You Shook Me All Night Long, by AC/DC, is straightforward, well known, and easy to play, making it great for beginners as well as practiced vets.
You Shook Me All Night Long, from the Australian Rock & Roll band AC/DC, was released in 1980 for the album “Back In Black.” It was their first single, and featured lead singer Brian Johnson who was replacing Bon Scott, who had passed away earlier. This is a very well known song that is pretty straightforward and easy to play, making it great for beginners.
If you are looking to get the same guitar tone as this song you will want one with Humbucker pickups and a nice overdrive sound. Distortion or Fuzz may not get you the right tone. No other effects are needed. For this article we’re going to focus on Angus Young’s guitar part, except for the solo, where we’ll switch to Malcolm Young’s guitar part and do the solo in a future article.
Key and Scale
This song is in the key of G Major and uses notes from the E Minor Blues scale.
G Major = G, A, B, C, D, E, F#
E Minor Blues = E, G, A, A#, B, D
The Intro is an eight bar section of music that we will break into two parts for easy explaining. The guitar is the only instrument playing in the Intro
Intro, Part 1
The first four bars of the song start out with a lazy sounding Blues riff in G Major. It sounds Bluesy because the notes are all coming from the E Minor Blues scale. This is what it looks like. (Fig 1)
Figure – 1
There are a few chords in that section, so let’s have another look at them now. (Fig 2)
Figure – 2
We can see now that we use a G5 chord and two versions of a D5 chord. The riff starts on a G and ends on a D so it is essentially an I V (1-5) progression.
Intro, Part 2
The second part is very similar to the first part and uses all of the same chords, but it brings the Intro to a close. It looks like this. (Fig 3)
Figure – 3
On beat 1 of the 4th bar in this section the Tempo speeds up to about 128 bpm, from a Tempo of 120 bpm.
The Verse section is very well known and is paired with a very strong and simple drum beat. There is still no Bass Guitar in the first Verse. The Verse is a four bar section of music that repeats and looks like this. (Fig 4)
Figure – 4
Let’s have another look at those chords. (Fig 5)
Figure – 5
We can see from the chord charts that this section of music also begins with a G and ends on a D like the Intro. Another thing we should look at is the relationship between the G5 and Csus2 chords and how we can switch between the two chords by moving only our index finger.
The next part of the song is the Pre Chorus and it is simply a modified Verse that looks like this. (Fig 6)
Figure – 6
We can see in this figure that no new chords are introduced, but the Bass Guitar finally makes an entrance.
The Chorus is a four bar section of music that looks like this. (Fig 7)
Figure – 7
Let’s look at these chords again. (Fig 8)
Figure – 8
This part can get a little tricky to get the notes to ring out freely during the Csus2 and G Major chords, but once you play it a few times it becomes more natural.
Pre Guitar Solo
After the second Chorus, we play the Pre Guitar Solo, which doubles as the Ending later on. The Pre Guitar Solo is a six bar section of music that sets up the solo. It looks like this. (Fig 9)
Figure – 9
The last section of music that we need to take a look at is the music behind the Guitar Solo. We will break this part into two parts, to make it easier to look at.
Guitar Solo, Part 1
The first four bars of the Guitar Solo use very staccato chords that pretty much follow the chords of the Chorus. It looks like this. (Fig 10)
Figure – 10
Since this is the first time we are seeing these power chords, let’s take another look at them. (Fig 11)
Figure – 11
Guitar Solo, Part 2
The second part of the Solo uses the same chords that we have been using; we just want to let these chords ring out. It looks like this (Fig 12)
Figure – 12
This part repeats while the Solo plays.
For the Guitar Solo, Angus Young is using a blend between the G Major mode and the G Pentatonic scale. He covers a large part of the neck over the course of the solo. He begins the solo in the 3rd position, after a few bars he moves up to the 7th position and hovers around in that area for a few bars. Finally, he moves up to the 15th position to reach the high notes near the end of the solo. (Fig 13)
Figure – 13
Song Form and Overview
Once you have these parts worked out individually it is time to put them together and play the song.
A = Intro Pt.1
B = Intro Pt. 2
C = Verse
D = Pre Chorus
E = Chorus
F = Pre Guitar Solo/Ending
G = Guitar Solo Pt.1
H = Guitar Solo Pt.2
You Shook Me All Night Long = A, B, C(5x), D, E(2x), C(3x), D, E(3X), F, G, H(3x), E(4X), F
That is all there is to playing this song. Happy Practicing!