Simple Man

by Lynyrd Skynyrd • Lesson #56 • Apr 7, 2017

Editor’s Notes

In this lesson, I show you how to play the song Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd on an acoustic guitar. I’ll show you how to play the chords needed, the strumming patterns, the distinctive riffs (easy and intermediate versions), and also the picking pattern heard in the intro of the song. Tabs and chord charts are included. Note, I’ll be playing in standard tuning (note, you must tune down one-half step to play along with the Lynyrd Skynyrd version).

Free Video Lesson


  • 0:00 Lesson overview
  • 2:01 Chords
  • 4:28 Riff, simple
  • 6:45 Riff, intermediate
  • 8:48 Picking pattern
  • 13:17 Misc other notes

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Chords you’ll need

Three chords for the entire song!

E –––0––––3––––0–––
B –––1––––0––––1–––
G –––0––––0––––2–––
D –––2––––0––––2–––
A –––3––––2––––0–––
E ––––––––3––––––––
     C    G    Am  

Chord progressions

Same chord progression for the entire song! One measure of C, one measure of G, two measures of A-minor. Repeat that, literally, for the entire song. Whether you (or your pals) are strumming, picking, soloing, or playing the jazz flute – these are the chords you’ll want to be living in.

C . . . G . . . Am . . . Am . . .

Strumming pattern

If you’re super new to guitar, start with downstrums on the “1” and “3” counts only:

>       >       >       >  
↓       ↓       ↓       ↓      
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Then, taken a tad further with difficulty, I recommend this:

>       >       >       >  
↓       ↓   ↓ ↑ ↓       ↓   ↓ ↑
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

The riff

By “riff” I’m referring to the distinctive fill you hear played by the lead guitar / bass / whatever. This is probably played in many ways, by many instruments, over the course of the song… and I’m not interested in providing an exact recreation of what each instrument does. Rather, I’d prefer to give you the building blocks to (1) learn the simplest possible version of this riff, (2) learn a slightly more intermediate version of the riff, so you can (3) take the song wherever you want to go with your future practicing. In summary, think of my notes here as a launchpad – and not as a complete canonical archive of complete truth. The former is going to be far more helpful to most people.

A final note: pay attention to the counting. Notice how you’re “counting into” each new measure (of four beats) by playing the walk-up notes on the “four and” at the end of each measure. See my video lesson for a pretty thorough walkthrough of this counting stuff.

Simple version

Start with this one, especially if you’re newer to guitar. All riff notes occur on the lowest two strings, which is nice.

See my sheet music for the tab

Intermediate version

Taken to the next level, here’s a slightly more difficult version to play (that sounds more complete). The walk-in notes are a bit more complicated (you sometime use the D string, you sometimes start walking in on the half-beat before the “4 and”, etc). There’s also an opportunity to strum or pick the full chord used in each measure – which I show in parantheses here. Again, listen to my video lesson to see this in action.

See my sheet music for the tab

Picking pattern

Alright! Finally, the picking pattern. This is what you hear in the intro to the song, and throughout the verse. This is challenging to learn in its own right (memorizing the pattern for each measure; getting your picking up/down direction polished; not accidentally hitting the other strings; etc). If this is your thing, learn it! If you’re not sure this is your thing, learn it anyway! If nothing else, it is a good practice exercise. Just the same, you could strum the song 100% and never bother with this.

See my sheet music for the tab

Lyrics with chords

See my sheet music for the full lyrics, with chords included

Hope that helps!

Let me know how things work for you when learning this song! Hopefully well. Hit me up with any comments / questions / etc.

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