Don't Fear The Reaper Guitar Lesson

Don’t Fear The Reaper by Blue Öyster Cult (Fingerstyle Guitar Lesson)

Don't Fear The Reaper was recorded in 1976 by American rock band Blue Öyster Cult and appears on their album Agents of Fortune. The song was written and sung by lead guitarist Donald Roeser.

Don't Fear The Reaper is no. 52 on my Top 60 Fingerpicking Songs of ALL TIME list. If you've not seen the list be sure to check it out and sign up to my weekly email lesson. That way you won't miss learning any of these great fingerstyle songs.

As we know, Don't Fear The Reaper isn't a fingerstyle song, it's far from it. But having said that, there's no reason why we can't turn it into a fingerstyle arrangement and that's exactly what we're going to do here.

I've always loved the concept/challenge of trying to play two parts at the same time on the guitar. My goal here was to combine the classic riff with the melody and get the two to merge together seamlessly. The way it's achieved is by practising both parts in isolation and then joining the two together, just like a puzzle. It can be incredibly hard to do but the payout is very often well worth it.

Don't Fear The Reaper Song Details:

  • Tuning - standard
  • Key - A minor
  • Tempo - 140 bpm
  • Difficulty - advanced

The Lesson:

The riff remains unaltered throughout and you need to add in the vocal-line without getting in the way.

Moving into the second half of the verse/chorus now and I've employed a right hand strumming technique whilst simultaneously picking out the melody. This can be very difficult to do if you've not done it before. I go into great detail on this technique in my Complete Beginner's Guide to Fingerpicking course.

Verse 2:

The 2nd verse is very similar to the first, just with a few alterations.

Bridge (part 1):

Watch out for the first half of the bridge because it's harder than it seems. It's the repetitive picking pattern that makes knowing exactly when to change chord hard, and on top of that the bar of 5/4 time in bar eight makes things really quite challenging.

Bridge (part 2):

The second half of the bridge I've left reasonable straightforward. Please remember that this is just my interpretation of the song, and in all honesty I'd much rather you came up with your own thing and just used this as a rough guide.

  1. Dan Cuprill left a comment on 2nd March 2019 at 10:43 pm

    I’m a little confused with what you’re calling the F chord. This must be a different variation than what I learned it as B&E String Frist Fret, G String Second Fret, and D string Third fret. Can you clarify? Thank you.

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 7th March 2019 at 11:10 am

      Hey Dan, I can see why you may be confused there. As you progress further with guitar you’ll learn that all chords can be played in many different ways all over the neck. How I show you F in this lesson is just one of many. It’s just a slight more advanced version in this case.

  2. mark left a comment on 27th June 2020 at 9:33 pm

    Are you on Patreon?

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 3rd July 2020 at 9:46 am

      Hi Mark, no I’m not on Patreon. Possibly in the future I will be.

  3. Ivan left a comment on 18th September 2020 at 12:46 pm

    Shame you don’t offer private lessons via zoom, hope your in-person students appreciate how lucky they are to have such a great teacher. I’ve been playing for about a year and was able to get this down pretty well. Thank you so much for all your amazing lessons.

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 24th September 2020 at 11:32 am

      Thanks a lot Ivan, appreciate it.

  4. Russ left a comment on 7th October 2020 at 6:33 pm

    How do I get the tabs for don’t fear the reaper?

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 9th October 2020 at 5:15 pm

      All TABs will be available again within a few months Russ.

  5. Jasmin left a comment on 3rd November 2020 at 2:43 pm


    last time I checked, there where tabs and bars showing on this site, or am I mistaken? I don’t like to learn via video (its annoying to rewind again and again) – I love your explanation and showcasing of the piece; but for learning itself I just need to repeat a few bars again and again by myself..

    Will there be these tabs for every step in future again?

    Thank you so much.

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 6th November 2020 at 10:54 am

      Hi Jasmin, the TABs sadly had to go due to copyright laws. They’ll all be back but only after going through legal publication. My plan is to get all remaining scores published by the end of the year.

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