Toggle Menu

Hallelujah - A fingerstyle guitar lesson.

Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate



Hallelujah - The Lesson explained


Here's a Leonard Cohen song that has become hugely popular recently: Hallelujah. It's been covered by countless artists -- I know because I listened to most of them on YouTube while deciding on my arrangement -- but I think it was Jeff Buckley's that really brought the tune to everyone's attention.

It's the only tune I know that lyrically describes the musical theory in real time. The first verse has the words:

It goes like this
the fourth the fifth
the minor fall
the major lift ...

... while the song's chords are moving, in sync with the lyrics, IV - V - vi - IV ... the four chord (G) to the five chord (A7) to the related minor six chord (Bm) back to the four chord (IV), which is major. Pretty clever, really.

I've done this in Dropped D tuning, so lower that bass string down to D before tackling this or you'll wonder why it's sounding strange. Cohen does it in C and I tried that key. I also tried our favorite, G, but that wasn't ideal either. Dropped D works the best for guitar, I reckon. I've also changed the feel. My arrangement is in 4/4 time, not the 3/4 or 6/8 time signature of most of the other arrangements. I took the waltz out of it. 

Chord wise, it's all very much 'in key'. The only outsider is that A#dim. All the rest are the chords he sings about, plus of course the root chord. So I, IV, V, vi ... I threw in a ii chord (Em) just for the fun of it. You'll see Em/A in there too. I could have called that A9 or even A11. They're all the same and the're all V chords of the key of D.

I played open shapes for the first half and then moved up an octave for the second verse. You can just keep the whole thing down near the nut if you're not ready yet to move up the neck and tackle those barre chords. Watch for some pull offs in the first half, like the one at 0:19, where I pull off the B bass note to an A bass note. If you're watching the picking hand in the video you'll see nothing at that moment, I play it with my left hand by pulling off. There's another at 0:26 and A few more. You don't have to pull off, of course, you can pluck each note.

There's a bit of contorting in the 'chorus' bit where I keep the bass line moving between root and fifth, and I also use my thumb to grab one of those bass notes.

The second verse I move the whole thing up an octave for a few bars but move back down for that 'fourth, the fifth, the minor lift' part. I did try to keep it all happening up there but ran out of playable frets.

If you're into singing you can have a listen to the end bit where the slide guitar comes in. I just play the chords there using fairly basic patterns. You could strum it, arpeggiate it, follow the ideas I used. Whatever. Just keep the flow and you'll be making music.

That's it for this one, I hope you like it.
Take you time learning this one. It's a beautiful tune, one that just keeps going to the right places and that you just want to play again when you reach the end.


For this lesson, I will be charging a small fee of US $4.95 for the Printable PDF of the TAB/Notation. Click here to order it.




For this lesson, I will be charging a small fee of US $4.95 for the Printable PDF of the TAB/Notation. Click here to order it.


Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange

Kirk LorangeAs well as putting together these fingerstyle guitar lessons, I am also the author of PlaneTalk - The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Package, which teaches a mindset, a way of thinking about music and a way of tracking it all on the guitar fretboard. Yes, there IS a constant down there in the maze of strings and fret wire, a landmark that points to everything at all times. I call it The Easiest Yet Most Powerful Guitar Lesson You Will Ever Learn and many testimonials at my site will back up that rather superlative description. If your goal as a guitar player is to be able to truly PLAY the guitar, not just learn by rote; to be able to invent on the fly, not memorize every note; to be able to see the WHOLE fretboard as friendly, familiar territory, not just the first 5 frets and to do it all without thinking about all those scales and modes, then you should read more here.