Difficulty: Level IILevel II
Length: 12:37
La Bamba Wikipedia pageWikipedia page
La Bamba music videoArtist website
La Bamba music videoMusic video
With our guitar tutorial on La Bamba, you will learn these guitar skills:
  • Alternate picking
  • Barre chords
  • Chord changes
  • Open chords
  • Strumming patterns

La Bamba is a very popular song throughout the world, in fact, it is the only song not sung in English on the Rolling Stones list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is a perfect beginner's guitar song as well, as it includes a simple chord progression to get you practicing strumming, as well as a short lead part to get your fretting fingers moving.

This La Bamba guitar lesson covers the Los Lobos version of the song, not the Ritchie Valens original. You’ll start out by learning to play the lead guitar part of La Bamba, which is a great finger exercise and will also give you a chance to practice alternate plucking. The song is played in the key of G, therefore all the notes during the initial lead section are played on the G major scale.

You’ll learn to play the chorus of La Bamba, which is basically the strumming of 3 chords: C, F, and G. This chord progression is used often, so learn it well. The F might give you a bit of trouble initially, but it is very important that you start practicing and improving your F major, since you’ll be using it in regularly with other songs as well. Just keep at it, and watch the tutorial carefully, where I show you the exact fingering of the F major.

At this point, you’ll get a chance to practice changing in between these chords, which you’ll need to master before moving on to learning the strumming pattern of the chorus. The strumming pattern we’ll use in La Bamba includes a syncopated strum between the F and G as well, so look out for that one.

La Bamba song details

Many people don’t know that La Bamba is actually a Mexican folk song, which was adapted (and made famous) by Ritchie Valens at the end of the ‘50s. The song got Ritchie Valens inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, which is very interesting considering that it is an adaptation of a folk song, and was originally recorded with a session guitarist and drummer. So you know, session artists, so a session guitarist and session drummer are musicians who are not fixed members of any band, they get paid by the hour to do some recording job.

So getting back to the details of La Bamba, the subject of this guitar lesson is the Los Lobos cover of the Ritchie Valens adaptation. The music video for the Los Lobos version even won the 1988 MTV Video Music Award for Best Video from a Film and reached the top of the charts in numerous countries.

La Bamba chart rankings and awards

  • UK Singles Chart: 1
  • U.S. Billboard Hot 100: 1
  • U.S. Billboard Hot Latin Tracks: 1
  • U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks: 4
  • Norwegian Singles Chart: 4
  • Australian Kent Music Report: 1
  • French Singles Chart: 1
  • Irish Singles Chart: 1
  • Swiss Singles Chart: 1
  • Italian Singles Chart: 1
  • Austrian Singles Chart: 3
  • New Zealand Singles Chart: 1
  • Dutch Singles Chart: 2
  • Swedish Singles Chart: 3

If you want to refine the skills you learned in La Bamba, check out these lessons on songs by clicking these links:
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