How to Play Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers

Hey, how’s it going this is Jon McLennan with Guitar Control, I’m going to teach you how to play a song called “Ain’t no Sunshine” by Bill Withers. This is a classic song that’s played on tons of gigs it’s a good kind of bluesy jam and I’m going to show you how to play the chords and the basic guitar part through the whole song.


The first part of this song uses 3 chords an A minor 7, E minor, and a G7, let me show you these shapes A minor 7 is at the 5th fret second finger on the 6th string then I skip a string and play 5, 5, 5, with my third finger barring down those three strings. This is a nice jazz voicing it’s got 4 notes in it and then I’m going to go to an E minor or an E minor 7, which is basically all open strings I’ve got the open E and then strings 4, 3, and 2, the same set of strings that I played the A minor 7 on and basically moving that down to all open strings then we have a G7 with my first finger on the 6th string 3rd fret barring down to get the 4th string 3rd fret then my second fingers on the 4th fret 3rd string and then my first finger is again grabbing this note on the 2nd string 3rd fret so that’s my G7 so I’ve got those three chords A minor 7, A minor 7, G7 and then back to A minor 7.

Now the first chord is going to last two beats so we’re going to go one and two and then beats three and four are going to get one chord each we’re going to play E minor, G7 then back to A minor for a barre, so I’ve got 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2. Now I’m using a thumb pick you can play this with your fingers same way I’ll show you that way so be 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1, 2, 3 now what I’m doing there is I’m playing my thumb on the 1st beat one and then on the end I’m playing my other three fingers the index middle and ring to get this sort of claw effect where I’m getting a bass note and then the chord one and two and then I do the same on A minor, three and the G7 four so it’s breaking up the cord with a bass now and it sounds good if you were to sing this no sunshine she’s any play sometimes I’m going to use my thumb on these chords and that’s the same chord can either do it like this G7 or you could use your thumb.

Now I might add more to it with the right hand I might go like 1 & 2 and I could do that sometimes too which is another rhythm variation so I’m going to play thumb fingers then rest like I’ll release the pressure of the chord and then I’ll play the fingers again coming on the upbeat so 1 & 2 & 3 4 & 1 & 3 then again 1 and 2 so we have those rests in there where we’re just will not rest but a whole note you’re holding the chord so the melody goes A minor, E minor, G7 letter in start again.

Now we’re going to go over the variation part she’s always gone to edit tab goes away so what’s happening there is I’m going up to the five chords, this is really a type of a blues it’s an 8 bar blues in A minor and this would be what we call the turnaround we go up to the 5 chord down to the 4 chord and then back to the 1st chord, so this 5 chord E minor 7 is what length and I’ve got the 7th fret starting on the 5th string then 9th fret on the 4th string 7th fret on the 3rd string and 8th fret on the 2nd string if you want you can borrow to G all way that’s cool sometimes I’ll just keep it 4 notes for the sake of consistency like 4 notes or not see how all those chords sound really slick together and it sounds worked out that’s a trick of like consistency of voicing meaning if I’m playing a chord with 4 notes, the next note or the next chord can be 4 notes as well and they just sound smoother that way so back to this E minor 7 and then I drop it down two frets which is a D minor 7, now when I get here I’m just going to alternate between my thumb and this fingers, so I  go to one and two and three those are all 8th notes 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and with your picking hand. Now because I play this song many times on gigs it’s just a classic kind of jam – I’ll add little bass lines in between l what I did there was I palm muted and I played E, G,G sharp A just you know 0, 3, 4, 5,  on the 6th string.

So I’m trying to play that’s pretty much the whole tune there when I do this sometimes I’ll do a chromatic passing chord so instead of going, I’ll go now watch Bill Withers there’s a video on you tube of him playing this live and he just does an A minor 7 like this which is really the same notes as this I just get an extra finger in there which makes give me another note but he’s playing a three note version of this chord which would be 7, 7, 8, 7, on the 5th string 7 on the 3rd string and then 8 on the 2nd string again alternating thumb walk down two frets back to the 1st barre.

Let’s move on to the next section, now we come to the end of the section and it sounds like this in a sunshine when she’s gone so what’s happening there is I’m just riffing on basically 2 notes the note G to A and I’m going to play this with my first finger on the 4th string 5th fret and then I go up to the 7th fret but I don’t I know that’s 7, 5 and basically I just go as long as I feel like going sometimes it could be really long sometimes it’ll just be you know that’s standard 8 bars or whatever so and then getting out of it I go sliding up to nine 2nd string 8, 9 and then I go 9, 7, 7, 5, 7, 5 chord, that’s in the bridge then from there you start and go back to the first section so let me play that whole B part for you.

I hope you had fun practicing that song be sure to leave a comment below and let us know some ideas that you would like to see in future videos whether it’s lesson requests exercises anything leave it below and also checkout guitar there’s a lot of great courses available there all right keep practicing and make sure to subscribe on our You Tube Channel and we’ll see you in our next video lessons, thanks for watching.

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