Few guitarists are able to fuse together the roots of the blues and rock ‘n’ roll better than Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin.
In fact, songs like ‘You Shook Me’, ‘Whole Lotta Love’, ‘Bring It On Home’ and ‘The Lemon Song’, are almost all directly ripped off from old blues classics.
So it’s safe to say that Page’s style has come straight out of artists like Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, and Willie Dixon…
But he did take their sound and styles to a new place. And played some amazing guitar parts with Led Zeppelin.
So today, I’m going to share with you one of them…
You’ll learn a great tuning for blues guitar. How to blend bluesy riffs right into your rhythm playing, and even some more advanced concepts about theory, chords, and scales…
So grab your guitar, tune down, and let’s jump into this “Hey Hey What Can I Do” Led Zeppelin guitar lesson.
"Hey Hey What Can I Do" is a classic rock song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. It was written by the band's four members: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham.
The song was recorded during the sessions for their untitled fourth studio album, commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV, which was released in 1971. However, "Hey Hey What Can I Do" was not included on the original album and was instead released as the B-side to the single "Immigrant Song."
The song was recorded at various locations, including Island Studios in London and Rolling Stones Mobile Studio in Wales. It features Robert Plant on vocals, Jimmy Page on acoustic guitar, John Paul Jones on bass guitar and organ, and John Bonham on drums.
"Hey Hey What Can I Do" is often regarded as one of Led Zeppelin's most classic tracks, despite not appearing on any of their studio albums.
While "Hey Hey What Can I Do" did not receive many formal awards or accolades, it remains a remembered and iconic Zeppelin tune.
Before we jump into the chords to “Hey Hey What Can I Do”. Let’s first talk about the guitar tuning. Jimmy Page tuned the main acoustic guitar on this song down ½ step.
To tune a guitar down 1/2 step means to lower the pitch of each of the six strings on the guitar by half a step or one semitone. In standard tuning, the six strings are tuned to the following pitches, starting from the lowest-pitched string (the thickest string) to the highest-pitched string (the thinnest string):
E (6th string)
A (5th string)
D (4th string)
G (3rd string)
B (2nd string)
E (1st string)
When you tune the guitar down 1/2 step, each of these strings is lowered by one semitone. So, the new tuning becomes:
Eb (or D#)
Ab (or G#)
Db (or C#)
Gb (or F#)
Bb (or A#)
Eb (or D#)
This lower tuning results in a slightly deeper and heavier sound compared to standard tuning. Jimmy Page used this tuning to achieve a deeper bluesier sound in the guitar part. It also can make it easier to play certain riffs or bends. This tuning can be called "half-step down tuning" or "Eb tuning" because the 6th and 1st strings are both tuned to Eb.
So when I refer to the following chords, it’s important to note that I am referring to the guitar chords and not the concert pitch…
Let’s now look at the chords…
There are only 5 main chords you need to know to play “Hey Hey What Can I Do” on guitar. Those chords are A, G, E, D, and Dsus2. Let’s take a look at some chord shapes you could to play the main guitar part.
For the A chord, I would recommend using just one finger. The index finger. This is a common approach that Jimmy Page took when playing the A. Using only one finger, frees up your other fingers to play embellishments off the chord. You’ll hear blues rhythm riffs, walk-downs, and even licks played in between the chords.
Page is a master at blending all of these different elements together into one exciting guitar part.
So use your index finger to bar and play the A chord from the 5th string down like this:
Next is G, and this can be played in open position as well. You can use a standard 4-finger G chord. Or you can take the 4-finger G and remove the index finger on the 5th string. This gives you a G5 chord, here’s how I would play it:
E is played using all 6 strings like this:
And D is played from the 4th string down like this:
As I mentioned above there are walk-downs and riffs all blended together in the rhythm guitar part. Another chord Jimmy Page used quite a bit is the Dsus2 chord. This chord is a variation on the D chord and can be played like this:
“Hey Hey What Can I Do” by Led Zeppelin is in the key of Ab major. The concert pitch chords used in the song are Ab, Gb, Eb, and Db
However, for the sake of this lesson (as it’s catered towards guitar players who are tuned down) let’s analyze these 4 main chords in the key of A major.
Jimmy Page as the guitarist is playing in A major (But don’t forget because he’s tuned down, it’s actually sounding in Ab concert pitch).
Let's explore how the chords A, G, E, and D are all related in the key of A major:
A Major (I chord): The A major chord is the tonic chord in the key of A major. It's represented by the Roman numeral I.
The notes in the A major chord are A, C#, and E. As the I chord, A acts as the home base or starting point for chord progressions in this key. It has a stable and resolved sound.
In the key of A major, the G major chord (G) is often referred to as the "flat 7" chord, and it borrows from the Mixolydian mode.
G Major as the "Flat 7" Chord (bVII): In the key of A major, the G major chord is not a diatonic chord. Diatonic chords are the chords that naturally occur within a given key.
In the key of A, the diatonic chords are A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m, and G#dim. However, the G major chord (G) is not one of those chords. It is a "borrowed" or "non-diatonic" chord in this context.
The G major chord is often labeled as the "flat 7" chord because it is based on the seventh degree of the A major scale (G# being the natural seventh). By lowering the G# to G, we create the G major chord, which is the flat 7 chord in the key of A.
Mixolydian Mode Borrowing: The Mixolydian mode is a scale that has a flat seventh degree compared to the major scale. In this case, we're borrowing the G major chord from the A Mixolydian mode. The Mixolydian mode has a dominant, bluesy sound due to this flat 7th degree. Remember in the blues the dominant 7th chord is a classic sound.
So using the G major chord (bVII) in the key of A major can introduce a unique flavor and sound to your chord progressions.
This type of progression is common in rock music and can create a sense of anticipation when resolving back to the tonic chord (A major).
Use this technique if you want to infuse a bit of bluesy or rock 'n' roll character into what are otherwise diatonic chords of the major key.
E Major (V chord): The E major chord is the dominant chord in the key of A major. It's represented by the Roman numeral V.
The notes in the E major chord are E, G#, and B. The V chord (E major) adds tension and typically leads back to the I chord (A major) in a chord progression. This exciting chord creates a strong sense of resolution when it resolves to the tonic chord.
D Major (IV chord): The D major chord is the subdominant chord in the key of A major.
It's represented by the Roman numeral IV. The notes in the D major chord are D, F#, and A.
The IV chord (D major) adds a sense of stability and can be used as a transition or variation chord between the tonic (A major) and the dominant (E major) chords.
In summary, in the key of A major, the A major chord (I) is the primary chord and serves as the tonal center. The E major chord (V) introduces tension and leads back to the A major chord, creating a sense of resolution. The D major chord (IV) provides stability and can be used to add variation to chord progressions within the key.
These three chords, A, E, and D, are fundamental in creating chord progressions and harmonies in the key of A major. Then drop the G chord into the mix, and you’ve got the makings of a bluesy classic rock-sounding hit chord progression.
As mentioned above in the analysis there are several bluesy elements that come to play in this song with the chord progression and various fills Jimmy Page plays in between the vocal lines. So one of the most important scales to know for this song would be your A minor blues scale. The notes in the A minor blues scale are:
A (the tonic or root note)
C (the minor 3rd)
D (the perfect 4th)
D# (the augmented 4th, also known as the blues note or "blue" note)
E (the perfect 5th)
G (the minor 7th)
These notes create that distinctive bluesy sound.
Here is a common guitar fingering for this scale played in 5th position:
Click here for a deeper dive into how to play the blues scale on guitar.
To wrap it up, "Hey Hey What Can I Do" by Led Zeppelin is a timeless classic, despite its status as a B-side track. Penned by the band's legendary members and recorded during the iconic Led Zeppelin IV sessions, this song still remains a fan-favorite to this day…
From the unique guitar tuning that Jimmy Page used to give it a distinctive bluesy flavor. To the G major chord in the progression that borrows from the Mixolydian mode. All of these things come together to make this song feel exciting and new throughout the whole recording.
So, keep practicing, and for more fun, Led Zeppelin-style guitar check out this “Good Times Bad Times guitar lesson” next!