Keep Your Head Up

How to Play Keep Your head Up by Ben Howard on Guitar

Scroll down for full video lesson (with tab) of Keep Your Head Up by Ben Howard.

Keep Your Head Up was written by English singer-songwriter Ben Howard in 2011 and appears on his debut album 'Every Kingdom'. The song became his second single from the album after 'The Wolves' and reached no. 46 in the UK charts. This is a fantastic song and I personally have to say it was very refreshing to have an artist like this become mainstream in today's world. He got a lot of radio play on popular stations in 2011/12 and it was great to have a talented fingerpicker getting the recognition he deserved.

The first thing to watch out for when learning Keep Your head Up is the tuning, Howard tunes the B string down to A and the high E string down to D. So before you do anything, make sure you get that changed or you're sure to get very angry. The intro is very similar to the verse only with some subtle (and very effective) nuances between them. The fingerpicking patterns aren't too demanding to play with the right hand; however, the tempo is quite fast and you may struggle getting it consistent throughout the whole piece.

One technique you're going to want to practise over and over is the strum and percussive tap that he does throughout the song. This technique is hard if you've not done it before and is especially prevalent in the chorus.

Keep Your Head Up is no. 24 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 so you don't miss learning any of these great fingerstyle songs.

Song Details:

  • Tuning E, A, D, G, A, D
  • Tempo - 158 bpm
  • Key - C major
  • Difficulty - Intermediate
  • Time Signature - 4/4
  • Recorded with a classical guitar

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As always take your time when you first start out learning this song. Make sure that all your fingers are lined up correctly and that all the notes are played consistently and smoothly throughout.


Keep your head up intro

Things are very similar in the verse just with some small changes. When Howard plays Keep Your Head Up live he seems to mix things up frequently and chops and changes between these subtle differences, so bear that in mind when practising.

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Keep your head up verse


Although the chorus is just three chords, it is difficult. It really requires a lot of accuracy as it's constantly using a mixture of strumming, fingerpicking and percussive slaps with the thumb. Watch the video lesson as many times as you need to, and make sure that all the strokes are perfectly in place before you start to speed things up; it's very easy to get this wrong.

keep your head up chorus

Mini Bio/Guitar Style

Ben Howard was born in London in 1987 and moved to Devon (South West England) when he was 8 years old. He was raised in a musical family and was constantly exposed to his parent's favourite music, often listening to artists such as John Martyn, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell and many more singer-songwriters of the 60s/70s f0lk era. All this music rubbed off on him and you can hear it in his playing today.

Howard has a very unusual technique to playing guitar and if you watch clips of him you can see his right hand is held in an unorthodox position, often far up the strings and close to the neck of the guitar. He favours an approach to playing which he calls 'pick and go', this technique allows him to strum, pick notes and at the same time add percussive slaps to enhance the rhythm. He also frequently uses alternate tunings including CGCGGC and DADF#AD, which have been used in many of his songs.

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. Nate left a comment on 6th March 2020 at 4:47 am

    Love this tutorial. Ben Howard is one of my favs. Started playing last winter and almost got this song down. Your videos have taught me a lot. Hoping to see Gone by Ziggy Alberts tutorial on your site hopefully.

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 7th March 2020 at 2:06 pm

      Yeah I may well do Gone some day – thanks for the request. Really glad you enjoyed the lesson.

  2. Jacob left a comment on 8th April 2020 at 3:36 am

    Loving your tutorials! Thanks a bunch 🙂

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 12th April 2020 at 6:56 pm

      It’s a pleasure Jacob!

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