Going To California Guitar Lesson

Going to California by Led Zeppelin (Fingerstyle Guitar Lesson)

  • 20th September 2018
  • Songs

Scroll down for full fingerstyle guitar lesson (with tab/video tutorial) of Going to California by Led Zeppelin.

Going to California was written by Jimmy Page/Robert Plant and appears on Led Zeppelin's album Led Zeppelin IV, released in 1971. The recording of the song has many layers of acoustic guitar, so for this lesson I've stripped it down a bit. I've added in the more recognisable parts and condensed it all down to just one guitar.

Going to California is no. 42 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.

Going to California Song details:

  • Key - D major
  • Tempo - 78 bpm
  • Tuning - double drop D (D, A, D, G, B, D)
  • Difficulty - intermediate - advanced


Intro, verse x2 (minus last 4 bars on the 2nd verse), bridge, verse, outro.


The intro to Going to California is 4 bars of a static D chord being fingerpicked. Focus on getting your thumb alternating between the E and D strings very accurately, if it's out of sync then everything else will fall apart.

I've included the mandolin lick into the tab here, it's quite hard to play but such a great moment in the song, so I recommend putting the effort in to learn it. Having said that, if it is too hard you can of course take it out and just play another bar of the arpeggiated D chord.

Click to GET THE TAB

Going to California Guitar tab

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There's a lot going on in the verse but essentially you are just playing a G major chord to a D chord. Please don't get too caught up on playing it exactly as the tab says, this is the kind of song that has some room for manoeuvre. Everybody you see plays this song slightly differently, likely because it has so many guitar layers.

Click to GET THE TAB

Going to California Guitar tab


Probably one of easier the parts to the song here, you're just arpeggiating the chords with a straightforward fingerpicking pattern.

Click to GET THE TAB

Going to California Guitar tab

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You could simply just play the pattern from the intro here to fade, but if you listen carefully to the recording you can hear that there are some very small nuances. I've added them into tab.

Click to GET THE TAB

Going to California Guitar 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. Stan Barrow left a comment on 4th October 2018 at 9:14 pm

    Hi thanks for the great lessons really enjoying could you please tell what the structure is for this lesson.
    Many thanks

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 6th October 2018 at 10:50 am

      Hi Stan, glad you’re enjoying the lessons. I’ve just added the song structure to the top of the lesson.

  2. Going to California by Led Zeppelin (Guitar Lesson) | NewbieGuitar.com left a comment on 7th February 2019 at 8:17 pm

    […] Going to California by Led Zeppelin (Fingerstyle Guitar Lesson) […]

  3. Paul left a comment on 3rd March 2019 at 8:17 pm

    Hi Chris. Really loving this. Getting that mandolin bit down is a bit tricky. Getting it up to speed. Been doing that bit for a few days,lol. Thanks for the lessons

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

      Hi Paul, glad you’re enjoying it. Yeah that mandolin part is really quite hard – just keep going!

  4. Chris M. Zangara left a comment on 5th July 2019 at 10:07 pm

    Great stuff! Just got the mandolin part down. (learned from Tony Franklin, bassist for The Firm and now playing with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience). I used to play Going to California with the A string dropped to G but you get more from just this Double Drop D tuning I think.

    Thanks again! You have inspired us!

    • chris zangara left a comment on 6th July 2019 at 3:33 am

      (by Mandolin part, I meant the actual mandolin througout the song. The guitar part you incuded is awesome and yes indeed adds that special touch. Thanks again!

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 6th July 2019 at 11:46 am

      Thanks again Chris, yeah I think it works great in drop D.

      • chris zangara left a comment on 29th July 2019 at 8:30 am

        • chris zangara left a comment on 29th July 2019 at 8:32 am

          Hey Chris! I finally got it done and am working on the rest of the list as well. You are a godsend my friend. Thank you!

          “Outrider V
          Published on Jul 29, 2019
          Thanks Chris Murrin
          (at https://www.sixstringfingerpicking.co…)
          for your guitar lessons on this and so much more.

          Thanks to my wife and dog for putting up with my Mandolin playing! :D”

          • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 29th July 2019 at 6:44 pm

            Hey Chris, great stuff! Really good, it’s a really tricky one to get down I think. Great job on the mandolin too.

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