Don't Say

by The Chainsmokers • Lesson #58 • Apr 20, 2017

Editor’s Notes

Here’s an acoustic guitar lesson for Don’t Say by the Chainsmokers. I recorded this one during my phase of making pop lessons. While not a guitar classic in any sense, I had a lot of fun learning it and hope you find the lesson helpful.

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Capo and chords needed

Without a capo, this song is in the key of F. Here’s a map of the chords you’d need, depending on where you used a capo (if at all):

          I   IV  V   vi
No Capo   F   Bb  C   Dm
Capo 1    E   A   B   C#m
Capo 3    D   G   A   Bm
Capo 5    C   F   G   Am
Capo 8    A   D   E   F#m

Playing in the key of F can, quite frankly, suck. So many barre chords. Instead, let’s do it with a capo on the 5th fret. With a capo on the 5th fret, you’ll need these chords:

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

Chord progression

Essentially, the entire song uses these two progressions, played in sequence (and then repeating them both). You’re always moving from F to G to Am, and for the final chord of each sequence either going back to G, or moving to C. When listening along to the recorded version of the song by The Chainsmokers, you really only hear this through the bass note (since there isn’t a proper guitar).

| F   .   G   .   | Am   .   G   .   |
| F   .   G   .   | Am   .   C   .   |

Strumming pattern and timing

Timing matters! Note how when you switch the second chord of each measure, you’re switching on the “3 +” and not the “3”. It sounds as if you’re switching late, or early – depending on how you listen. This is a very characteristic sound in many of The Chainsmokers songs. Note, I’m only showing the first progression here (F-G-Am-G), but apply everything I’m saying equally to the F-G-Am-C progression too.

F              G        Am             G
↓              ↓        ↓              ↓
1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +

Then, you can expand things a bit. Here are a few ways to maybe do this. Such as:

F              G        Am             G
↓     ↓        ↓  ↓     ↓     ↓        ↓  ↓
1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +

or something like:

F              G        Am             G
↓     ↓    ↑↓↑ ↓  ↓     ↓     ↓    ↑↓↑ ↓  ↓
1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +

And so forth. Make it your own.

Chords w/ main riff

This is played in the same general time with the F-G-Am-G / F-G-Am-C progression. The difference is adding the melodic notes heard in the main riff, which shine through on the high E string (0 and 3rd fret) and then jumping down to the open G string (aka the third thinnest string).

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

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

Disclaimer: I’m 99% sure that melodically, The Chainsmokers synth actually ends the riff on the 2nd fret of the G string. I’m not doing this because it’s not as easy to play (and I don’t think sounds as good) on an acoustic guitar.

Chorus riff

You know the climactic instrumental section that you nod your head to during/after each chorus? Here’s how to play it on an acoustic guitar, while at the same time strumming along to these chords. If you want, you can bring in the A-minor chord for either of the C-majors I used here… playing the riff would be equally easy. I’m keeping on C in the tab below mainly for simplicity.

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

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

Note! I realize I’m not 100% recreating every single synth note you hear in The Chainsmokers recorded version of this song. What I have here captures the 80-90% spirit of it, and is intentionally arranged by me to be easy to play and not super complicated. I wanted to note this for the musically nitpickers amongst ye. I too love being nit picky sometimes – but this song doesn’t call for it, at least with my arrangement here, in my humble. opinion.

I hope this helps!

Let me know if you have any specific questions.

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