Sweet Home Alabama: A Guitar Lesson In Southern Rock

For most guitar players, musicians, and just about everyone else, the term “southern rock” instantly makes you think of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. It is probably also true that when people think of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, they hear that famous Sweet Home Alabama guitar hook, that the band became popular for. Sweet Home Alabama changed rock and roll, and has become a southern rock guitar anthem homesweethome.

Back in 1974 when Sweet Home Alabama was written, Lynyrd Skynyrd was just starting to get people’s attention. During the previous year the band had opened for The Who on its Quadrophenia tour across the United States, and their first big single Free Bird was really taking flight, so to speak.

Bass player Ed King had begun to learn guitar for the band, joining guitar player Gary Rossington in the six-string department. Inspired by a guitar riff he had heard Rossington playing at rehearsal, King actually had a dream the same night about a full song based on the riff. The next day, King sat down to learn guitar parts and other sounds he heard in his dream, and later presented the idea to the band. Little did he know, the Sweet Home Alabama guitar part that came to him in a dream would become a huge hit song for Lynyrd Skynyrd.

As it gained popularity, musicians everywhere were inspired to learn Lynyrd Skynyrd guitar riffs as they were practically a guitar lesson in a totally new sound. Using Sweet Home Alabama guitar tabs and video guitar lessons, pickers still seek to learn guitar from the song today. Featuring elements of blues, country, and rock guitar, it molds many different musical styles and techniques together. Some of the guitar licks even take cues from bluegrass, with the “boogie” rhythm heard during the song’s chorus sections. For guitar players, the song offers a great example of useful techniques like ghost notes, interesting chord tones and pentatonic lead playing that can be deconstructed with good guitar tabs.

Lyrically, Sweet Home Alabama has strong references to “Southern Man” and “Alabama” by folk/rock guitar player Neil Young. While this style of lyrical back and forth is commonplace today, in 1974 it was quite revolutionary.

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