Today I want to share with you a classic song that is perfect for beginners and even advanced players as well.
The riff is iconic and immediately recognizable. Your friends will love it.
PLUS it’s a great example of how the blues shaped rock n roll.
So grab your guitar, tune-up, and let’s get started with this Sunshine Of Your Love guitar lesson!
"Sunshine of Your Love" was written by the British rock band Cream with lyrics from (Pete Brown). Cream was a psychedelic blues rock trio consisting of Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, and Eric Clapton, and this track was released on their second album Disraeli Gears in November 1967.
The song is considered one of Cream's most popular and influential tunes. It has also been covered by many other artists.
The song is notable for its distinctive bass riff, which was written by Jack Bruce. Eric Clapton later added the guitar solo, and Ginger Baker's drumming provides a polyrhythmic counterpoint to the bass and guitar. The lyrics are about the power of love and the desire for connection.
"Sunshine of Your Love" was a commercial success, reaching number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States and number 4 on the UK Singles Chart. It has been praised by critics for its innovation and influence on rock music. The song has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The song began as a bass riff developed by Cream bassist Jack Bruce after attending a Jimi Hendrix concert. Bruce was inspired by Hendrix's use of exotic scales and his ability to create a hypnotic groove. He later recalled, "I was so impressed by Jimi Hendrix that I went home and wrote 'Sunshine of Your Love' the next day."
Guitarist Eric Clapton and lyricist Pete Brown later contributed to the song. Clapton's guitar solo is one of the most iconic in rock history, and Brown's lyrics are great as well. Drummer Ginger Baker's drumming also provides a driving force for the song’s groove and feel.
"Sunshine of Your Love" was recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York City in July 1967. Produced by Felix Pappalardi, who also engineered the recording. Pappalardi was known for his ability to capture the raw energy of rock bands, and he did not disappoint with "Sunshine of Your Love."
"Sunshine of Your Love" is considered one of the early examples of psychedelic rock, and it is also credited with helping to popularize the use of the blues scale in rock music. (Which we will get into more below.)
The song has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame. It has also been ranked number 65 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
"Sunshine of Your Love" has been covered by many other artists, including Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Stevie Wonder. The song has also been sampled by hip hop artists, including Dr. Dre and Jay-Z.
The main riff to Sunshine Of Your Love can actually be played with just a few notes from the D minor blues scale. The main riff and the power chords used in the B section are not too difficult to play. In fact, I think this song is a GREAT beginner guitar song if it’s taught properly and kept to just those two parts. The riff, and 3 power chords. However, to nail the guitar parts like Eric Clapton did, or Jimi Hendrix did, that is going to require a much higher level of playing skill. So getting the basics of the song down is not too hard. But going all the way like Clapton or Hendrix of course is going to be harder.
There are just two sections you’ll need to know to play along to “Sunshine Of Your Love”. The first section is the main riff and the second part we’ll call the B-section.
The main riff is all built from notes in a D minor blues scale.
The blues scale is a very common scale in blues and rock music. It is a minor pentatonic scale with the addition of "blue notes". The blues scale can be played in any key, but for “Sunshine Of Your Love” we’ll be in the key of D major.
The notes in a D minor blues scale are D, F, G, Ab, A, C. The Ab and C are the blue notes. The Ab is a flatted 5th, and the C is a flatted 7th. These notes give the D minor blues scale its characteristic bluesy sound. Cream uses the D minor blues scale against the D major blues key. This is a common sound in the blues.
The main riff starts on the note D, and then essentially just walks down the scale using a syncopated rhythm. Here is an example of a riff using the D minor blues scale in the style of “Sunshine Of Your Love”:
This riff is used to function as the I chord in the key of D.
Again notice it starts on the note D and then just descends down using all notes from the D minor blues scale.
From there this song follows a typical 12-bar blues pattern. This means that after we play the I chord. We’ll move on to the same riff but now placed over the IV chord. To do this just shift the riff down one string on your guitar.
Learning this pattern is key to playing millions of popular songs.
After the main riff is learned, you’ll want to add in some power chords to be able to play the B-section. Let’s take a look at those power chords next.
Once you have the riff down, then you’ll only need 3 power chords to be able to play “Sunshine Of Your Love”.
A power chord, also known as a fifth chord, is a two-note chord that is commonly used in rock and blues. It is made up of the root note of a scale and the fifth note of the scale.
For example, a D power chord is made up of the notes D and A, which are the root and fifth notes of the D major scale.
The three power chords you’ll need to know are A5, C5, and G5. Power chords are written as a letter and then the 5 after the letter, because they are made up of the root note of a scale and the fifth note of the scale.
The number 5 after the letter indicates that the chord is a fifth chord. For example, the root note of the A major scale is A and the fifth note of the A major scale is E. Therefore, the A power chord is written as A5, and can be played like this:
This notation is used to differentiate power chords from other types of chords, such as major chords, minor chords, and seventh chords.
By using the number 5 after the letter, it is clear to musicians that the chord is a power chord and not another type of chord.
The next power chord you’ll need is C5 and I play that like this:
And finally, G5 is played like this:
Now you may be wondering, “Jon you said a power chord is just 2 notes, why do these chord shapes have 3 notes?”
The answer is that I am playing the root note, then the 5th of the chord, and then another root note on top. Having two root notes in octaves (8 letter names apart) makes the chords sound even bigger and stronger.
In case you’re still wondering what scale does Sunshine Of Your Love use? The answer is the D minor blues scale. This is the main scale Clapton uses to solo over “Sunshine Of Your Love”. However, he does take liberties and plays some other very interesting note choices as well. So just use this pattern below as a basic guide.
For a longer lesson on this scale check out this post on how to play the blues scale on guitar.
To wrap it up, "Sunshine of Your Love" is a great song for guitarists of all levels. The main riff is not too difficult to learn, and the power chords used in the B-section are also quite simple. With just a little practice, you'll be able to play this classic rock song like a pro! So keep practicing and for more Eric Clapton-style guitar lessons check out this “Crossroads Guitar Lesson” or this “I Shot the Sheriff Guitar Lesson” next!