John Lennon will go down in history as one of the greatest songwriters and performers in history, not just for his work with Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, but for his post-Beatles creativity as well. This set of lessons starts with the earliest from his solo career, through his last album Double Fantasy , and even one of his contributions to the Beatles Anthology Project of the 1990s. Many of these are fairly basic guitar songs, a couple are presented as ear-training lessons, and a few include instrumental arrangements of his beautiful melodies.
Lesson 1: Imagine
“Imagine” by John Lennon is considered by many people to be the best song in all of Rock and Roll History. It was released in 1971 on the album “Imagine”. In it lesson, I will introduce the 7 chords used in the song – taking you through the song showing you how to move from chord to chord. Then I will break down the 3 parts of the song and show you how to play the song with proper rhythms. After that I play the song much slower – so you can play along with less pressure. Finally there is a full-speed sing-along.
Lesson 2: Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) is one of many John Lennon tunes with social commentary as the subject. The chords to this song are pretty easy but they include some moving melody notes that add quite a bit of interest to the overall sound. This lesson is done in the ‘Work It Out’ format with a focus on ear training so be sure to watch the lesson before printing out the chart.
Lesson 3: Instant Karma
Instant Karma is a classic John Lennon tune and one of his most popular post-Beatles songs. It is a great example of how he can bring together chords and progression from multiple keys and create a flowing melody. This lesson is done in our ‘Work It Out’ style without showing the chords until the end to let the student practice their ear-training skills.
Lesson 4: Jealous Guy
Jealous Guy is a John Lennon song that had its origins in the Beatles' 1968 summer trip to India. John's original title was Child Of Nature and there are some demo recordings of him singing it with those lyrics. The final version came out on Imagine in 1971 and was more piano oriented. The guitar version is a fairly straightforward strumming song in the key of G and the lesson includes some of John's subtle transitions from chord to chord.
Lesson 5: Oh My Love
*Oh My Love*is John Lennon at his harmonic and melodic best. It was released in 1971 on Imagine, opening with an electric guitar arpeggio, with the rest of the song being more piano based. This lesson presents a basic accompaniment version as well as a solo guitar arrangement that is a bit more challenging. The basic arrangement uses fingerpicking arpeggios and a few barre chords, probably making it more of a level 5 so don’t be scared off by the instrumental ranking.
Lesson 6: Real Love
Real Love is a song that John Lennon had made a few demos of in the late 1970s. It was the selected to be one of the tunes that the Paul, George and Ringo turned into a 'new' Beatles recording with the Anthology Project in the mid-1990s. This lesson goes over the heavily produced Beatles version, as well as John’s stripped down acoustic guitar version.
Lesson 7: Starting Over
Starting Over was the first song released from John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album in 1980. It was a great commentary on what he had been doing for the last five years, as well as a bit of an answer to some of his critics. The song has a bit of a 50s feel with a shuffle rhythm and some Do-Wop type harmonies. The lesson goes into a range of strumming approaches from very basic to pretty complicated. It gets to styles of strumming where your hand does not keep a steady down-up motion.
Lesson 8: Watching The Wheels
Watching The Wheels is one of John Lennon's answers to various critics over the years. It is from his 1980 album Double Fantasy, which had quite a few notable songs. Many of John's songs are more piano based but the main vamp played in the introduction translates very well to the guitar. There are also some nice moving bass lines and various strumming patterns.
Lesson 9: Woman
Woman is a beautiful song from John Lennon's album Double Fantasy, a set of tunes split between him and Yoko. It features a chord progression in the key of D (really Eb in the recording due to a capo) that modulates up a half step at the end. A couple of ways of trying to make this happen are addressed in the lesson, as well as a couple of different approaches to the accompaniment.
Lesson 10: Working Class Hero
*Working Class Hero*is one of John Lennon’s simpler songs in a few ways. It was released in 1970 on his Plastic Ono Band album and really just features simple strumming with 3 chords, a very sparse accompaniment. The main thing to work on in this lesson is hitting the bass notes accurately, more accurately than John usually cared about.