Return of the Grievous Angel
by Gram Parsons • Lesson #470 • Feb 10, 2023
In this week’s guitar lesson, I’ll teach you how to play Return of the Grievous Angel, the Gram Parsons country-rock classic featuring the amazing vocal harmonies of Emmylou Harris. I first heard this song about 20 years ago, and since then it’s become one of my all-time favorites. I’ll walk you through the chord shapes, explain the three different chord progressions needed, and show a few different strumming options.
Playthrough (Key of G)
Here’s me singing it in Key of G (no capo). Even after removing the capo, I can’t quite capture those high notes without straining. You can hear me lower my vocals by an octave during the first chorus & refrain.
Playthrough (Key of D)
Here’s me singing it using chord shapes in the Key of D (with capo 2). After a lot of experimentation, this is the best key for me to sing it in. The low notes aren’t too low, and the high notes are just barely manageable. I surely can’t sing like Gram, but am still happy to share this!
How I Changed the Key to Fit My Voice
Here’s a behind-the-scenes process video showing how I changed the key from G to D, to better suit my voice. I explain the process of figuring out the equivalent of each chord, using my Chords in Each Key table from my Practical Music Theory course. If you want to try this yourself, download the key change worksheet I show in the video.
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Print-Friendly Song Sheet 2 pages
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Alternating Bass Notes in Key of G
Chords in the Key of G
Bass, Down, Bass-Up-Down-Up
Recorded Versions of This Song
Gram Parson’s album version:
Ryan Adams & Emmylou Harris (live):
Counting Crows cover (live):
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