How To Play Harlem River Blues

How To Play Harlem River Blues


Harlem River Blues is a song written and performed by American singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle. Released in 2010, it has become one of his most popular and beloved tracks. The song features a mix of folk, country, and blues elements, creating a unique and soulful sound. In this article, we will guide you through the chords, strumming patterns, and techniques required to play Harlem River Blues on the guitar.


The song is played in the key of G major, and the basic chord progression consists of G, C, and D chords. Here are the chord shapes:

G: 3 2 0 0 0 3

C: x 3 2 0 1 0

D: x x 0 2 3 2

Strumming Pattern

The strumming pattern for Harlem River Blues is relatively simple and follows a basic 4/4 rhythm. You can start by strumming downstrokes on each beat:


1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

Once you feel comfortable with the downstrokes, you can add some variation by incorporating upstrokes on the “and” of each beat:


1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

Experiment with different strumming patterns to find the one that suits your playing style and the overall vibe of the song.


If you prefer fingerpicking, you can add some complexity to the song by incorporating a fingerpicking pattern. Here’s an example of a basic fingerpicking pattern for Harlem River Blues:

G: 6 4 5 1 4 2 3 1

C: 5 3 4 1 3 2 4 1

D: 4 2 3 1 2 1 3 1

Practice this pattern slowly and gradually increase your speed as you become more comfortable with it.


Playing Harlem River Blues on the guitar can be a rewarding experience for any aspiring musician. By mastering the chords, strumming patterns, and fingerpicking techniques, you’ll be able to capture the essence of the song and bring it to life. Remember to start slow and gradually build up your skills. With practice and dedication, you’ll soon be impressing others with your rendition of this soulful tune.

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