Difficulty: Level IILevel II
Length: 16:11
California Dreamin’ Wikipedia pageWikipedia page
California Dreamin’ music videoArtist website
California Dreamin’ music videoMusic video
With our guitar tutorial on California Dreamin’, you will learn these guitar skills:
  • Chord changes
  • Chords
  • Ghost strum
  • Strumming

The chord progression to California Dreamin’ is probably one of the most recognizable progressions in the world, and in this video guitar lesson, you’ll be learning it to the note. This great song by The Mamas and the Papas was released 50 years ago, which is just crazy.

The song itself is pretty simple. The only thing that makes it a bit hard for beginners is the barre chord, but this also means you’ll get a chance to practice it.

To play California Dreamin’ in the correct key of C# minor, you’ll need to use a capo at fret 4. I teach the lesson with the capo on, so if you don’t have one handy, you’ll want to skip this lesson for now until you get a capo. For simplicities sake, I name all of the chord shapes as if they were played without the capo, but please know that what I refer to as the A minor in the lesson, is actually a C# minor in pitch. This is because the capo raises the pitch of all strings by 4 semitones.

We’ll start out by learning the intro. There are 2 guitars playing, we’ll learn both parts. The intro bits are very easy, the only thing you’ll need to be mindful of is the timing of the second guitar part, but I explain this in detail in the lesson.

After we learn the intro, we’ll learn the verse chord progression to California Dreamin’. We’ll have a look at each chord, as well as how many beats each chord gets within the measure. Once we learn the chords, we’ll have a look at the strumming pattern to the song as well, followed by a “fun” play-along.

The verse is really the most important part of the song, since the chorus, the alto flute solo, and the outro are all based around the verse chords and progression, with minor alterations. So learn the verse well, and the rest will fall into place easily.

California Dreamin' song details

California Dreamin’ was released by The Mamas and the Papas in 1963 on the album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears. The lyrics talk about how John Phillips longs for the warm California Summer, when in fact, he wrote this song in New York during winter.

The song was not an immediate success after its release, it took 1 year for it to reach the top of the charts. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001 and is #89 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Lots of popular artists have recorded covers of this song, including REM, John Mayer, Queen Latifah, etc.

California Dreamin' awards and chart rankings

  • Hot 100 (1966): #4
  • Grammy Hall of Fame
  • 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list (Rolling Stone's Magazine): #89

If you want to refine the skills you learned in California Dreamin’, check out these lessons on songs by clicking these links:
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Download tabs for California Dreamin’

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