a bass note on the thick E string. That occurs at the end of bars 6 and 14. If you can't quite manage that part, just leave that bass note out. It's not integral to the overall arrangement, it's just a lead in note for the next measure.

As usual, you will see in the video that I'm holding down full chord shapes most of the time, even though I'm only playing two notes at most. That's because when I arrange tunes for these lessons, I always start with the chord progression. I make sure I know exactly which chords I'm going to be using, and I create the part around those chords. It also ensures that if I, or you, miss-pluck any string, the mistake will be much less noticeable because we'll be hitting a chord tone and chord tones blend in perfectly.

I play a little interlude section between the first and second halves and this is where it goes from beginner level up to intermediate level. The chords are C to G11. G11 can be seen as F/G. F/G is what's known as a slash chord because of that forward slash in its name. It means play an F chord but use a G bass note. You'll notice a couple of hammered-on notes in the figure. They're not hard to do, just take a few passes through it to get them right. When you do, you'll enjoy the feeling and the sound a lot.

The second half is a fleshed out version of the first. Here, I add other bits and pieces of the chords to really let the listener hear what's going on harmonically.

The first detail is that double stop (two notes played at once) at bar 20. In effect, the C chord momentarily becomes a C diminished chord. You can also just play it as a CMaj7 -- not drop that note on the fourth string down -- but that doesn't sound nearly as nice as the diminished sound.

The second detail is adding the hamony line to the melody line at bar 22. Here the G11 quality really comes out. Both of those occur twice, with some little picking bits between. The thumb does that bass string grab a couple of times too. If your thumb rebels or is too short or it hurts, use a different fingering for that bit. You can just bring the index finger down to that bass note.

Next comes that beautiful progression. There are certain sequences of chords that really work wonders on the soul ... this is one of them. The neatest thing to me about the passage from bar 28 to 30 is that the melody line stays on one note while the chords and bass line do all the work. The bass line drops steadily down the scale; the chords move from the I to the III7 to the vi back to the I, but dom7 this time ... which makes the inversions of those four chords move between root position and second inversion ... it's a beautiful thing. This section is not difficult to play ... the only thing to look out for is that C9 that ends bar 29 (I have it as C7 in the video, it's really a C9). You need to let that top E string ring out with the melody note, so make sure you don't choke it off with that pinkie on the B string.

At bar 30, we move to the IV chord then a iv chord -- the minor version -- at bar 32 we're back to a I chord, but we use the flat 7 as bass note leading to an A7 chord (a 'majorized vi chord) before getting back to little one-measure resolve that we heard in the opening section. I could have used a low F bass note but decided to jump up an octave to make it easier. I also used a D bass note for the Fm ... it just seemed to work better than staying on the F bass note. (By doing so, that Fm almost becomes a Bb9th, which also works nicely.)

I end this rendition with the same two chord figure that I used in the interlude: C to G11.

Have fun learning this ... I haven't stopped playing it since I put this together.