Rocky Mountain High

by John Denver • Lesson #160 • Jul 17, 2018

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

In this lesson I’ll show you how to play “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver. I’ll explain the chords needed, how to tune your guitar to Drop-D, playing the main riff (with tabs), and how to strum the verse & chorus section. This is a fun song to play, whether you want to get advanced with it or keep it simple.

Video timestamps

  • 0:00 Playthrough & greeting
  • 2:07 Tuning & capo
  • 2:51 How to play the main riff
  • 10:45 Chords shapes needed
  • 11:58 Verse w/ strumming
  • 13:27 Chorus

Lyrics w/ chords

(capo 2nd fret, drop-D tuning)

INTRO

    E ––––––2–2–––––2–2––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    B ––––––3–3–––––3–3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    G ––––––2–2–2h4–2–2–2–––––––2–––––––––––––––0–––0–0–0–––0–0–0–––0–0––
    D ––––––––––––––––––––––0h4–––––4–––2–0–––––x–––x–x–x–––x–x–x–––x–x––
    A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––2–2–5–––5–5–7–––7–7––
    D ––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0h2–2–––2–2–5–––5–5–7–––7–7––
        D                               Em              G       A        
        1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a 1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a

VERSE
           D (w/ riff)               Em             C   A
    He was born in the summer of his twenty seventh year
           D (w/ riff)                Em        G   A
    Coming home to a place he'd never been before
            D (w/ riff)                     Em                 C   A
    He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
              D (w/ riff)                  Em        G   A
    You might say he found a key for every door

        [use same chords for all remaining verses]

    When he first came to the mountains his life was far away
    On the road and hanging by a song
    But the string's already broken and he doesn't really care
    It keeps changing fast and it don't last for long

CHORUS
                G        A                D
        But the Colorado rocky mountain high
             G                A           D
        I've seen it raining fire in the sky
            G               A            D                  G
        The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye
              D (w/ riff)        Em    G  A
        Rocky mountain high, Colorado
              D (w/ riff)        Em    G  A
        Rocky mountain high, Colorado

            [use same chords for all remaining choruses]

He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below
He saw everything as far as you can see
And they say that he got crazy once and he tried to touch the sun
And he lost a friend but kept his memory

Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes
His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand
The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake

    And the Colorado rocky mountain high
    I've seen it raining fire in the sky
    You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply
    Rocky mountain high, Colorado

Now his life is full of wonder but his heart still knows some fear
Of a simple thing he cannot comprehend
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more
More people, more scars upon the land

    And the Colorado rocky mountain high
    I've seen it raining fire in the sky
    I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly
    Rocky mountain high, Colorado

    It's Colorado rocky mountain high
    I've seen it raining fire in the sky
    Friends around the campfire and everybody's high
    Rocky mountain high, Colorado

    Rocky mountain high, Colorado
                [repeat as desired to finish]

A quick note about Drop D tuning

To play this exactly like John Denver (or me, in my video lesson) – you’ll need to be in Drop D tuning. This means, tune your thickest string (low E) down to a D. Everything else stays the same. This does make some (but not all) of the chord shapes you’ll need different. I explain all this below.

If you don’t want to change your tuning, that’s fine - stay in standard tuning, and use the normal chord voicings throughout the song.

Main riff

Here’s the main riff used in the intro, verse, and the end of the chorus. For tips on learning this, see my video lesson. If you can’t play this as tabbed out here, you can still play this song - just strum the D / Em / G / A.

E ––––––2–2–––––2–2––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––––––3–3–––––3–3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
G ––––––2–2–2h4–2–2–2–––––––2–––––––––––––––0–––0–0–0–––0–0–0–––0–0––
D ––––––––––––––––––––––0h4–––––4–––2–0–––––x–––x–x–x–––x–x–x–––x–x––
A ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––2–2–5–––5–5–7–––7–7––
D ––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0h2–2–––2–2–5–––5–5–7–––7–7––
    D                               Em              G       A
    1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a 1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a

Chord Shapes

Here’s how to play the chords used in this song. Remember, we’re in drop-D tuning so that will change up a few things with the Em and G chords.

E ––2––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––3–––(0)–––(0)––––––––2––––1––––
G ––2––––0–––––0––––0––––2––––0––––
D ––0––––x–––––x––––x––––2––––2––––
A ––0––––2–––––5––––7––––0––––3––––
D ––0––––2–––––5––––7––––––––––––––
    D    Em    G    A    A    C

Strumming

If you prefer to strum, here’s a pattern you can use for the entire song. I show it here with the D / Em / G / A for context.

D                               Em              G       A
↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑
1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a 1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a
>       >       >       >       >       >       >       >

Verse

Here’s the exact timing of the verse section, in tab form:

"He was born in the summer of his 27th year..."

E ––2––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––3–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––1–––––––2––––––––
G ––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––0–––––––2––––––––
D ––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––x–––––––––––––––2–––––––2––––––––
A ––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––3–––––––0––––––––
D ––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    D                               Em              C       A
    ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑
    1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a 1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a
    >       >       >       >       >       >       >       >

"Coming home to a place he'd never been before..."

E ––2––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––3––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
G ––2–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––0–––––––0––––––––
D ––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––x–––––––––––––––x–––––––x––––––––
A ––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––5–––––––7––––––––
D ––0–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––5–––––––7––––––––
    D                               Em              G       A
    ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓   ↓ ↑
    1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a 1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a
    >       >       >       >       >       >       >       >

Chorus

And finally, here are some tabs for the chorus section - where the final 4 counts are played differently with each line. Remember to see my video lesson for context if you need help.

"Colorado rocky mountain high..."

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––––––5–––––3–––––2––––––––––––
B ––0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––3–––––––7–––––3–––––3––––––––––––
G ––0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––2–––––––7–––––4–––––2––––––––––––
D ––x–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A ––5–––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––5–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    G               A               D
    1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a 1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a

"I've seen it raining fire in the sky..."

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––10–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––7––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
G ––0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––7––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––x–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A ––5–––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––5–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    G               A               D
    1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a 1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a


"Talk to God and listen to his casual reply..."

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––2–––––––3–––5–––7–––––––––10–––––
B ––0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––3–––––––5–––7–––8–––––––––8––––––
G ––0–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––2–––––––4–––6–––7–––––––––7––––––
D ––x–––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A ––5–––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––5–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––0––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
    G               A               D               G
    1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a 4 e + a 1 e + a 2 e + a 3 e + a   ...

Good luck!

I sincerely hope this lesson helped you. Remember to check out my video lesson if these tabs leave you at all confused. Feel free to hit me up with any comments or questions.

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