In this free guitar lesson, you see how to play James Taylor’s song, “Fire and Rain.” It has been simplified and slowed down to make the chords and finger picking easier to learn. Watch the free Fire and Rain video guitar lesson above, and follow along using the free chord charts and guitar tablature below.
Fire and Rain Guitar Chords and Tab
If you would like to learn how the original Fire and Rain recording was played, then you can view the Fire and Rain official sheet music at Musicnotes.com. There’s also a James Taylor Fire and Rain video lesson on YouTube in which James himself breaks down the chords and techniques used in the song.
Song Video Section Points
- Strumming basic chords (verse) 01:15
- Strumming basic chords (chorus) 03:45
- Key and progression breakdown 08:39
- Fingerstyle intro 12:17
- Fingerstyle verse 22:59
- Fingerstyle chorus 26:28
- Play along 32:17
Fire and Rain Fingerstyle Techniques
What makes “Fire and Rain” difficult to learn is the amount of variation throughout it and across its different versions. While the song is comprised of just a few chord progressions, JT embellishes the chords with hammer-ons and pull-offs, and does so a little differently with the passing of each part. Furthermore, live versions of the song differ from the original, and even JT’s own lesson features a unique performance. In order to help you get the basic parts down I have simplified the chord shapes and finger picking, and arranged each verse and chorus to be the same so that you can easily piece together the whole song. While some of the embellishments have been removed, you still maintain what I consider to be the signature licks. Once you complete my arrangement, you can add to it by working with the official sheet music or watching James Taylor himself play.
Fire and Rain Chord Progressions and Music Theory
Another thing that makes this composition hard to understand is the variety of chords used and how they don’t all fit into any one major scale. In all, the chords used include A, G (which is functioning as a form of Em7), D, and E. It’s easy to recognize that the chords A, D, and E are I-IV-V (1 4 5) in the A major scale, but somewhat difficult to figure out where the G/Em chord fits in. In this case, the G/Em chord is taken from the A Mixolydian scale, which is the fifth mode of the D major scale. So the notes and chords in “Fire and Rain” mix two parallel scales, A major and A Mixolydian. This composition technique is called modal mixture or modal interchange. You may also hear the G/Em chord called a “borrowed chord” because it’s borrowed from another scale. Because the primary chord remains A throughout the music, you still say that the piece on the whole is in the key of A. See the second level of my Fretboard Theory instructional course.
Guitar Gear Used
PRS SE Angelus acoustic/electric guitar