Play Guitar Like Patty Griffin


My wife discovered Patty Griffin at a listening station at a Borders Books & Music in 1996 (it is amazing to think there was a time when we found good new music that way).  At the time, Patty had just released her first album Living With Ghosts.  We both became big fans of the album and of Patty.  Since then, Patty Griffin has become an even more popular musician and songwriter (even though her original label dumped her – fools – before she got picked up by Dave Matthews’ label).  Her songs have been recorded by artists from The Dixie Chicks to Emmylou Harris, but we still prefer Patty Griffin’s versions of all of her songs.  Last year I saw Patty Griffin on back-to-back nights at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz and then The Warfield in San Francisco.  She was great both nights.  Patty is a great artist to try to play on the acoustic guitar.  Read on to find out how.

Photo Credit:  Rick Harris under a Creative Commons License

Patty is primarily a strummer.  She does do some fingerpicking, but she mostly does flatpicking.  Here is how she creates her great sound.

1.  Guitars. Patty primarily plays Gibson guitars.  She has two that she plays regularly – a 1993 Gibson J-200 Junior (this is the one I always see her playing and very similar to the Gibson CJ-165) and a 1965 Gibson J-50 (source:  Gibson).  We have also seen her play a Charles Fox Guitar (she even endorsed the guitar in 1999).  We have seen her change her guitars repeatedly during shows.  We assume she does this to be able to more quickly be ready for songs with alternate tunings since she moves between different tunings frequently.

2.  Strings. Like many others, Patty uses D’Addario EJ-17 Phosphor Bronze Medium Gauge strings.

3.  Pick. Jim Dunlop .73mm Nylon standard.

4.  Capo. The last time I saw her, Patty was using the same Shubb Capo that I use.  I’m on my way!

5.  Music. Almost all of the music that Patty has recorded has been her own.  Now living in Texas, she deserves to be grouped with the great Texas singer-songwriters including Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Lyle Lovett.  Patty’s fans have maintained a page with excellent version of a lot of her tablature.  That page can be found here:  Patty Griffin Tablature.

Where to begin?

I think the two best songs for digging in with Patty Griffin’s music are Making Pies and Sweet Lorraine.  Both use common chords (G, Em, D (with some suspended), C or C7), standard tuning and have signature Patty Griffin strumming patterns.  Here is all you need to get started:


We love Amazon’s download service for downloading mp3′s of the songs you want to play.  Here is a playlist with both songs from Amazon:

Alternatively, you can listen with a Rhapsody account:

Making Pies: Listen on Rhapsody

Sweet Lorraine: Listen on Rhapsody


You can get tabs fro the fan pages or from Sheet Music Direct.  Here are the links:

Making Pies Tab: From Fan Page

Making Pies Tab: From Sheet Music Direct

Sweet Lorraine Tab: From Fan Site (I prefer to play this one capo’d at the 3rd fret)

Sweet Lorraine Tab: From Sheet Music Direct

Once you start listening and playing Patty, there is no stopping.  Try to catch her live if you can.  Enjoy.

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  1. BB

    Dear Dave,
    Can you please help me find the chords with the lyrics for “Every Little Bit”? Also some strum patterns would be helpful. Thanks for all the great info. I am a beginner but LOVE Patty. BB

  2. sydney

    can you also pass on some strum patterns that she does or that would be helpful links i am a HUGE FAN of Patty …Saw her open for shawn colvin in LA when Living with Ghosts came out and then caught her again a few yrs later, LOVE HER!
    Thx for telling me what guitar she plays was very curious
    and any info on what you mean by flat picking.. jus that she plays with a pick or?