Simple Twist of Fate

by Bob Dylan • Lesson #351 • Feb 12, 2021

Video lesson

Print-Friendly Song Sheet 3 pages

Follow along with my print-friendly guide for this song! It’s available for purchase at, the web’s leading provider of licensed sheet music.

On the fence? Here's a guide I made showing the purchase & print process, including answers to common questions about my song sheets.

Buy at

Save 50% on this song sheet by applying the December 2023 code at Musicnotes checkout: KQFHFA2J8J (click to copy). Thanks for being a Premium supporter!

Song Notes Premium includes a 50% discount code you can use when buying any of my licensed song sheets. For the current month's code, upgrade to premium or log in.

Editor’s notes

Hey friends! Here’s a new guitar lesson teaching you how to play “Simple Twist of Fate”, the classic from Bob Dylan’s 1975 album Blood on the Tracks. This is no doubt one of my favorite songs of all time, from an equally amazing album. This lesson teaches aims to make this song more accessible, teaching it in standard tuning, no capo, using chords in the key of E (which is slightly different than Dylan’s open-D-tuning, capo 2, Key of D arrangement). I’ll explain all this in my video and PDF – showing you the chords / progression / strumming, before offering two playthroughs using different strum patterns. I hope you enjoy!

Video timestamps:

  • 0:00 Preview & lesson summary
  • 1:49 Notes on tuning, capo, and key
  • 2:50 Chord shapes & basic progression
  • 9:31 Basic strumming
  • 11:50 Playthrough (basic strum, with tab)
  • 13:42 Advanced strumming
  • 17:10 Playthrough (adv strum, with lyrics)

Lyrics with chords

No capo, standard tuning… see my note below for more info

See my licensed sheet music for the complete song lyrics with chords.

A note about tuning, capo, and how Dylan plays this song

My video lesson & this PDF teaches this song in standard tuning, using no capo – as the goal of this arrangement is to keep things accessible & approachable. But I should note, Dylan doesn’t play the song the way I am showing! He’s using capo 2nd fret, in open D tuning (D-A-D-F#-A-D). Maybe I’ll make a lesson for playing this song that way someday, but note – that’s not what I’m doing in this lesson.

Chord shapes

At a glance, the chords I use are as follows (shown in tab form). For the E-Emaj7-E7 sequence, I prefer using the four-string voicing shown here as my foundation. This allows you to capture the sound of the descending bass note within those three chords, which is vital to capturing Dylan’s sound.

For the B chord, I’ll use this Bsus4 voicing I show below — which is far easier to play than a typical B-major chord (since you don’t have to barre anything). This version of the B also captures the vibe of Dylan’s version (via the thinnest two strings being open), which gives off an open-tuning sound.

For the A-major chord, I often will freely switch to an Asus2 to mix up the sound, which again captures the open-tuning vibe of Dylan’s version.

[ See my sheet music for tabs]

Sometimes I’ll flirt with playing 6-string versions of the E-Emaj7-E7 sequence, using the voicings shown below. If you do this, try to lead into each chord by playing the bass notes (4th string) as I show here — which attempts to capture the very important descending tone. What I don’t love about this, is how muddy the Emaj7 sounds — so if anything, that’s the chord (of the 3 shown below) where I usually revert to the 4-string version.

[ See my sheet music for tabs]

Strumming patterns

The most basic strum you’ll want to do is a “bass, DOWN, bass, DOWN” where “bass” refers to the thickest string used in whatever chord you’re playing. I slightly emphasize the down-strums.

[ See my sheet music for diagram ]

To strum like Dylan, use one of the two patterns below. Keep all up-strums light, staying on the thinnest 2-3 strings only. Keeping an accent on beats 2 & 4 also sounds good, if you can manage.

[ See my sheet music for diagram ]

Chord progression

Here’s the chord progression this entire song uses, over and over. There are four beats per measure. Set your metronome to 137 BPM to play this along with Dylan’s version.

E                 Emaj7             E7                A             
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4   1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4   1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4   1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4  

Am                E   B   A         E       B         E
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4   1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4   1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4   1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4  

Unlock My Secret Stash!

Gain instant access to my library of 196 print-friendly cheat sheets! Also includes my extended video lessons, jam tracks, courses, and more.

Join Song Notes Premium

Have questions? Watch video tour »

Browse Related Lessons

Click any tag below to view other lessons I've made in that category:

Enjoy my lessons? Buy me a beer!

If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider making a one-time donation to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it).

Fun & Helpful Tools I've Made

Fret Monster

Interactive fretboard map! See the patterns behind every scale in any key.


Capo Captain

An easy way to calculate key & chord combinations, for any capo location!


Subscribe to my YouTube channel

Be sure to never miss a lesson by subscribing on YouTube. I put out 2-3 new videos every week. These include full song lessons, as well as covers, practice tips, behind-the-scenes updates. Thanks!

Recent Lessons

  • December 1, 2023

    First Steps with Doc Watson's "Deep River Blues"

    Here's a getting started guide to learning this fingerstyle classic from Doc Watson. I'll guide you, step-by-step, through the necessary chords, picking, and strumming skills needed.

  • November 22, 2023

    10 Years of Song Notes... Thanks to You!

    A few quick words of gratitude for all the support & encouragement you all have given me over the past ten years!

  • November 17, 2023

    Guitar Finger Exercises for Flexibility, Control, Speed, and more

    Here's a handful of my favorite exercises to help with finger independence. Whether you're a beginner or been at it for years, baking these into your practice routine can pay off big time!

  • November 10, 2023

    Lead Guitar Improvisation Tips (feat. Wagon Wheel)

    Learn how to improvise, step-by-step! I'll show how you can play countless riffs over a small cluster of notes on the thinnest three strings. Tons of fun!

  • November 5, 2023

    Travis Picking Training Wheels (ft. Hayes Carll)

    I showcase a short & fun fingerstyle riff, where I demonstrate the "training wheels" trick you can use to simplify any Travis Picking pattern.

  • November 4, 2023

    Strumming with Alternating Bass Notes

    Learn how to strum any of the most common chords using alternating bass notes – which is an essential technique often used in country, rock, and folk songs.

  • November 3, 2023

    Long Black Veil

    Learn to play Lefty Frizzell's 1959 country classic in the style of Johnny Cash! Includes alternating bass note strumming tips & a melody deep-dive.

  • October 28, 2023

    St James Infimary Blues

    A refresh for my 2019 lesson teaching this blues classic! I updated my PDF guide and added four new zoomed-in playthroughs, showing tabs on screen.

  • October 21, 2023

    Fingerstyle Patterns for All Chords (using Travis Picking)

    I've taught tons of lessons using Travis-style fingerpicking, but haven't ever put together a cheat sheet showing patterns for every common chord... until now!

  • October 16, 2023

    Soulful Lead Guitar Licks over "Amazing Grace"

    Learn how to combine simple strumming with beginner-friendly lead guitar licks while playing this classic song! Slow playthrough video & jam tracks included.

Browse All Recent Lessons →

Browse All My Lessons

By lesson type

By technique

By musical genre

By decade

By musical key

By popular artist

← back to homepage