Lesson Plan

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Lesson notes

If I Needed You is a song written by American singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt and performed on his 1972 album ‘The Late Great Townes Van Zandt’.

Although ‘Pancho and Lefty’ is the song most associated with Townes, ‘If I Needed You’ is his most covered composition. Among them are covers by Emmylou Harris and Don Williams, Doc Watson, Guy Clark, Lyle Lovett and Mumford & Sons. It is also covered in the Belgium movie ‘The Broken Circle Breakdown’, where the Broken Circle Breakdown Bluegrass Band, including the actors Johan Heldenberg and Veerle Baetens, sing it live.

This lesson shows how Townes plays it in live performances, which can be a little different from one performance to another.

The arrangement is mostly done as a chord melody, featuring Travis style picking with the melody of the vocals incorporated. The good news is that it only includes three chords in the key of G, where the guitar is capoed on the 4th fret.

Emmylou Harris and Don Williams performed the song as a duet, making it a big hit on the country charts in 1981. A few segments of how she plays it live at the Austin City Limits and a duet cover of their version is included in this lesson.