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 Riff:

First off, I think it's a very good idea for you to learn the classic riff of the song, and thankfully this really isn't very hard to play. 

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

Don't Fear The Reaper (Verse)

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.

Don't Fear The Reaper Verse Guitar Tab

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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.

Don't Fear The Reaper Bridge Guitar Tab

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.

Don't Fear The Reaper Bridge Tab

If you want to make sure that you're really on the right track with fingerpicking, then try one of my fingerstyle guitar courses - find out more here.

If you have any questions or want to share anything at all, then please leave a comment below.

I hope you've found this lesson useful and thank you for reading.

  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.

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