Intermediate Acoustic Guitar Course Week 15

Sunny Afternoon Chords + Strumming Pattern

Welcome back, it’s time to start working on the brilliant ‘Sunny Afternoon’ by British 60s legends The Kinks.

This song is in the key of Dm. However, we are playing with a capo so you need to think in Am, as the capo is placed on fret 5.

The main thing with ‘Sunny Afternoon’ is how to apply the memorable descending bass line.

Let’s get straight to it!

Week 15 – Step 1 – 20 min

Let’s start by looking at the chord progression. It’s here written in Roman Numerals and chords from the key of Am.

Should you play this without a capo you need to use chords from the key of Dm.

Key of CIntro/Chorus Tag

| VI VI/V | VI/#IV VI/IV |
| IIIx IIIx/II | IIIx7/I IIIx7/VII | x2
| Am Am/G | Am/F# Am/F |
| E E/D | E7/C E7/B | x2


| VI | V | I | V |
| IIIx IIIx/II | IIIx7/I IIIx7/VII | x2
| VI | VIx |
| Am | G | C | G |
| E E/D | E7/C E7/B | x2
| Am | A |


| VIx | VIx | IIx7 | IIx7 | V | V7 | I | IIIx7 |
| VI | IIx7 | VI | IIx7 V | I | IIIx7 |
| A | A | D7 | D7 | G | G7 | C | E7 |
| Am | D7 | Am | D7 G | C | E7 |


| VI | x2
| Am | x2

Even though the key is Dm, it makes sense to think in Am.

The descending bass lines are best seen as that, bass lines. The Am chord stay static as we shift the root down: A – G – F# – F.

As we move to the next logical note in E, the chord changes to an E.

Now the bass line carries on down: E – D – C – B.

The next logical note would be an A, which brings us back to Am.

This type of movement creates a loop, like this:

| Am Am/G | Am/F# Am/F | E E/D | E7/C E7/B |


Just before the Chorus we play an ascending bass line: E – F# – G#. These are notes from the A major scale, not minor.

As the chords for the Chorus start off with A – D7, it is as we are in the key of A major, playing the first section of a blues.

However, as this last for only two bars it’s better to think of it as a variation, hence the Roman numerals of VIx – IIx7. Am has become A7, Dm has become D7

Play along with the video, simply strumming the chords once to ensure you get the progression.

When you can do this it’s time to apply the strumming patterns for each section.

Week 15 Step 2 – 20 min

Now that you know the chords, let’s look at the strumming patterns for each section.

Here’s the Intro/Chorus Tag section.

Notice how the bass notes are separated from the Am chord, but the full chord is strummed for the E chord.
Sunny Afternoon Intro Trplets
This was written as it sounds, as a shuffle rhythm. The triplets are broken, meaning we play triplet one and three.

As this tend to look a bit messy we can just write it as 8th notes, then indicate that all 8th notes are played shuffled or swung.

Here’s the same TAB using only 8th notes:
Sunny Afternoon Intro 8ths
From now on all notation will be using just 8th notes, play them shuffled as in the video.


The first part of the Verse has a call and response rhythm, In bar 1 and 3 we play a quarter note followed by a dotted quarter note. The bar finish with three eight notes.

In bar 2 and 4 we start with a quarter note, follow this by two 8th notes, the second one is tied. The bar is finished off in the same way as bar 1 and 3.

Using this type of repetitive rhythmical language relaxes the listener and drives the melody forward.
Sunny Afternoon Verse
The second half of the Verse is simply the E chord with the descending bass line, just like the Intro.

The final two bars are building up to the Chorus.

We make the switch from Am to A already here when we play the ascending bass line containing E – F# – G#.

These are notes from the A major scale so when the chorus kicks in with an A, instead of Am, we are already prepared for it.


The Chorus strum the chords on the beat, muting 8th notes. This is like a reversed reggae rhythm, compare with how you played ‘I’m Yours’ earlier in the course.

By muting the rhythm we create a more driving feel, whereas a reggae rhythm feels laid back.

The first 4 bars are played in this staccato way. For the next four bars the rhythm is not muted, this creates a more legato feel.
Sunny Afternoon Chorus
When A comes back again it’s now an Am. We now give each chord only one bar as we go back to a staccato rhythm.

As we play the bar with D7 and G, the strumming goes back to legato and continues like this until the end of the Chorus.

Sing it!

A great way to really feel the connection of the melody and the chords is to sing the song as well as play the guitar part.

Should the notes be too high for you, simply lower the capo, I find that it’s much easier to sing this song with the capo on fret 3, rather than 5.

Use this lyric sheet.


Today you learned how to play the chords and rhythm to ‘Sunny Afternoon’.

We used slash chords to indicate the descending bass line.

Following this we looked at some TAB for each section and discovered how we can write a shuffle rhythm just using 8th notes.

In three days time we finish off our study of this song as we look at a complete chart for ‘Sunny Afternoon’. We also work on some new speed exercises.

See you then!

Dan (your guitar guru)