Keep Your Head Up

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

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


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.

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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.

  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!

  3. casey left a comment on 27th September 2020 at 10:04 pm

    I am learning keep your head up. when I logged onto your website previously I could see the video and then the tab below. I can only see the video now. Has the tab been removed, or am I doing something wrong on your site. Having both was super helpful. Hope to hear from you, Casey

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 27th September 2020 at 10:15 pm

      Hey Casey, the tab has been removed due to copyright. For more information on why, this video by Gareth Evans explains the issues:
      The music will be transcribed in the coming months and then available via Musicnotes as for all other songs.
      Thanks, Chris

  4. Elijah Webster left a comment on 10th October 2020 at 3:46 am

    Can you do an arrangement of isn’t she lovely. I really like the rendition by victor wooten.

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