Jolene is a song written and performed by American country music artist Dolly Parton and, arguably, her most-famous tune. It was released in October 1973 as the first single and title track from her album of the same name, produced by Bob Ferguson. Today we’ll take a look at the Jolene chords in an easy acoustic guitar arrangement.
The song was ranked No. 217 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004. According to Dolly, Jolene is the song most-recorded by other artists of all of the songs that she has written.
Artist: Dolly Parton
Songwriters: Dolly Parton
Key: Am (Capo at 4th fret, actual key is C# minor)
Chord Progression: Am–C–G–Em
Accompaniment Technique: Open Chords, Basic Fingerstyle, and Boom-Chick Strum Pattern
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind while learning the Jolene chords. I provided some useful links above and I’ll take you through the chords, accompaniment patterns, song forms, and a chord chart. Everything you need to get started playing this tune.
|Capo at 4th fret||Am||C||G||Em|
Jolene is the key of C# minor. However, if we add a capo to the 4th fret, we can use chords in the key of A minor. We’ll be playing in the key of C# minor but thinking in the key of A minor. And, Am, C, G, and Em are all easy, open-position chords.
We’ll be simplifying the accompaniment technique and use a boom-chick pattern (more on this below) and I’ll show you a cool variation in the video. This is a fun tune that you can quickly add to your repertoire and a fantastic introduction to the Country, Bluegrass, and Americana styles of music. Plus, this a truly beautiful piece of songwriting.
The rhythmic feel consists mainly of an eighth-note pattern.
- Simply count: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &.
- Keeping a steady rhythm throughout.
Basic Fingerstyle Technique
Jolene is perfect for beginning fingerstyle players. The right hand is usually notated as follows:
- P = Thumb
- I = Index
- M = Middle
- A = Ring
The right-hand, fingerpicking pattern will not use the ring finger. The “P” (or thumb) plays on the downbeat while the “I and M” (index and middle) are played together (as if they were just one finger) on the “and” of each beat. Simply alternate between the P and I–M.
Jolene uses an alternating (bass and chord) fingerstyle accompaniment technique. Amongst guitarists, this technique is referred to as the boom-chick pattern. However, because of the alternating bass and I-M finger movement, it’s sometimes referred to as a clawhammer style because the fingers look like clawhammer from the player’s pov. Here’s the breakdown:
- The “boom” is the bass played with the thumb (P)
- The “chick” is the higher part of the chord played with index and middle fingers (I-M)
The idea is simple: bass-chord, bass-chord; or, boom-chick, boom-chick. And, it’s explained in detail in the Jolene chords video.
Jolene Chords Chart
I’ve included a chord chart, which is a simple road map that shows you:
- The overall arrangement of the song.
- A section by section breakdown of the song.
- Each chord and how long to play it for.
If you don’t read music, please don’t be intimidated. This is a cheat sheet that can help you get through the tune quickly and easily. I find it indispensable for learning songs and I can also hand it to a seasoned musician and they can follow along without any problems.
- Intro: A 4-measure section and Am is played throughout the entire 4 bars.
- Chorus: A 6-measure section: Measure 1 (Am for 2 beats and C for 2 beats), Measure 2 (G for 2 beats and it’s only a two-beat measure), Measure 3 (Am for 4 beats), Measure 4 (G for 4 beats), and Measures 5 and 6 (Am for 8 beats).
- Verse: 5-measure section: Measure 1 (Am for 2 beats and C for 2 beats), Measure 2 (G for 2 beats and Am for 2 beats), Measure 3 (G for 2 beats and Am for 2 beats), Measures 4 and 5 (Am for 8 beats).
Once you become familiar with chord charts, you’ll never want to go back. It’s just easier to see where you’re going when you have a map. And, it’s especially helpful when you’re not familiar with the song or there’s a section of the song that you don’t remember (Bridges and Interludes are notorious for surprising players and derailing a song’s performance). Thankfully, this tune is pretty straightforward, it’s an AB song form… No Surprises.
I hope that you’ve enjoy playing Jolene and my wish is that it inspires you to dig deeper into our great Americana traditional. I encourage you to explore this music further and thank you for hanging with me to learn the Jolene chords.