The Elton John classic, “Can you feel the love tonight,” is most famous for its feature in Disney’s The Lion King and is a massive part of many people’s childhood, so it would be amazing to be able to pull out this song on the guitar. The song’s chorus is based around our I-V-vi-IV progression but with some variations and inversions that we learned about in “No Woman No Cry.” Elton John’s compositional skills are highly regarded in the world of pop music; his use of inversions, motives, and non-diatonic chords makes for some very interesting songwriting. One notable thing in this arrangement is the use of a non-diatonic chord (a chord that is outside the C major scale) for the first time in this course. The original recording is in the key of Bb, but, to create an easier arrangement in the open position, we are transposing it to the key of C.
Before we start on the arrangement, let’s take a look at the chord progressions. The song has three main parts: the introduction, verse, and chorus. We’ll first go through an overview of these three parts and then how to play them.
At first, so many slash chords may seem daunting, but they are not too tricky. More often than not you will already be playing the note in the chord, and it is simply a matter of removing one or two of the bass notes. Our G/B will be the same as “No Woman No Cry”; the F/A is the common open F shape with the open A on the second string left ringing. The C/G chord introduces the G on the third fret of the low E string, which you will need to use your third finger to reach.
The verse is straightforward except for the last bar, in which we introduce our first non-diatonic chord. The Bb chord contains Bb, D and F. The note Bb is not part of the C major scale, which makes the chord not diatonic to the key of C major. This chord adds a new colour to the song, giving it an uplifting quality that leads well into the chorus. We will play this chord with the fingering indicated below. Notice we are leaving out the root note of this chord to simplify the chord, making it a Bb/F, but functionally it is the same chord.
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The chorus introduces four new chords F/C, F/G, C/E and Cmaj7/G. The interesting one here is the F/G, as the note G is not part of the F chord. This chord is functioning as a Gsus9, but we refer to it as F/G to imply a specific voicing, the F triad over a G root note. The other chord that may seem tricky is the Cmajor7/G. Here we will play our C/G and remove the first finger to get the open B, which will be our Major 7.
Playing the arrangement - Introduction
Starting with the Intro, play through the chord sequence once or twice to get familiar with it. Now here is the melody
Once you are comfortable playing the melody, we can add the chords. First try to grasp each shape before stringing it all together in time.
In order to get the melody on top of the chords in the last bar, we are only going to play them as two note voicings, since the melody is quite low.
In the verse, we have a consistent down beat with our bass note, which gives the arrangement a nice and distinct quarter note pulse. Look out for the last bar where we are playing a Bb.
Play the chorus melody first without any harmony, and make sure to get comfortable with the chords alone. Now we can incorporate the chords; again, practice each chord voicing and change before trying it at tempo. Be sure to bring out the melody more than the rest of the chord.
We want to take careful note of the down beats, the quarter note beats 1, 2, 3, and 4. These signify the time and ground the rhythm. The eighth notes in between these beats are called offbeats or upbeats. Emphasizing the down beats, we can make our arrangement in time and even dance. This means when we practice it we should use a metronome and keep the down beats on the click.
Putting the Arrangement to Practice
When you practice this arrangement, it can be tempting to play easy parts quickly and difficult parts slowly, a common issue. Try to keep everything at an even tempo, and play through only as fast as you can play the most difficult passage. The best way to do this is to use a metronome, which really makes a difference. Make sure to check out the video instructing how to play this arrangement.
More About the Teacher
Rowan Pattison is an Australian jazz and contemporary guitarist. His resumé boasts artists such as American singer Bobby Arvon (Happy Days), Broadway star Michelle Murlin, American Idol finalist Lou Gazzara, Marcus Terrel from America’s Got Talent, Vegas Trumpet prodigy Greg Bohnam and American Comedian James Stevens III, who is featured regularly on The Tonight Show and Comedy Central. Now based in Melbourne, Rowan has just lead his own trio concert Impressionism of Bill Evans on a tour of Europe playing concerts in Kyiv, Lviv, Krakow and Paris. Rowan's guitar courses with Liberty Park Music include the Introduction to Jazz Improvisation and Introduction to Solo Guitar.