There’s nothing that can be said about Sweet Home Alabama that hasn’t already been said. In multiple different languages. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s southern rock classic is part of the American subconscious, a song that captured the carefree 70’s and some of the political and social controversy of that era. The song’s debut was on Skynyrd’s second album, Second Helping. It was Skynyrd’s second hit single and reached number 8 on the U.S. charts in the year of its release, 1974.363
Ed King, guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd, has claimed that the chords and two main guitar solos came to him in a dream the night after a rehearsal, note for note. Sweet Home Alabama and the track that follows it on Second Helping, I Need You, were both written that day. Both the quotable, “Turn it up,” and the four-count lead-in to the song were never meant to be in the song. Ed King’s count-in happened to be one of producer Al Kooper’s signature touches for albums he had worked on. Ronnie Van Zant’s “turn it up” was Van Zant asking Al Kooper to turn up the volume in his headset in order to hear the track better for his vocal take.
Lyrically, Sweet Home Alabama is a rebuttal to Neil Young’s songs Southern Man and Alabama. Young’s songs dealt with racism and slavery in the south, but in doing so, he had generalized the people of an entire region. Sweet Home Alabama contains the lines, Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her / Well, I heard ol’ Neil put her down / Well, I hope Neil Young will remember / A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow, directly addressing Neil Young.
You’re watching HowToPlayAnySong.com. My name is Joe Wiles with the Rock and Roll Conservatory and right now we’re taking a look at “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. This song comes from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Second Helping” record that was released in 1974.
Interestingly, Ed King the bassist turned guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd, all the guitar parts for this song, the two main solos and main guitar riff came to him in a dream the night after practice and a hit was born.
In this videos series we’re going to take a look at the introduction for this song as well as the simple chords. The simple D-G and E so you can play the whole song through without playing the riff and getting all complicated. But we’re going to start off with that world famous guitar riff that starts out the song. Here it goes.
Intro pt 1
All right, let’s do the first intro about – it’s the first two bars of “Sweet Home Alabama.” It’s going to start on the open D string. And then our ring finger’s going to be on the 3rd fret of the B, and our index finger is going to be on the 2nd fret of the G.
We’re going to hit the D twice, then B, then G. Then we’re going to take our middle finger, move it down to the 3rd fret of the A string. We’re going to hit it.
Open up your finger and get a little mute like that. We’ll hit the 3rd fret of the B where our finger still is, then we’ll hit the G and the open D. Then we’ll move our middle finger here down to the 3rd fret of the low E.
We’ll hit the 3rd fret, open, with kind of a little swing feel there. Then we’ll hit the open G, and that’s where we’re going to stop for a 2nd before we get into the other riff. This sounds like this.
Then we’re going to hit the open A string, then hammer onto the 2nd fret of the A string. A hammer on is when you don’t pick it with your right hand, you just put your left hand on the note. Sounds like this.
We’re going to do the same thing on the D string. Hit the open D, hammer-on, pull off. We’re going to go back to the 2nd fret of the A string.
At the same time, we’re going to go to the 2nd fret of the G, and then pull off the middle finger here that’s on the 2nd fret of the G. That riff sounds like this.
Those two riffs together slowly are the first two bars of “Sweet Home Alabama.” They sound like this. All right, let’s try that to speed, if you’re ready. One, two, one, two, three, four.
Just like that. If you can’t get it to speed, don’t feel bad because it took me about five takes.
Intro pt 2
All right this is the third and fourth bar of Sweet Home Alabama, the first bar is exactly the same, it sounds like this. Then we’re going to hit that 3rd fret of the low E. Hit the open G twice, 2nd fret of the G, right here, we’re going to pull that off.
Then we’re going to hit the G again. Put our ring finger on the 4th fret of the G, pull it off and hit the G again. Then lets take our ring finger and put it on the 4th of the G, we’ll hit the open D.
Then we’ll take that 5th fret of the G and bend it. That riff at the end sounds like this. All together the 3rd and 4th bars sound like this slowly, like that. Lets try that to speed here we go, one, two, one, two, three. We’re going to try that again.
Now I’m going to put them all together, the first, second, third and fourth measures of the intro to Sweet Home Alabama. This is what it sounds like one, two, three, four.
In this little section we’re going to teach you the basic chords of “Sweet Home Alabama.” This is the version you’ll play if you’re sitting around the camp fire with an acoustic guitar.
The first chord is a D major chord. It’s an open D string, 2nd fret of the G, 3rd fret of the B, and 2nd fret of the high E, you’ll strum them all together.
The next chord is a variation of a C major. It’s called a C add 9. We’ll keep our ring finger right here and move these other two fingers our middle finger to the 3rd fret of the A and our index finger to the 2nd fret of the D. This is a C add 9.
The next one is a G major chord. Lets do this one since our ring finger is all ready there lets just put our pinky on the 3rd fret of the high E string. Then we’re going to move these two fingers down a string on the 3rd fret of the low E and the 2nd fret of the A.
In order the fingering is 3rd fret of the low E, 2nd fret of the A, Open D, Open G and the 3rd fret of the B, 3rd fret of the high E string. All together if you’re just going to strum along a have people sing along this is what it would sound like.
That’s on a one two change, one two change, one two three four like this. One, two, one, two, one, two, three, four and again one, two, one, two, one, two, three, four. If you want to do it to speed this is what it will sound like, one, two, three, four.
Thanks for watching, I hope it helped. Make sure you send us requests for the songs you want to learn. I’ll see you next time.