The song 'Stand By Me' by Ben E. King is an all time classic song, and fantastic for beginners to learn.
Why? Because it uses what is called a common chord progression.
This means it uses chord progressions that work well together and are used frequently in music.
It's only 4 simple chord progressions to learn. I am also going to show you a cool way to get from one chord to the next.
It's a technique you can apply to many different songs and chord progressions.
Not only that, I am going to show you a terrific strumming pattern you can use with this. Ready to get started? Amazing!
Be sure to stick to the end as I have a cool bonus just for you!
The 4 Stand By Me Chords
Let’s start with a 4 finger G chord.
You can use another variation of the G chord if you’d like, but I prefer the 4 finger G chord here.
It’s a nice full chord and I find it to be easier to play than a 3 finger G chord.
From here we’ll play an Em chord, but a little different.
You’ll leave your index finger on the 5th string 2nd fret. It acts as an anchor to change chords.
Place your index finger on the 4th string 2nd fret.
You can actually leave your ring finger and pinky where they are too. That would turn it into an Em7 chord.
Our next chord is a variation of the C chord. It’s technically called a Cadd9.
You can think of it as a G chord, but your index and middle fingers go up one string.
If you played the Em7 chord you can use your ring and pinky fingers where they are as anchors.
You can try the Em and Em7 to the Cadd9 and see what works best for you.
The last chord is a D.
I’m going to leave my ring finger on the 2nd string 3rd fret and again use it as an anchor.
These anchor notes make changing chords much easier, quicker, and cleaner.
The bass note is the D string (4th string). You can hit the A string below it, but I like it better with the D note on the bottom.
Let's Learn the Progression All Together
So let’s go through the chord progression. If these chords are new to you, I’d encourage you to practice the chord changes a few times.
Give the G chord a strum, change to the Em (or Em7), then the Cadd9 and then the D.
This song has eight bar segments that repeat over and over. A bar is another name for a measure.
Each bar (or measure) has 4 beats to it.
The chords aren’t quite equal when it comes to strumming. Here’s what the pattern looks like, with each chord being a measure:
Did you notice how the G and Em each get two measures, but the C and D get one measure? The second line ends with two more measures of G.
This looks like the G is going to be played for too long, but it makes perfect sense in the context of the song.
Start by strumming each chord once per measure. It will be strum-two-three-four strum-two-three-four.
Adding A Strum
If you’re good so far, let’s add in a strum. Check out 6:07 for a really cool strum that adds a lot of rhythm to the song.
Once you have the strum down, check out 8:01 in the video to play along.
You know I couldn’t do a Stand By Me lesson without that iconic riff. Jump to 10:02 in the video for a step by step demonstration with tabs.
As a note, I learned this song by listening to the original Ben E. King version.
His version is a full step up. If you want to play along to the recording you can put a capo on the second fret.
You’ll play the exact same chord shapes, they’ll all sound one step higher in pitch.
I hope you were able to learn something new today. If you enjoyed this lesson subscribe to my YouTube channel to get access to a lot more video lessons like this.
Let me know in the comments there or here if there are any other songs you’d love to learn!