Intermediate Acoustic Guitar Course Week 14

American Pie Chorus + Verse!

Today we start working on the epic ‘American Pie’ by Don McClean.

The chords for this song are not complicated, just a few variations in V/VII, I/III, sus4, sus2, which you seen all before.

There is one chord that has been modified outside the scale in the IIx7.

So it’s not the chords individually that are tricky. The thing with ‘American Pie’ that is hard is the amount of progressions.

At the end of it we will end up with a huge chart!

Week 14 – Step 1 – 30-40 min

As the progression is so massive we need to break down each section and actually understand each movement.

Once this is done you don’t have to memorize it, just listen!

Let’s take each section one by one, here’s the Chorus:

Key of G| I IV | I V | x3
| VI | IIx7 | VI | V Vsus2 V | Vsus4 V Vsus2 V |

Start off by playing IIVIV. This is classic singer/song-writer, folk/country stuff. The movement is taken directly from a standard blues, although we don’t stay on each chord for more than half a bar.

The turnaround that follow is the VIII, however, we change II into a IIx7. This creates more tension.

Finish off with VIV, adding the sus2 and sus4 variations on the V chord.

Here is the Chorus using chords from the key of G:

| G C | G D | x3
| Em | A7 | Em | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D |

And here it is in TAB, play along with video.
American Pie Chorus

Week 14 – Step 2 – 20-30 min

So the Chorus was simple enough, let’s look at the first half of the Verse:

| I | II | IV | II | VI | V Vsus2 V | Vsus4 V Vsus2 V Vsus4 |
| I V/VII | VI | II | IV | VI | II | V Vsus2 V | Vsus4 V Vsus2 V Vsus4 |

First we move up the scale from III. Follow this by IIIV, this is a parallel minor to major movement.

Repeat this before the V chord with sus2 and sus4 variations.

In line two we get a slightly drawn out version of the IV/VIIVI. Follow this with VIIIIVVIIIV.

Add the compulsory sus2 and sus4’s to the V chord.

In chords from the key of G this is:

| G | Am | C | Am | C | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D Dsus4 |
| G D/F# | Em | Am | C | Em | Am | D Dsus2 D | Dsus4 D Dsus2 D Dsus4 |

Here’s the TAB:
American Pie Verse first half
The second half of the Verse looks like this:

| VI | V | VI | V | IV Isus4/III | II | IV | V Vsus4 |
| I V/VII | VI | II | IV | I V/VII | VI | IV | V |
| I IV | I V Vsus4 |

This is like an answer to the first half of the Verse.

Start off by playing VIV twice. We then apply the IVI/IIIII, which is parallel major to minor. Finish off with IVV.

IVV brings us back to I again which is (as usual) moving down to VI via the V/VII. Move up to II, then up to parallel major in the IV chord.

Repeat this but play IVV at the end instead.
Before we go back to the Chorus, play the Chorus progression once: IIVIV.

Translating the Roman Numerals to the key of G and you get this for the second half of the Verse:

| Em | D | Em | D | C Gsus4/B | Am | C | D Dsus4 |
| G D/F# | Em | Am | C | G D/F# | Em | C | D |
| G C | G D Dsus4 |

Here it is in TAB:
American Pie Verse second half
If you found this difficult, here’s an idea:

Start off by playing along with the Chorus in the video. As the Verse arrive, just strum the chords once each.

This will help you hear the movements.

When you can play a whole Verse like this, start applying the strumming pattern.

Conclusion

This week we learned the Chorus and Verse for ‘American Pie’.

There where a lot of chords here so you need to break down each movement and listen to how it supports the melody.

By strumming each chord just once along with the video you could focus on the movement.

When you understand the progression it was easier to strum it.

In three days time we will learn the Intro and Outro as well as look at a chart for the entire song.

See you then!

Dan (your guitar guru)