Oh susannah (James Taylor)

Oh Susannah by James Taylor (Fingerstyle Guitar Lesson)

James Taylor covered 'Oh Susannah' in 1970, and the song appears on his album 'Sweet Baby James' (track 7). Stephen Foster originally wrote the song in 1848 and it was a huge hit across the U.S.A. As a result of the success of this song, Foster is considered by many to be America's first great songwriter.

Oh Susannah is no. 33 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.

Oh Susannah is a little tricky to play at times, probably the hardest thing to get used to is the timing. Taylor plays the verses/choruses freely and he constantly weaves in and out of time. For that reason it makes it really very hard to play it exactly the same way that he does.

James Taylor certainly has a very unorthodox style of playing guitar, and I imagine he's the type of player that never plays the same thing twice. Personally I'm a huge fan of this freestyle approach because you never quite know what's going to happen. So as you learn to play Oh Susannah, try not to get too caught up on the meticulousness of playing it just like the recording. Watch Taylor perform it live and it'll different each time.

Oh Susannah Song Details:

  • Key C
  • Capo - 3rd fret
  • Tuning standard
  • Tempo - about 85 bpm
  • Difficulty - intermediate


The introduction to the song is made up of two guitars. The first guitar has a capo on the 3rd fret and the second guitar doesn't use one. Here I've included both the guitar parts; it's so nice to play this with another player.

Want to really take your fingerpicking to the next level?

Join the Academy

Guitar 2:



The chorus is also predominately made up of the 7th chords. Due to his use of these chords and rhythmic approach you can really hear Taylor's jazz influences.

Want to really take your fingerpicking to the next level?

Join the Academy

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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *