Six String Fingerpicking Courses and Lessons

Oh Susannah (Fingerstyle Guitar Lesson)

James Taylor







3rd fret


About 85 BPM



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 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.

Learn To Play Oh Susannah


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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.

Guitar 2

The second guitar part is no harder than the first but just as much fun to play.

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Into the verse now and there’s lots of chords to navigate now but you shouldn’t find it too tricky.


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.

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