Guitar Chords lesson - Fast Car

Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman has written some great songs, such as Fast Car and Baby Can I Hold You Tonight - both of them are quite easy to play on guitar, and using the video you can see the chords clearly. Tracy Chapman was discovered busking in Boston (as I recall) - other famous buskers include Madeleine Peyroux and Eddi Reeder. Performing this song is tricky, because of the freeform way that she phrases the lyrics. Other things you might notice - there is a capo at fret 2, so although the song is played in the key of G, it comes out as the key of A. Reason: G up 2 frets = A.

If you know how to use harmonised scales, it will help in working out songs like this, because you will already know that a song in the key of G is going to use G, C, D, Em - and maybe Am and Bm too. This song just uses the first four chords, although the Em is an unusual voicing, similar to The Beatles' Blackbird. This song may have some influence from Blackbird, in terms of the chord movement which is based on two note chord voicings. The chord grids give the fret number from the capo position, which should be easy to follow.

My other hub Guitar Chords 101 has more info on playing guitar chords.

Chord grids

Playing tips

The first chord shape (Em at fret 7) just uses the middle strings, so it's good to pick this. Though there is an open D, played with a D bass as written above.

Second chord - a nice way of playing a D chord, again just using the middle 4 strings.

Third chord - C, but hammering on the 2nd string note and then pull-off

Fourth chord - you could just play G, but this will sound better - it's not using all the strings.

These four chords repeat for the whole verse, which is long. The chorus section goes

C G Em D then C Em D, C Em D, C D C G

It's best to copy the video to get the correct rhythm guitar part.

Using a capo

Using a capo, as Tracy Chapman does here, has many advantages. You can change the key of any song (effectively, how high or low it is in pitch) to suit your own voice or that of the vocalist that you may be backing. This is also called transposing - if you were in the key of C, a capo in fret 2 would change the key to D, a capo in fret 4 would be E. In fret 5, you would be in the key of F - useful for playing with shirty saxophone players.

The tone of an acoustic guitar can be made much brighter with a capo too - which is why all the best bands and songwriters use them.

When you clamp the capo on, just be careful that you don't pull the strings out of position, as you will get buzz and intonation problems. It should go just behind the fret.

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