The Monkees started a whole new culture path with their successful TV show and records in the mid-1960s. Many of their songs were written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (Last Train To Clarksville and Steppin’ Stone), but they also got tunes from Neil Diamond (I’m A Believer), John Stewart (Daydream Believer) and even Carole King, who along with her husband Gerry Goffin penned Pleasant Valley Sunday.
The imaginary band got off the ground partly inspired by the success of The Beatles movie A Hard Days Night and ruled the TV waves from 1966-1969. Their songs topped the radio charts, they paved the way for other fictional bands (The Partridge Family), and the next generation of teen idols like David Cassidy.
These songs are really fun to play and the set includes a solo fingerpicking arrangement of Daydream Believer, which is done in Dropped D Tuning.
Lesson 1: Daydream Believer - Monkees - Guitar Lesson
The Monkees had the good fortune to get songs from great songwriters. Daydream Believer was written by John Stewart, who had spent the previous years with The Kingston Trio.
The Monkees’ arrangement was quite different, even as far as the chord progression, but really captured, and even amplified the ‘feel good’ nature of the song.
Their version is in the key of G and the main accompaniment was done on keyboards. This lesson is done in G but uses Dropped D Tuning to keep the relationship of the bass notes faithful.
Lesson 2: The Monkees Theme
The Monkees TV show was very popular in the mid-1960s. The 'band' was supported by great songwriters like Neil Diamond and Jon Stewart. They were produced by the hit writing team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who penned many of their songs, including the main theme.
This short lesson goes over the chord progressions, strumming patterns, some modulations, and even a couple thoughts on adding a lead lick.
Lesson 3: Last Train To Clarksville - Monkees - Guitar Lesson
Last Train To Clarksville opens up with a classic guitar lick that serves as a signature riff in the song. The lesson covers strumming through the chord progression and riff using fingers, rather than a pick.
This includes a technique known as a “banjo roll” with the thumb and two fingers. There are muted, syncopated strumming patterns and a couple of ways to play the short bridge sections.
Lesson 4: Pleasant Valley Sunday - Monkees - Guitar Lesson
The top-notch songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King came up with Pleasant Valley Sunday for The Monkees in 1967.
It became one of their biggest hits, partly due to Mickey Dolenz’ characteristic vocals and Mike Nesmith’s opening guitar riff (with a nod to George Harrison, of course). The song includes a couple of syncopated strumming patterns, as well as quite a few barre chords.
Lesson 5: (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone - Monkees - Guitar Lesson
Another hit for the Monkees written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Steppin’ Stone started out as a hit for Paul Revere & The Raiders before becoming heavily identified with The Monkees.
The song might fall into the “Caveman” category, with really only one chord sequence, but there are some texture changes and new techniques that can be learned by working on it. These include double-time strumming and what I call the “reverse drag.” Some quick barre movements are needed as well. Be sure to check out this fun song and lesson.
Lesson 6: I’m A Believer - Neil Diamond - Guitar Lesson
As sometimes happens, great songs can be better remembered by bigger covers than the original. I’m A Believer was an average Neil Diamond song (which still means better than 90% of what else was out there at the time) that will go down in history as one of the best tunes The Monkees did.
Their arrangement, which was pretty close to Neil’s with a little more emphasis on the organ part and killer vocals by Mickey Dolenz, put I’m A Believer in legendary status. This lesson has an ear-training component, goes through both versions, in different keys, and incorporates the organ lick into the strumming as well.
Lesson 7: Daydream Believer (Fingerpicking)
As you may know, we recently did a lesson on The Monkees’ version of John Stewart’s tune Daydream Believer.
This was a classic begging for a solo version and I just had to get to it. As with a few other recent lessons, this took the path of breaking out the components and walking through the construction of your own arrangement.
It is done in Dropped D Tuning, even though the song is played in G, and there is a good explanation offered in the lesson as to of the advantages of this.