Carefree Highway

by Gordon Lightfoot • Lesson #545 • Mar 30, 2024

In today’s lesson I’ll teach you how to play Gordon Lightfoot’s Carefree Highway (1975). I’m using an arrangement with capo on the 2nd fret, which has us using chord shapes in the Key of D. I’ll begin by teaching the easiest possible way to play things, cutting a few of the tricky corners that may prove too difficult for beginners.

If you’re looking for the full version Lightfoot plays, stick around for the end of the lesson where I’ll demonstrate. This one goes out to Song Notes supporter Richie - who emailed asking for any tips on simplifying some of the trickier chords. Richie, and everyone else watching – I hope this helps!

  • 0:00 Lesson Overview
  • 2:36 Intro
  • 4:04 Verse
  • 8:27 Chorus
  • 10:51 Advanced Tips

Lesson Discussion

Jump in the conversation with other members of the Song Notes community! Post a comment about this lesson, ask a question, or even upload a video of your progress. All skill levels welcome!

View Comments

Jump in the conversation with other members of the Song Notes community! Post a comment about this lesson, ask a question, or even upload a video of your progress. All skill levels welcome!

To access the community forum, upgrade to premium or log in.

Practice Notes 5 pages

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.

Thanks for being a Premium member of Song Notes! Your support makes these lessons possible.

Download PDF

Here's a print-friendly PDF I made with all of my practice notes for this lesson. This lets you follow along with everything I show in video tutorial at your own pace.

To download the PDF, upgrade to premium or log in.

Song Sheet with Lyrics

I have not yet made a licensed song sheet for this song - but here’s a recommended arrangement I found online, with lyrics and chords that match the arrangement I teach.

Extended Video Lessons

How I Changed the Key (from C to D)

If you’re curious, here’s the process of me changing this key’s song – shown in real time. Be sure to check out my PDF guide showing the Most Common Chords in Each Key, which is what I am using in the the video below.

Only available to Premium members

Upgrade to Premium

Zoomed Playthrough - Simple Version

This shows the easiest possible way to play things - with no fast chord changes.

Only available to Premium members

Upgrade to Premium

Zoomed Playthrough - Full Version

Largely the same as the simple version, but with slightly more advanced parts in a few places (all of which are highlighted in gold). It’s not required to play like this, but it will sound a tad bit more like Gordon.

Only available to Premium members

Upgrade to Premium

Other Videos of Note

Album Recording from “Gord’s Gold” (1975)

Here’s the audio of Gordon playing it - great for reference! He’s capo 2nd fret using the Key of D chords I teach.

Lesson Teaching the Solo

Here’s another teacher’s take on this song, which includes the solo section (which I don’t teach in my lesson). Wanted to include it here in case you’re interested.

Unlock My Secret Stash!

Gain instant access to my library of 225 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!


Key Master

See and hear the notes, chords, scales used in each of the most common keys.


Blank Tabs

Free PDF templates to download, print, and write out your own guitar tabs!


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

  • May 20, 2024

    What Types of Play-Along Covers are Most Helpful?

    Most of my song lessons feature backing tracks or play-along covers — and I'd love your feedback about which aspect of these is most helpful!

  • May 10, 2024

    "Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell

    Let's dive into Glen Campbell's all-time classic from 1968, originally written by Jimmy Webb. I teach this with capo 5th fret, using easier-to-manage Key of C chords.

  • May 1, 2024

    Tour of My New "KeyMaster" Web Tool

    My new interactive web tool lets you see and hear the notes, chords, and common progressions in all of the most common keys. Super helpful!

  • April 24, 2024

    13 Must-Know Riffs with Droning Strings

    A handy roundup of all the songs I've taught that use droning strings... with a quick breakdown of each riff!

  • April 18, 2024

    "Moonshadow" by Cat Stevens

    Learn how to play Cat Stevens' 1971 classic! I include campfire-friendly chords and strumming, and a step-by-step breakdown of the intro fingerstyle riff.

  • April 12, 2024

    Playing Songs "Correctly" vs. When to Cut Corners

    When learning songs, are we allowed to simplify things? Do we always need to play things exactly as they're recorded? Here's some quick thoughts!

  • April 9, 2024

    Chords & Music Theory... 9 New Lessons!

    A roundup of a batch of new chord-related video lessons & PDF cheat sheets I just added to my library! Lots of good stuff here, be sure not to miss 'em.

  • March 30, 2024

    Gordon Lightfoot's "Carefree Highway"

    Learn how to play Lightfoot's 1975 classic, with plenty of tips to help simplify some of the quicker chord changes.

  • March 22, 2024

    Lead Guitar & the F1 Theme Song

    Let's look at the catchy Formula 1 theme song and learn how to play it on lead guitar...including handy trick for dealing with the key change.

  • March 15, 2023

    Pink Floyd's "Breathe" - with Simpler Chords Included

    Learn to play through Pink Floyd's 1973 classic! I'll teach the chords they use, while also showing a handful of useful simplifications and riffs to make this work on a single acoustic guitar.

  • March 6, 2024

    Q&A: 8 Tips to Avoid Muting Strings

    If you're frustrated by muffled, muted, or buzzing strings when playing chords, you're not alone! Here's 8 tips to avoid this common issue.

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