Runnin' Down a Dream

by Tom Petty • Lesson #106 • Nov 17, 2017

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

In this lesson, I’ll teach you how to play an acoustic version of “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty. Fantastic song, great riff, only a handful of chords. I’ll show it all: the riff w/ a tab for reference, the strumming, the chords, etc.

Video timestamps:

  • 0:00 Playthrough
  • 1:13 Lesson overview
  • 2:03 PDF w/ chords
  • 2:23 Intro riff, basics
  • 5:33 Intro riff, advanced
  • 6:54 How to play the verse
  • 8:01 How to play the chorus
  • 9:38 How to play the refrain
  • 10:07 Farewell

Chords needed

E ––––0––––2––––3––––0––––0––––
B ––––0––––3––––0––––2––––1––––
G ––––1––––2––––0––––2––––0––––
D ––––2––––0––––0––––2––––2––––
A ––––2–––––––––2––––0––––3––––
E ––––0–––––––––3––––––––––––––
      E    D    G    A    C

Main riff

The main riff uses the notes below. I use my middle finger for the 7-6-5-3 fretted notes on the low E string. The hard part will be transitioning into the E-major chord while maintaining your rhythm in a strum… and likewise transitioning from that same strummy E-major back into this riff.

E –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0––––
B –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0––––
G –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––1––––
D –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2––––   ...then, strum the E
A –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2––––
E –––0––7–––0––6–––0––5–––0––3–––0–––––0––––

A simpler version, though technically not what you hear on the album, is to play it like this. This is much, much easier to play while staying in time with your strumming (leading into the E-major chord).

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0––––
B ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0––––
G ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––1––––
D ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2––––   ...then, strum the E
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2––––
E –––0––7–––0––6–––0––5–––0–––––0––––

Lyrics w/ chords

    E (with riff)

    It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down
              D                 E
    I had the radio on... I was driving
    Trees flew by, me and Del were singing
             D                E
    A little Runaway... I was flying

              A       G      E             E           G       A
        Yeah, running down a dream... that never would come to me
        D            G     E          E         G       A  
        Working on a mystery......... going wherever it leads
        A       G      E
        Running down a dream

    I felt so good like anything was possible
    I hit cruise control and rubbed my eyes
    The last three days the rain was unstoppable
    It was always cold, no sunshine

        [ chorus ]

                  C            D            E
            Woo-hooo.... woo-hooo.... woo-hooo....
                  C            D            E
            Woo-hooo.... woo-hooo.... woo-hooo....

    I rolled on as the sky grew dark
    I put the pedal down to make some time
    There's something good waiting down this road
    I'm picking up whatever's mine

        [ chorus ]

Good luck!

Let me know if you have questions. I hope this was helpful.

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