"Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen
A while back I did a video teaching a simple strumming and accompaniment version of the famous Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah”. Ever since then I wanted to make a video teaching the full solo fingerstyle guitar version of this epic tune. It’s a pretty challenging one, but I’ve got the TAB to help as you learn it. I’ll also hit some of the high points in this post just to give you a heads up.
First off, I’ll be using a capo on the fifth fret using G major chord shapes. This puts us in the key of C major but I still refer to everything as if it were in the key of G. There aren’t too many chords in this song, and most of them are simple open chords. Toward the second half of the arrangement, you do have to get into some bar chords but it’s nothing too crazy.
The intro for this arrangement in the first two measures is only a simple rolling pattern kind of like the intro in the simple version. If this solo fingerstyle version of “Hallelujah” ends up being a bit too tough for you right now, you can stick with the basic accompaniment version of this song.
In order to get this song down, I’d suggest learning the bass line with your thumb before even trying to put the melody on top. After the intro, the bass line for most of the song is very predictable depending on which chord shape you are using. I kept the alternating bass lines on the root and fifth of each chord. The G chord bass notes are on the low E and D strings, the E minor chord bass notes are on the E and A strings, the C chord bass notes are on the A and G strings, and so on. Work on getting the alternating bass pattern for each chord down and then play through the progression for the song playing just the bass line.
Once you are feeling comfortable with this, you can start to put the melody on top. I’ve written out the picking hand fingerings for you, but they are just suggestions. You can go with whatever works for you. Take it one measure and even one beat at a time. At first, you will want to practice so slow that you aren’t making any mistakes. It may seem like it’s taking forever, but working things out this slowly like this will save you a lot of time in the long run.
The only tricky part of the song that’s left at this point is when you get to the second half of measure 8 and all of the way through measure 9. This is where the bar chords come into play. You use an A major bar chord shape to move from a C to a D and then a D# diminished. This can be tough if you are playing on an acoustic so I end up using only the part of the A-shaped bar chord that I need to play the actual part. This makes it a lot easier on my fretting hand.
It may take you quite a while to get this song down but try not to get discouraged. Remember that songs like this build a lot of the fundamental skills you need to play loads of fingerstyle songs and even come up with your own solo fingerstyle guitar arrangements. If you have any questions or need any help you can email us at or schedule a private lesson with me here on the site.
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