Honky Tonk Woman by The Rolling Stones — How to Play

honky tonk womanHonky Tonk Woman, by The Rolling Stones, features some great Blues by Keith Richards, who uses an open G tuning, which is great for that particular style.

An open G tuning is when we tune the notes of our guitar to the notes of a G Major chord. This means we tune our guitar from low to high – D G D G B D. The G Open tuning is great for slide playing and for Blues playing. Open G is used here in Honky Tonk Woman, and it’s also used in several other Rolling Stones songs.

Song Analysis

Honky Tonk Woman features quite a lot of fast finger slides that may take a little while to master. Once you have mastered the slides, try switching them out for bends, for an added challenge. This will really sharpen your bending skills and if you do it right, it will hardly change the sound of the song.

An interesting thing about this song is that if you pan your stereo to the left, you will only hear Keith’s guitar, making it a lot easier to pick out the individual notes. The Guitar has quite a while by itself, with no Bass and very little Lead Guitar in the first two verses.

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Intro

The Intro to Honky Tonk Woman is six bars long and is mostly the opening drum beat and some open chords. It looks like this. (Fig 1)

Fig 1




Let’s take another look at that open chord. (Fig 2)

Fig 2



Note that the chord is an inverted G5 that is played several times.

Honky Tonk Woman – Verse

The next two bars are the opening blues run, and this is what it looks like. (Fig 3)

Fig 3



We can see here that all of the notes in this run can be taken from the G Major scale. These notes would be played over the inverted G5 chords.

The next two bars are more inverted G5 chords and some passing tones, to move to the next chord. These passing tones also fit into the G Major scale. It looks like this. (Fig 4)

Fig 4



The next three bars look like this (Fig 5)

Fig 5



Let’s take another look at those chords. (Fig 6)

Fig 6



We can see that we move to a C Major chord for these measures. Even though the key of G Major contains a C Major chord, Keith Richards uses notes from the C Major scale for these bars. Switching scales depending on which key you are using, is a very popular technique in Country Music and it is rumoured that this song started as a Country song. The last bar in this three-bar section is a return to the G5 chord and scale.

The next part is one bar long and once again the song switches key, this time to A Major. It looks like this. (Fig 7)

Fig 7



Here is another look at those chords. (Fig 8)

Fig 8



The next two bars return to the G Major scale, like this. (Fig 9)

Fig 9



Let’s have another look at those chords. (Fig 10)

Fig 10



This part is very similar to the other sections, but with the D Major chord as the base.

The next four bars is a return to two bars of G Major, followed by two bars of C Major. It is very similar to what we have already seen. It looks like this. (Fig 11)

Fig 11



The final four bars of the Verse look like this. (Fig 12)

Fig 12



In these four bars we see familiar chords, some harmonics, and some thumping of the G note, to bring us to the Chorus.

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Chorus

The Chorus of Honky Tonk Woman is where the Bass Guitar finally enters the song. The Chorus can be broken down into two parts for easy explaining.

Chorus Pt.1

The first part of the Chorus is only two bars long and it looks like this. (Fig 13)

Fig 13



Let’s take another look at those chords. (Fig 14)

Fig 14



We can see that the first bar alternates between G Major and C Major chords, while the second bar alternates between a D Major and a G Major.

Chorus Pt. 2

The second part of the Chorus is two bars long, like this. (Fig 15)

Fig 15



Here’s another look at those chords. (Fig 16)

Fig 16



Guitar Solos and Analysis

There are two Lead Guitars in Honky Tonk Woman that we will transcribe in a later article. One Lead Guitar sticks to high-pitched bends and relies on the E Minor Pentatonic scale at the 12th position for all of its notes. The other Lead Guitar is the more melodic one. This Guitar uses the E Minor Pentatonic scale at the 12th position for the first half of the song, the 7th position in the middle, and returns to the 12th at the end. (Fig 17)

Fig 17



Honky Tonk Woman Song Structure

Once you know all of the parts above, then you are ready to play the song. It does change some from verse to verse, and I have made the changes in the Master Tab but you can feel your way through once you know the above parts. We do include the full Bass Tab as well.

The song goes:
Verse 1
Chorus Pt. 1
Chorus Pt. 2
Chorus Pt. 1
Verse 2
Chorus Pt. 1
Chorus Pt. 2
Chorus Pt. 1
Verse / Solo
Chorus Pt. 1
Chorus Pt. 2
Chorus Pt. 1
Chorus Pt. 2
Chorus Pt. 1
Opening Blues Lick

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Full Tab/Chart



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