I Shot The Sheriff


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Focusing on the left hand and all chords used in this song

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I think the material is excellent. I’ve benefited so much. I’ve now begun to improvise with some confidence and have written songs that feel authentic. I can now develop musically in a broad and rich way. Your work has illuminated an exciting path forward.– Roger

This one guitar arrangement of ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ is not only inspired by the original Bob Marley recording, but also by Eric Clapton‘s version.

The verse chord progression is simple and very Aeolian sounding. Using the IVmaj7 and the IIIm7 to constantly point back to chord VI.

As there is a capo on fret three, what you hear is in Gm, but you think in Em as you play the verse: Cmaj7, Bm7 and Em.

The chorus is even more simple, moving just between Em and Am, or the VI and II chord.

The world famous riff at 0:53 following “…and I say” uses the Minor Pentatonic scale.

Playing with a capo

In the key of Em, we get the advantage that every open string is part of Minor Pentatonic scale.

By using a capo we can capitalise on this phenomenon and put ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ in the key of Em, rather than the more awkward key of Gm.

As the chords are so simple in this key, there is plenty of room to play a bass line and even add some licks as the chords change.


| Em | Em | Am | Am | repeat


| Cmaj7 Bm7 | Em Em/B | repeat

Building a one guitar arrangement

When you build a one guitar arrangement you have to first work out what the most important parts are. To build ‘I Shot The Sheriff’ I focused on:

  • The bass line
  • The up beat
  • The riff
  • The open position Em shaped Minor Pentatonic

Make sure the bass line is rhythmically solid and dynamically well pronounced. You can vary it in an improvised way, but you need to use the right notes from the scale.

Decide which out of double or single back beat strums work best for you. Use the other as a variation.

For me, the riff was difficult to get sounding big at first. I ended up using open strings to fatten the sound. Take the advanced course and get the full story.

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