You’re Playing “Stairway to Heaven” Wrong!

In this video lesson, Colin highlights a common mistake that people make when playing “Stairway to Heaven”.

One of the most famous guitar songs of all time is undeniably “Stairway to Heaven”. But how well do you know how to play it? Chances are, you’ve been playing it wrong for years. Find out how to play “Stairway” the right way on this episode of Inside Out Guitar.

“Stairway to Heaven” is undisputed as being on the Mount Rushmore of iconic guitar songs. Virtually every guitarist learns how to play at least some of it at one point. But more often than not, I hear guitarists playing it completely wrong. Let’s take a listen to the instrumental interlude that transitions from the verse section into the guitar solo.

Where did you find yourself tapping your foot? If you’re like me, I used to feel like the beat was on the fourth rhythmic attack, the Dsus4. If we counted that out, it would be & a 1. Let’s take another listen through, and this time, I’ll put a metronome alongside it so we can home in on where to tap our foot with the beat.

Whoops! Everything felt great until measure 8 and suddenly our foot was off with John Bonham’s drum groove when he entered. What happened? Well, maybe Led Zeppelin was being fancy and injected a single measure of 7/8 to throw us off, but that seems extremely unlikely given that every other part of this 7 minute song is in 4/4. Could there be a more straight-forward explanation?

Well, in fact, there is. The answer lies in the very first measure. The first chord D is actually a whole note! The second rhythmic attack falls on Beat 1 of measure two, not the fourth attack. This creates a completely different rhythmic feel for the interlude. 1 ee &  3 ee & 1 ee & & & & &. Let’s listen to the recording again, this time with the correct metronome placement. Once again, tap your foot along with the click.

As we can see now, the interlude stays in 4/4 the whole time and is much more syncopated than we’ve been feeling it. Below, I’ve posted a link to a free .pdf of my note-for-note transcription with tablature so you can study this section more thoroughly on your own.

Download Free “Stairway to Heaven” Transcription

Click below to download a free PDF of the “Stairway to Heaven” transcription and analysis.

I recommend counting the rhythm out loud with the recording to help you re-program how you think about it. Once you perfect it, share this info with your friends so they can be in-the-know too. Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more guitar insights. Thanks for watching. Happy practicing, and I’ll see you next time on Inside Out Guitar.

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