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Down By The River was one of the first jamming tunes from Neil Young. Others in the same vein would include Cowgirl In The Sand, Southern Man, Like A Hurricane, etc. Neil frequently plays an acoustic version, sometimes as part of a medley that includes Cinnamon Girl and The Loner. He uses a Double Dropped D tuning (DADGBD) for this, which slightly changes some of the chord fingerings. The song is in common (4/4) time and revolves around the chords Em7 and A, making it in the key of D major. However, the tonic note is E, putting this in the Dorian mode. The lead can be played using the E minor pentatonic scale.