Mad World

Learn how to play Mad World on one acoustic guitar!

‘Mad World’ is a song written and first made famous by Tears For Fears in 1982. Two decades later, Gary Jules had a Christmas #1 with it as a cover.

Spy Tunes’ version is a one guitar arrangement of Gary Jules’ piano ballad version.

The song is not centred in the traditional natural minor (Aeolian, chord VI). Instead, ‘Mad World’s key centre is over Dorian (chord II), just like ‘I Wish‘ and ‘Scarborough Fair‘.

In the guitar courses, we examine what playing in a mode really means, using Mad World as one of the first examples.

Chord progression

These are the relatively simple chords for ‘Mad World’:


| Em | G | Dsus2 | A |


| Em | A | Em | A |

All chords are from the key of D major, however, D is not the home chord, Em is (chord II). This is why you could say that ‘Mad World’ is “in Dorian”.

In this second video lesson, you’ll get an up-close look of the strumming hand. When we study ‘Mad World’ in the course, we use this as well as TAB to learn the arrangement to perfection. We even look at playing it fingerstyle.

Mad World in the guitar course

In the intermediate guitar course, ‘Mad World’ is studied in depth. The full lesson covers:

  • The meaning of the chord progression
  • The picking pattern
  • How to play it finger style
  • The pentatonic scales that outline the intro melody
  • A complete TAB chart