Beginner Lead Guitar with the Star Spangled Banner

Lesson #480 • Mar 27, 2023

Hey there, my friends! I’m proud to bring you a beginner lead guitar lesson today, where I’ll teach you how to play the complete melody of the Star Spangled Banner. I’ll teach things in five different keys (C, G, D, A, E) — and to keep things approachable, I’ll be in open position for each key. This makes for a very nice follow-up to my recent lesson teaching the Major Scales in Open Position — where you can take what I taught and apply it something a bit more melodic and lyrical.

In the main video (above) I’ll walk through the first line of the Star Spangled Banner, looking at it in each of the five keys. Each extended video lesson (below) will walk you through the entire song in one specific key, where I’ll also demonstrate how to play the lead melody over the audio backing tracks I’ve made. Whether you’re interested in learning the full song or just the opening phrase — in one or all keys — this lesson will leave you in good hands!

Video timestamps:

  • 0:00 Lesson Overview
  • 2:14 Part 1: ”O Say Can You See”
  • 4:58 Part 2: “By the Dawn’s Early Light”
  • 8:45 Part 3: ”Twilight’s Last Gleaming”
  • 10:57 Playthrough with Metronome

Instructional PDF 7 pages

Follow along with the print-friendly PDF! It includes all of my notes for this lesson, allowing you to follow along at your own pace. You're free to download, print, and share the PDF across your devices.

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Follow along with the print-friendly PDF!

It includes all of my notes for this lesson, allowing you to follow along at your own pace. You're free to download, print, and share the PDF across your devices.

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Lesson Discussion

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Zoomed-In Videos, Playing it in Each Key

Here’s a zoomed-in video walking you through the Star Spangled Banner in each of the five main keys. I’ll begin each video with a full playthrough (over the backing track), then teach you things line by line. I’ll end each video with tips for adding chord strums into your melodic lead playing — which works in some keys better than others.

C Major

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G Major

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D Major

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A Major

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E Major

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Backing Tracks: Drum Only

Here’s a few backing tracks with a drum beat only. Pick a tempo that’s comfortable for you (when it doubt, start slow) and use this 3/4 time beat to play the Star Spangled Banner in any key you choose. If you mess up, just wait a moment and jump back in when you’re ready. Because there’s no chords played in these backing tracks, you don’t need to worry about falling behind.

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76 beats per minute (download):

88 beats per minute (download):

100 beats per minute (download):

Backing Tracks: With Strummed Chords

These backing tracks include drums and rhythm guitar, which plays the chords for the Star Spangled Banner one time through. Note, make sure you’re fully practiced up before attempting to play along with these! If you lose the groove, you have to catch up — since the chords will plow straight ahead once you hit play.

Note, the beginning of each track counts through one full measure (“one, two, three”) and then starts counting a second measure. You’ll begin playing on the 3 count of the second measure. See my zoomed-in videos (above) for an example.

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Key of C (download):

Key of G (download):

Key of D (download):

Key of A (download):

Key of E (download):

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