by Eric Clapton • Lesson #103 • Oct 12, 2017

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

In this lesson, I’ll teach you how to play the unplugged (acoustic) version of “Layla” by Eric Clapton. This lesson includes tabs for the intro riff, chords needed for the entire song, strumming pattern, and various other tips that will prove helpful in learning how to play this song. While this tune was originally released in 1971 by Derek and the Dominos, this lesson obviously is modeled after Clapton’s 1992 release as part of his album “Unplugged.”

Video timestamps:

  • 0:00 Playthrough
  • 0:55 Greeting & lesson overview
  • 1:43 Song structure
  • 2:20 Riff: chord shapes needed
  • 5:27 Riff: bass note practice
  • 7:15 Riff: putting it together
  • 9:25 Verse: chords & strumming
  • 11:45 Advanced riff variations
  • 13:55 Farewell

Audio of Eric Clapton playing it

Song chord progressions

See my sheet music for the chord progression diagrams.

Verse chord shapes

E –––1––––4–––––4––––––––––––––0––––0–––––2––––––––––––––––––
B –––3––––5–––––4––––5––––7––––0––––3–––––2––––3––––4––––2–––
G –––2––––4–––––5––––5––––7––––1––––1–––––2––––3––––4––––2–––
D –––0––––6–––––4––––5––––7––––2––––2–––––4––––3––––4––––2–––
A ––––––––4–––––6––––3––––5––––2––––2–––––4––––1––––2––––0–––
E ––––––––––––––4––––––––––––––0––––0–––––2––––––––––––––––––
     Dm  C#m7  G#7   C    D    E    E7   F#m   Bb   B    A   

Intro riff

First up, note that I am using these chord shapes for the riff. Notably, I am simplifying things by playing only 3 strings per each chord. The notes below in parentheses I’m not playing - you can if you wish, but note it makes things tougher for you.

The idea is to spend two counts on each chord, in the order shown below. Then repeat.

See my sheet music for the tabs.

Here’s the tab for the generalized riff:

See my sheet music for the tabs.

When first learning this, I recommend practicing just the bass notes first. For each bass note, be sure to use left-hand fingers that allow you to play the chords you’ll need. This way, when you’re fluent enough with the bass notes, you can work on bringing in the full chords.

See my sheet music for the tabs.

To transition into the verse, end the riff as follows:

See my sheet music for the tabs.

Strumming pattern options

The patterns I recommend are as follows. First is this simpler (?) one, which uses emphasized/accented down-strums on the “1” and “3” counts, with lighter “down-ups” happening on the “2 +” and “4 +” counts.

See my sheet music for the strumming diagrams.

Another option is to do this more typical strum pattern. I’m showing the down-strum on the “1” count as emphasized/accented, though that’s optional.

See my sheet music for the strumming diagrams.

Lyrics w/ chords

See my sheet music for the lyrics with chords.

Advanced notes about the intro riff

Here’s the actual timing of the first line of the riff, as heard in the recorded Clapton version:

See my sheet music for the tabs.

Note that the 2nd and 3rd time he plays this, the timing slightly changes. For example, the C comes in on the “1” count of next measure the 2nd time it is played:

See my sheet music for the tabs.

And the third time it is played, he slides up from the Bb to C shape. Listen along for reference, and watch my video lesson to see me play each version.

Hope that helps!

Let me know how things work for you when learning this song! Hopefully well. Hit me up with any comments / questions / etc.

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