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Yesterday by The Beatles (Fingerstyle Guitar Lesson)

Yesterday appears on The Beatles' 1965 album 'Help' and was written by Paul McCartney; a truly beautiful song that we can all relate to in one way or another. Although most of the chords are reasonably straight forward, Yesterday does have its challenges.

The trickiest part about this song is getting the technique right; McCartney has an incredibly unorthodox style of playing and it can really catch you out if you've not done it before.

Yesterday is no. 18 on my Top 60 Fingerpicking Songs of ALL TIME list. If you've not seen the list be sure to check it out and subscribe to get weekly lessons for each song!

Looking back at old footage from the 60s of McCartney playing Yesterday, he would play the bass note with his thumb followed by three up strums with his first finger; this alone is fairly peculiar. This technique can be applied throughout the entire piece but if you watch Paul and listen carefully you can hear all sorts of nuances in it. For example, sometimes he'll play the higher strings with his 1st/2nd fingers at the same time as the bass notes and sometimes he'll play three down strums instead of the up strums - I really recommend studying his playing a bit before jumping in and learning the song.

Yesterday Song Facts:

  • Recorded - June 1965
  • Album - Help (track 13)
  • Key - F major (with a fair amount of modulation)
  • Tempo - 92 bpm

Tuning

McCartney tuned all the strings of his guitar down a whole tone (2 notes) giving you the notes of:

D G C F A D

Despite the dropped tuning of the guitar, for simplicity I have kept the chord names the same as if the guitar was still in standard tuning. At the end of the lesson are the actual chords that are played. These will work perfectly in standard tuning!

The Chords:

Here are all the chords used throughout the song.

Yesterday Chords


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  1. tuning your guitar to open g left a comment on 18th September 2018 at 10:15 am

    I went over this internet site and I believe you have a lot of good information, saved to my bookmarks (:.

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 18th September 2018 at 10:33 am

      Glad you’re enjoying it!

  2. Gene left a comment on 1st August 2019 at 1:07 am

    so i do like the Beatles. and since i just saw the movie ‘Yesterday’ i need to learn to play.
    looked over many videos for learning, yours looks to be the best fit for me. sounds the most like the real song.
    so thanks!

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 5th August 2019 at 11:15 am

      Thanks Gene, really pleased you like the lesson.

  3. Andy left a comment on 31st March 2020 at 10:35 pm

    Have you thought about a full finger-style arrangement of Yesterday. Not up to doing it myself but would love to be able to play it as definitely can’t sing it. Love your site some really good arrangements.

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 3rd April 2020 at 2:58 pm

      Possibly at some point. All Beatles’ songs seem to work great as arrangements. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Jimmy left a comment on 29th September 2020 at 10:18 pm

    What happened to the tabs? Do we have to pay for the membership to see it? I don’t mind if we do though.

    • Six String Fingerpicking left a comment on 29th September 2020 at 10:28 pm

      Hi Jimmy, yeah I’ve taken all the free tabs down due to copyright laws. For more information on why, this video by Gareth Evans explains the issues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6F63x345mCA
      The music will be transcribed in the coming weeks and then available via Musicnotes as for all other songs.
      Thanks, Chris

      • Jimmy left a comment on 2nd October 2020 at 8:04 pm

        Ok thanks! That’s ridiculous because we’re spending our time, energy, and money to learn how to play a song, and it’s against the copyright laws?!?! Ridiculous. I’m looking forward to your videos and tabs via Musicnotes!!!

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