"Black Coffee in Bed" is a timeless classic that has been a favorite of music fans for over four decades now. The song was written and recorded by the British band Squeeze. It’s a soulful track that captures the pain and heartache of a relationship gone wrong. With its unique chord progression and catchy lyrics, "Black Coffee in Bed" has become a staple of radio playlists and concert performances around the world.
If you're a guitar player who loves the sound of soulful rock, then learning how to play "Black Coffee in Bed" on guitar is a must. In this post, I’ll take you through the key elements of the song so you can start playing in this style today.
So grab your guitar and a cup of coffee, and let's get started.
The story behind "Black Coffee in Bed" is an interesting one. According to Squeeze's lead vocalist and songwriter, Chris Difford, the song was inspired by a real-life experience. Difford had recently gone through a tough breakup and was struggling to come to terms with his emotions. One morning, he woke up feeling particularly low and decided to go out for a cup of coffee. He found himself sitting in a café, staring into his cup and feeling lost and alone. It was at that moment that he realized he had the beginnings of a new song.
Squeeze began working on "Black Coffee in Bed" in the studio, and the result was a track that perfectly captured the raw emotion of Difford's experience. The song features a powerful vocal performance by Glenn Tilbrook and a driving, soulful groove that propels the listener forward. It's a song that speaks to the pain of heartbreak but also to the resilience and strength that come from facing adversity.
The main progression and groove of this song are all based around a syncopated rhythm that moves two chords per bar. The song is in the key of D and the main progression moves from a D to Bm, and then G/A to D.
Here are the shapes that I would use for each of these 3 chords:
I would play open position D like this:
Bm at the 2nd fret like this:
And G/A with 3 fretted notes like this:
Putting them into the groove would look like this:
D, Bm (1 bar)
G/A, D (1 bar)
The first chord is played on the downbeat, and then the second chord in the measure comes on the “and” of 2 like this:
Then repeat the same rhythm for the next bar going from G/A back to D like this:
Practice looping this progression to get the feel. This could also be called a “vamp” and is a lot of fun to jam over.
As you work on this I also would recommend:
These two things are so important for helping your timing and rhythm. When you do this the first chord in the groove should be played when your foot taps down and the second chord should be played on the “and” which is when your foot should be up in the air. I recommend tapping the foot that is opposite your strum hand.
Once the chords and rhythms are feeling comfortable next try adding in the signature riff. This riff is all based around notes from the D major pentatonic scale. The master scale pattern here would look like this:
To play these notes on your guitar start on the 6th string and play:
6th string frets = 5, 7
5th string frets = 5, 7
4th string frets = 4, 7
3rd string frets =4, 7
2nd string frets = 5, 7
1st string frets = 5, 7
This pattern only consists of 5 notes and it has two D root notes in it. These are bolded above as the 5th fret on the 5th string and the 7th fret on the 3rd string.
I typically refer to this shape as the A shape pentatonic pattern which comes from the CAGED system. The chord shape I would associate with this scale pattern would be a D major bar chord at the 5th fret like this:
Now that you know the scale let’s look at how the riff uses just a few notes of it to create the signature sound. The entire riff takes place on just two strings, the 6th and 5th strings. Start out walking up the scale from the 5th fret on the 6th string up to the root note on the 5th fret 5th string.
Then walk back those same notes.
Then again go back up with an even eighth-note rhythm to finish it off.
The riff altogether goes like this:
Again notice how all of these notes come straight out of the D major pentatonic scale pattern.
Next, try alternating between the riff and then the chord progression with the syncopated rhythm like this:
Riff (2 bars)
Progression (2 bars)
For a deeper dive and demonstration be sure to watch the video above.
In the 80s, when it was released and even today, "Black Coffee in Bed" still has a unique combination of soulful rock and pop sensibilities, with a distinctively British twist.
The song's lyrics, which touch on themes of heartbreak and loss, are delivered with rawness and authenticity that resonated with audiences around the world.
But beyond its musical innovations and emotional vibe, "Black Coffee in Bed" is also notable for its role in shaping the cultural landscape of the 1980s. As part of the larger movement of new wave and post-punk music, Squeeze helped to redefine the sound and style of rock music, paving the way for later acts like The Smiths, The Cure, and Joy Division.
Today, "Black Coffee in Bed" remains a beloved classic and a testament to the enduring power of great rock music. By learning to play this iconic song on guitar, you'll not only gain a deeper appreciation for its musical and cultural significance but also improve your rock guitar skills and musicianship.
So, whether you're a seasoned pro or a beginner, we encourage you to take the time to learn "Black Coffee in Bed" on guitar. With its timeless appeal and universal message, this song is sure to inspire and move audiences for years to come. And for another great rock lesson, check out "House Of The Rising Sun" next!"
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