Classical Guitar Instruction with Douglas Niedt


Guitar sheet music and guitar tab


Walk into almost any Guitar Center or similar guitar store, and you will hear a guitarist hacking their way through a terrible version of "Blackbird." Don't be one of those guys! You can sound great playing "Blackbird" on solo guitar if you have a great arrangement.

What Makes This Arrangement Great

Most arrangements of "Blackbird" only include the guitar accompaniment without the melody. Others make a lame attempt to combine the two. This arrangement is unique:

  1. It preserves most of the notes and right-hand technique that Paul McCartney used for his iconic guitar accompaniment.
  2. It contains the complete melody as an independent part on top of the guitar accompaniment part.
  3. The original harmony is not changed.
  4. The phrasing of the melody, as sung by McCartney, is retained.

In my arrangement, I tune the 5th string down a whole step to G to make all of this possible.

McCartney performed the song thousands of times in countless versions. I based my version upon the original on the 1968 double album, The Beatles (also known as the "White Album)."

Click the image to view some sample pages

Blackbird, arranged by Douglas Niedt sample page 1 Blackbird, arranged by Douglas Niedt sample page 2 Blackbird, arranged by Douglas Niedt sample page 3

Your sheet music package includes three versions:

  1. Standard Notation
  2. Standard Notation Plus Tab
  3. Tab only


This is a digital download.

The entire sheet music package is only $10.00.
It includes all three versions, a notation key, and three videos (Doug playing his arrangement, Paul McCartney's original version from the "White Album" remastered in 2009, and the Paul McCartney interview).

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The Story Behind the Song

Paul McCartney wrote "Blackbird" in April 1968. In interviews, McCartney explains that the opening measures of the guitar part were inspired by Bach's Bourrée in E minor from Lute Suite No. 1, BWV 996, the first several measures of which he and George Harrison had learned to play on the guitar at a young age.

Paul writes, "Part of its structure is a particular harmonic thing between the melody and the bass line which intrigued me. I developed the melody on guitar based on the Bach piece and took it somewhere else, took it to another level, then I just fitted the words to it."

Watch this engaging interview with Paul McCartney
as he explains the genesis of the song:

The song uses several time signatures: 3/4, 4/4, 2/4, and 6/4. McCartney experimented with the structure of the song as he was recording it. He tried various configurations before he settled on the finished composition. The final, recorded version is:

  • Guitar Intro
  • Verse 1
  • Verse 2
  • Chorus 1
  • Guitar instrumental
  • Chorus 2 (same as Chorus 1)
  • Guitar Instrumental and pause (pre-recorded sound effects of a singing blackbird begin)
  • Verse 3 (same as Verse 1)
  • Codetta

Paul deviates from the original structure to this day, each live performance varying from the next with subtle lyrical differences as well.

The pause during the instrumental that follows Chorus 2 was producer George Martin's idea. "Stop completely; rhythm as well, and then you start again. After the stop bit, there should be an arranged sound coming from a distance." They dropped the idea of other instruments, but instead, hit upon the idea of inserting the sound effects of a singing blackbird into the pause.

As for the lyrics, McCartney has given various statements regarding his inspiration for the words. He relates: "I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird. Those were the days of the civil rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a black woman. McCartney also explained that the term "bird" was British slang for "girl," so, in essence, the song was about a "black girl."

On the other hand, other accounts tell of Paul being with the other Beatles in Rishikesh, India, studying Transcendental Meditation. He woke up one morning, heard a blackbird, picked up his Martin acoustic guitar, and wrote the song on the spot.

Here is the original version, remastered in 2009:

The Recording Session

"Blackbird" is the first McCartney composition brought into the EMI Studios for the Beatles' new album. Documents show the recording session beginning at 6:30 pm, on June 11, 1968, in Studio 2 of EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London. George Martin is the producer, and Geoff Emerick is the audio engineer. It is a solo performance with McCartney playing a Martin D-28 acoustic guitar.

McCartney records 32 takes of "Blackbird," of which 11 are complete. The final attempt is the best. By 12:15 am, the session is complete.

The final recording consists of McCartney's voice (overdubbed on the choruses), his Martin D-28 acoustic guitar, and foot-tapping. According to engineer Geoff Emerick, the foot-tapping "was incorrectly identified as a metronome in the past." Emerick says it is the sound of Paul tapping his feet. They inserted the sound effects of a singing blackbird later in the mixing session.

My thanks to the following writers for their insights on "Blackbird":

Joe Goodden, The Beatles Bible

Dave Rybaczewski, Beatlesbooks


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"These are the best classical guitar video/internet lessons with the finest hi-tech production on the planet. But, if you are not satisfied with a course, I will refund your money. Just tell me why you did not like it so I can make it better for others."

Douglas Niedt is a seasoned, successful concert and recording artist and highly respected master classical guitar teacher with 50 years of teaching experience. He is Associate Professor of Music (retired), at the Conservatory of Music and Dance, University of Missouri-Kansas City and a Fellow of the Henry W. Bloch School of Management—Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Doug studied with such diverse masters as Andrés Segovia, Pepe Romero, Christopher Parkening, Narciso Yepes, Oscar Ghiglia, and Jorge Morel. Therefore, Doug provides solutions for you from a variety of perspectives and schools of thought.

He gives accurate, reliable advice that has been tested in performance on the concert stage that will work for you at home.