by Cat Stevens • Lesson #547 • Apr 18, 2024

In today’s lesson I’ll teach you how to play Moonshadow, the Cat Stevens classic from 1971. This song may seem simple on the surface, but it’s quite tricky in a few parts — the fingerstyle riff and quick chord changes in particular. But fear not, as I’ll walk you through things step by step! I’ll teach a few different shortcuts to help you get through the song while still capturing the essence of Cat Stevens’ playing. Even if you’re only looking for a campfire easy-strum version, I’ve got you covered. Let’s get into it!

  • 0:00 Lesson Overview
  • 1:43 Verse
  • 5:06 Chorus
  • 9:07 Add’l Strumming Tips
  • 17:00 Intro Riff - Basics
  • 22:07 Intro Riff - Full Tab
  • 28:47 Reimagined Intro Riff
  • 29:41 Final Tips & Advice

Lesson Discussion

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Practice Notes 2 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.

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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.

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Song Sheet with Lyrics

I have not yet made a licensed song sheet for this song - but here’s a recommended arrangement with lyrics and chords that match the arrangement I teach. You can use this to follow along with what I teach in my video tutorial, if you’re looking for a campfire sing & strum version.

Extended Videos

Play-Along Cover

Here’s a zoomed-in video of me playing each section of the song, as I teach in my main lesson, in one take (no editing). Fingerpicked intro, strummed verse & chorus, strummed bridge, and also the ending section. Even if you have to simplify the strumming, you can use this to practice playing along and staying in time.

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Slow Playthrough - Intro Riff

Here’s my take on the full riff, which 95% matches what Cat Stevens plays. I simplify a few small things (all of which I call out in my main lesson), but am sharing this for you to easily reference how things look & sound when zoomed-in and slowed down.

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Slow Playthrough - Reimagined Intro Fingerstyle

This is my entirely different take on the intro riff (a.k.a. my “secret stash” version), shown at the end of my main lesson above. I use the same chord shapes, but change the picking pattern entirely. This is the version I found myself settling into before I brought in the droning right thumb that Cat Stevens uses. One reason I share this is to encourage you to come up with your own take on things, should you feel inspired!

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Cat Stevens Playing Moonshadow

Album Recording

Live Performance (1976)

Live Performance (2015)

Lessons from Other Teachers

Nice lesson here from Alex Neumann, who (quickly) shows how Cat Stevens actually plays the fingerstyle intro. I would not consider this easy to play. You begin by stretching your left pinky up to the 5th fret, and then must quickly move it to the 3rd and 2nd fret (and then back to 3rd). For many, myself included, this is neither easy nor enjoyable. Hence my simplified version, which I teach above. Just the same, if you want to learn it exactly like Cat Stevens plays it, check this out.

Likewise here is Jerry’s Guitar Bar showing a pure fingerstyle version of the intro. Notice how he uses precise fingerpicking in the final two measures (where I’m settling for bass notes with casual filler strums). He also includes the A (or A7) in the penultimate measure of the intro, which I skip. Again, I don’t think you need to play it with this level of precision - but am happy to recommend Jerry’s videos in general.

Finally, here’s a few suggested lessons I’ve made that focus on techniques used in this song. This includes help with the B minor chord, as well as some strumming guidance (e.g. strumming without a pick). Lastly, if the pinky stretch for the D is giving you a hard time, see my lesson below looking at ways to make that stretch easier.

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