Difficulty: Level I
Length: 21:11
Mad World Wikipedia pageWikipedia page
Mad World music videoArtist website
Mad World music videoMusic video
With our guitar tutorial on Mad World, you will learn these guitar skills:
  • Arpeggios
  • Chord changes
  • Ghost strum
  • Open chords
  • Pushed chords
  • Strumming patterns

In today’s guitar lesson, we’ll be going through the song Mad World, as covered by Gary Jules. This version was recorded in 2003 for the movie Donnie Darko, while the original was recorded in 1982 by Tears for Fears. The cover is totally different from the original, make sure you listen to that version as well.

This tutorial on Mad World is really cool since absolute beginners will be able to play it, but intermediate players will be able to challenge their skills as well. We’ll be covering a barrage of techniques, so whatever level you’re at, make sure you learn this song.

We’ll start out by learning the intro solo. It is originally played on the piano, but it sounds great on the guitar as well. There are a few intricacies with the fingering, where you’ll need to roll your finger over from one string onto the other, practicing this technique is really important, as it can be used in other songs as well.

After we learn the intro solo, we’ll learn the chords a beginner might play during the intro. They are just 2 chords basically, the Em and the A, so nothing too difficult here.

Next, we’ll learn the verse chord progression to Mad World. The verse consists of 4 chords, the Em, G, D, and the A. Again, nothing overly complicated, perfectly suited for beginners. Once we practice changing in between the chords, we’ll learn 2 strumming patterns you might want to use to play this song. But as always, feel free to make up your own strumming patterns as well.

After we learn the strumming patterns, we’ll have a look at an arpeggio you could use during the verse, if you’d rather not strum. This is where things start getting a bit more interesting for intermediate players as well since I’ll show you how you can combine arpeggios and strumming to create a really nice melodic effect. It’s all in the rhythm, you have to keep your hand moving.

Next, we’ll learn to play the chorus, which just like the intro, is made up of just 2 chords. The only difference will be that the A major will be pushed, so it starts on the & of the 4th beat, but I’ll explain this in detail in the video.

At the end of the lesson, we’ll learn a nice arpeggiated version of the chorus, which you could also use as an outro if you like.

This is a huge lesson with lots of tips and tricks for beginners to make their own, so grab your guitar, and start learning.

Mad World song details

Mad World was originally released in the ‘80s by Tears for Fears. The song reached #3 on the charts. The song was written by Roland Orzabal when he was 19 years old.

20 years later, a much slower and minimalist version of the song was created by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules. In contrast with the original version, which was heavy on synthesizers and percussion, this cover is very simple, using just a piano and a cello.

The cover was used in the movie Donnie Darko, which really drove the song’s popularity. It reached the top of the charts in the UK and did well globally. This version of the song is the subject of our video lesson.

Mad World song rankings

  • UK singles chart: #1
  • Canadian Digital Singles Chart: #1
  • US Billboard Hot 100: #19
  • German Singles Chart: #3
  • Portuguese Singles Chart: #1
  • Irish Singles Chart: #2

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