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How to Play What a Wonderful World on Guitar

How to Play “What a Wonderful World” on Guitar?

Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, the famed New Orleans singer and trumpeter, had been producing records since 1923, but in 1967 he recorded “What a Wonderful World,” which would become the best-selling song of his long and prominent career.

Bob Thiele (as “George Douglas”) and George David Weiss wrote “What a Wonderful World.” Louis Armstrong recorded it originally and released it as a single in 1967. It topped the UK pop chart but did badly in the US because Larry Newton, the head of ABC Records, despised the song and refused to promote it. It was republished as a single in 1988 after being heard in the film Good Morning, Vietnam and peaked at number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1999, Armstrong’s recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

In this lesson, we’ll teach you how to play What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, a beautiful classic. We’ll teach you two different ways of playing it in this lesson. The first way is going to be an accessible strummed version and the second way is a fingerpicked version if you want to mellow it out a little bit more. For the basics of this song, you’ll need a guitar and standard tuning, and you won’t need a capo.

“What a Wonderful World” Lyrics

I see trees of green, red roses too

I see them bloom for me and you

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white

The bright blessed days, the dark sacred nights

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow

So pretty in the sky

Are also on the faces

Of people going by

I see friends shaking hands, saying, “How do you do?”

They’re really saying, “I love you”

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow

They’ll learn much more

Than I’ll ever know

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself

What a wonderful world

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Easy Strummed Version

Let’s start with the easy strummed version. Let’s start with the strumming pattern you’ll use throughout the whole song, and it’s just six down strums. This song is in six-eight timing, so it’s got that kind of waltz feel, so it’s good to think in terms of threes. Let’s get into the chords in the intro. There are four chords here; we’re going to start with an F, then we’ll go up to a Gm, back down to F, and back up to Gm. If those full bar chords give you trouble, then focus on getting the top two or three notes. It will provide you with more or less the same result. We’re playing power chords by doing that, but at least it’ll get you going.

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Verse (Strummed Version)

Then, we move to verse number one. In verse number one, we have four lines of chords here. We’re going to start with our F. Then, we go to an Am, then we go to a Bb, shift your middle and ring finger up one fret, pinky finger onto the third fret of the second string. From there put your index finger on the first fret of the fifth string. Again, if this full bar chord gives you trouble, then focus on the power chord itself. Then we go back to Am for the second line of chords; we have Gm, F, A7, and Dm. 

For the third line of chords, we go to a C#. It’s the same shape as that Bb, but up at the fourth and sixth fret again. If that C# is too tricky for you, then focus on the top two or three strings. It will get you more or less the same result. So that C# is held out for two strumming patterns, and then we go to a Gm7. So, an easy way of playing this from your C# is just sliding these three fingers down to the third fret and your index finger just on the third fret of the sixth string. In here, you keep that fifth string muted, so that’s Gm7. Then we go to a C7, the same as a C. But, with your pinky finger on the third fret of the third string.

For the final line of chords, we have an F, then a B7b5, so it’s the same as a B7 chord, except we’re going to flat our five notes, so the middle finger is going to be playing that fourth string, and that’s on the third fret. Then, we have BbM7, which looks like shifting everything down one fret index on the first fret ring, pinky on the third fret of the fourth and second strings, and middle finger on the second fret of the third. 

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Verse 2 (Strummed Version)

Verse 2 is very similar to verse 1, except for the final line of chords. So, for the last sequence of chords, we have an F and Gm for two strumming patterns, and then we end with a C. So, not a whole lot different there.

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Bridge (Strummed Version)

The bridge has three lines of chords; we’re going to start with the Gm, then go to a C7, and then F for two strumming patterns. That line of chords is played twice, and then for our second line of chords, we have Dm, C, Dm, and C. Then, for the third line of chords, we have Dm, F#dim7, so to play that, your index and middle finger will be on the first frets of the fourth and second string, and your ring and pinky will be on the second frets of the third and first strings. We’re only strumming from the fourth string onwards. And then, we go to a Gm7 and a C7.

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Verse 3 (Strummed Version)

Verse 3 is the same as verse 1, again, except for the last line of chords. For the last line of chords, we have an F, and then we have an Eb9, so play that middle ring and pinky finger on the sixth frets of the fifth, third, and second string, and your index finger is on the fifth fret of the fourth string. We’re just going to strum those middle four strings. And then we go to D9, so it’s just the exact same shape down one fret. Then, we go to a D7 at the final.

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Outro (Strummed Version)

For the outro, we have a Gm7; we strum that and hold it out for two full bars. And then, we go to a C, hold that out for two full bars and end the song on an F.

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Finger Picked Version

Picking it gives it a really soft and mellow tone; it sounds nice. So, if we’re picking it, we’re going to use the same chords that we taught you in the strummed version, except we’re just going to follow some basic rules. Rule number one is we will be plucking on each eighth note. For our fingerpicking rules, our thumb will take care of the sixth, fifth and fourth strings, and your index middle and ring finger will ideally take care of the third, second, and first strings, respectively. They shouldn’t pluck any strings other than those they’ve been assigned.

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Intro (Finger Picked Version)

Our typical picking pattern will be the base note of whatever chord you’re playing. Then the fourth, third, second, third, and fourth strings will be played. That arpeggiation will be applied to all the chords. 

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Verse 1 (Finger Picked Version)

When we move to the verse again, the chords stay the same, but we must apply that same picking pattern to everything. It starts with the bass note of whatever chord you’re playing, and then the fourth, third, second, third, and fourth strings will be played. The only exception to this picking pattern is where we’re playing chords where the bass note is on the fourth string. In that case, like the Dm, we’re going to pluck the fourth, third, second, first, second, and third strings. But everything else will be base note four, third, second, third, and fourth strings.

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Verse 2 (Finger Picked Version)

Now, the second verse is almost identical to that, but again the final bar is where the chords changed a little bit, so is F, Gm for two bars, and then a C.

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Bridge (Finger Picked Version)

In the bridge part, again, the chords are the same, and the fingerpicking is precisely the same. Now, where we have the Dm again, you change from fourth, third, second, first, second, and third strings. In that motion, the same applies to this F#dim7 chord.

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Verse 3 (Finger Picked Version)

For the third verse, everything was the same as the first verse except for that final where we go F. Then, we had our Eb9, D9, and finally, our D7. Again, this D7 has the fourth string as the bass note. So, you pick from the fourth string and then the third, second, and first. However, because this is towards the end of the song, we’re just going to end it at that first string.

How to Play What a Wonderful World – Outro (Finger Picked Version)

For the outro, we’re just going to hit that Gm7, C – hold that out for two bars – and then an F. That’s everything for the picked version. So, again we’re using those same chords as the strum version but just applying that simple fingerpicking pattern to all the chord shapes.

Conclusion

“What a Wonderful World” is a great song to have in your repertoire, and we know it takes a while to learn a new chord progression and a new melody on top. But it’s within the realms of anybody who can play this; there’s nothing too technically impossible going on or fast or huge stretches. It’s just an excellent chord progression with a beautiful melody. So, we hope you enjoyed this lesson and enjoyed playing “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong on guitar.

Deplike Learning App appears to be a useful app for learning new songs. You may learn the chords, select a song in the app, figure out how to play it, and discover the musician using the 3D interactive learning approach. With the Deplike Learning App, you may learn several new songs, including What A Wonderful World, which you learned in this post.

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