Paper Ships

by Dead Man's Bones • Lesson #2 • Nov 10, 2013

Editor’s Notes

Here’s a guitar lesson teaching you how to play Paper Ships by Dead Man’s Bones. I’ll walk you through the chord shapes, progression, and strumming needed to play all sections of the song. A great song from an amazing album — one I listen to every single October. Good luck with it!

Free Video Lesson

Print-friendly Song Sheet

This is one of my few lessons that doesn't have a printable song sheet / PDF available. If you'd like to request I make one, let me know... it's always great to hear which lessons have the most interest.

Chords w/ lyrics

    G ... B7 ... C ... G ... (x4, with doo-bee-doo-wah)

    G                      B7
    ...Sailed on a ship of paper
          C                        G
    And I sank in the deep of your eyes
    G                     B7
    ...I got lost in your graveyard
          C                 G
    Now I dream on a bed of knives

    G                          B7
    ...I found the map to your maps
    C                        G
    ...I lost the shores for you
    G                         B7
    ...But now I'll never get back
                 C                 G
    'Cause I'm a ghost ship on the blue

          Bm                C
        .....Now, I hold my poems
          Bm              C
        .....For ladies unknown

              Cm              G
            Until my hands go weak
              Cm              G
            Oh.......... I'll be
              Cm              G               Em
            Oh............... la la la la la, la la la la la
              C          Cm     G
            A ghost ship on the blue

    (quieter, let chords ring)
    G                       B7
    ...The birds are in the sky
    C                           G
    ...The land's been gone for days
    G                       B7
    ...And all you left was time-----
       C            G
    To find a solid grave

    (louder, back to normal strumming)
    G                B7
    ...Pirates never loved
    C                 G
    ...The way that I do
    G                  B7
    ...You never said enough
       C               G
    To keep me next to you

    (instrumental break)

          Bm                C
        .....Now, I hold my poems
          Bm              C
        .....For ladies unknown

              Cm              G
            Until my hands go weak
              Cm              G
            Oh.......... I'll be
              Cm              G               Em
            Oh............... la la la la la, la la la la la
              C          Cm     G
            A ghost ship on the blue

Notes and tabs

Guitar chords used

Here is how to play the guitar chords used in this song. It is fairly standard using chords in the key of G, but you have some interesting chords being Cm and B7, which aren’t super common. Just the same, this is a great chord to learn those chords.

       G    B7   C    Bm   Cm   Em

Playing the pre-chorus

One quick trick here – when you switch from the Bm to the C chord, apply your pinky on the 3rd fret of the highest string. This will sound better with the melodic voicing of the song.

      Bm           C        Bm              C
     "So I hold my poems...    for ladies unknown..."

Playing the chorus

Similar to above, there is a little trick you can use here that makes the Cm to G transition easier. Instead of playing the G in open position, play it as a barre chord on the 3rd fret. Because you’ll already have the 3rd fret barred for the Cm, this makes the transition much easier.

        Cm              G        Cm           G
     "Until my hands go weak... ohh..... I'll be..."

Chord progressions

| G . . . | B7 . . . | C . . . | G . . . | x4

"Sailed on a ship of paper..."
| G . . . | B7 . . . | C . . . | G . . . | x4

"So I hold my poems..."
| Bm . . . | C . . . | Bm . . . | C . . . |

"Until my hands go weak, oh..."
| Cm . . . | G . . . | Cm . . . | G . . . |
| Cm . . . | G . . . | Em . . . | C . . . |
| Cm . . . | G . . . |

Other Favorite Dead Man’s Bones Videos

In the Room Where You Sleep — single take, one room performance with the kids choir all in costume. The album version of this song is well done, but the feeling of this live one just can’t be beat.

Name in Stone - my favorite of all their songs. Another single take recording from a LA Cemetery. Haunting and strangely celebratory, as many of their songs are. I love it.

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