Matilda

by Alt J • Lesson #1 • Nov 10, 2013

Editor’s Notes

Here’s the first video lesson I ever posted on YouTube! Matilda by Alt-J. I was heavy into this album back in 2013 — this was one of many songs I had on repeat. At that same time, I had my first experience watching guitar lessons of any kind on YouTube… Justin and Marty were the two I remember seeing. I had been on YouTube many many times before, of course — but never had considered the possibility of watching (or making) guitar lessons. It fascinated me.

Given that I had experience with video editing (and was already learning a song every few weeks on the guitar) — I decided to experiment and make a few videos of my own. After all, I have a strange love for talking about & explaining things I’m really into. And so, this was the first video I made. Poorly lit, in the spare room deep in the basement of a house in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. Glad I made it, as it was the first step in getting to where I am now! —DP, July 2022

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Notes and tabs

Guitar chords used

Nice and straightforward chords given the key of D. Here they are for guitar. I prefer playing the G with my ring finger draped on the low E string, muting the 5th string. This frees up my index and middle finger to riff on the higher strings, which I show in sections below.

e-|---2----3----0----0-----2----
B-|---3----0----2----0-----3----
G-|---2----0----2----0-----4----
D-|---0----0----2----2-----4----
A-|--------x----0----2-----2----
E-|--------3---------0----------
      D    G    A    Em    Bm

Approximating the guitar intro

To play the acoustic guitar intro as heard on the album version of the song, you’ll want to play something like this. Any basic fingerpicking pattern using the D chord will work here. The trick is adding your pinky on the 3rd fret (of the high string) at the right moment. Listen along, and play what works for you.

e-|---2----------2----------2----------2---3-----|--
B-|-----3---3------3---3------3---2------3---3---|--
G-|-------2----------2----------2----------------|--
D-|---0----------0----------0----------0---------|--  ...repeat this 4 times
A-|----------------------------------------------|--
E-|----------------------------------------------|--
      D

For the four bars of G that come after the D, I play it like this. Note, the G could very well be an Em chord here. I prefer playing a G, as it makes the transition to Em (at the start of the verse) much more profound.

e-|---3----------3----------3----------3---------|--
B-|-----0---0------0---0------0---0------0---0---|--
G-|-------0----------0----------0----------0-----|--
D-|----------------------------------------------|--  ...repeat this 2 times
A-|----------------------------------------------|--
E-|---3----------3----------3----------3---------|--
      G

An additional way to add some melodic voicing to the final measure of G in the intro / refrain is as follows. I play this by having my ring finger on the low E string, freeing up my middle finger to help with the 2nd fret voicing on the high E string. Listen along for reference! This shows only an approximation of the rhythm, and is more focused on the notes played.

e-|---3--x--------0---2---3---x---3---2------|---0--------3-----------
B-|---0--x--------------------x----------0---|---0--------0-----------
G-|---0--x--------------------x--------------|---0--------0-----------
D-|------------------------------------------|---2--------0-----------  etc
A-|------------------------------------------|---2--------x-----------
E-|---3--------------------------------------|---0--------3-----------
      G                                          Em       G
                                               "Just like Johnny Flynn said..."

How I Play the Bridge

You can surely play the bridge using the chords shown above in any standard fashion, with whatever strumming pattern you please. With that said, here is how I prefer to play it. I prefer to walk up the bassline, as shown here. This lets the bridge sound a bit more distinct from the verse and refrain.

e-|---------------------------------------------------------------|--
B-|---------------------------------------------------------------|--
G-|---------0-------------2------------0-----------------------2--|--
D-|-------2-------------0------------0-----------------------0----|--  ...etc
A-|-----2-------------0------------2-----------------------0------|--
E-|---0-------------2------------3-----------------------2--------|--
      Em           D/F#          G                      D/F#
           "And she needs you...        ...this is for Matilda..."

How I Play the Ending

Again, you can approach this however you want. I prefer to emphasize the top strings, moving downward to the lower frets from the higher ones. As shown below. Pick / strum the chords shown here however you want, but these are the positions I use.

e-|----5----------3------------2---2----|---5---------3------------2---2--|--
B-|----5----------3------------3---3----|---5---------3------------3---3--|--
G-|----6----------4------------2---2----|---6---------4------------2---2--|--
D-|----7----------5------------0---0----|---7---------5------------0---0--|--
A-|-------------------------------------|---------------------------------|--
E-|-------------------------------------|---------------------------------|--
       A          G            D   D        A         G            D   D
      "...This is for Matilda...           ...This is for Matilda..."

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