How To Play ‘Fast Car’ – Vroom-Vroom With Your Six Strings

If you’ve ever found yourself lost in the mesmerizing acoustic strums and heartfelt lyrics of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”, you’re in for a treat. Today, we’re gonna delve deep, uncovering the chords, the fingerpicking magic, and all those little nuances that make this track an all-time classic. Ready to go from 0 to 60 on your guitar journey? Let’s roll!

Backstory Break: Why “Fast Car” Rocks!

Before hitting the gas pedal, it’s always good to know what makes the engine purr, right?

A Timeless Classic

“Fast Car” burst onto the scene in the late 1980s, winning hearts and topping charts. Chapman’s raw, soulful voice combined with the song’s relatable narrative of dreams and escape made it resonate with listeners around the globe.

A Guitarist’s Delight

What’s rad about “Fast Car” is its simple, yet evocative guitar work. It’s perfect for beginners to get their fingers around, while also offering scope for the more advanced players to add their own flair.

Breaking Down The Chords

Alrighty, let’s get our hands dirty and dive into the chords. Thankfully, “Fast Car” isn’t a chord monster. The progression is pretty straightforward, but the magic lies in how they’re played.

The Essentials:

  1. Cmaj7 – This isn’t your regular C major. Lift off that index finger from the B string and let it ring open for that ‘maj7’ sound.
  2. G – Good ol’ G major. A staple in the guitarist’s arsenal.
  3. Em – Another essential, the E minor.
  4. Dadd11 – Don’t let the fancy name scare you! It’s like a D chord, but you’ll leave the G string open. Sounds lush!

Now, you might be thinking, “That’s it? Four chords?” Yep, but remember, it’s all in how you play ’em!

Picking Up The Pace: Fingerstyle Fun

The soul of “Fast Car” lies in its fingerpicking pattern. It’s rhythmic, melodic, and once you get it down, oh-so-satisfying.

The Basic Pattern:

The beauty here is the repetitive nature. Start with the Cmaj7:

  1. Thumb (T) hits the 5th string.
  2. Index (I) goes for the 4th string.
  3. Thumb again on the 5th.
  4. Middle (M) plucks the 2nd string.
  5. Index on the 4th.
  6. Thumb on the 5th.
  7. Ring (R) gets the 1st string.
  8. Middle on the 2nd.

Repeat this pattern, adjusting the starting bass note (played by the thumb) based on the chord you’re on. For instance, for the G chord, the thumb will hit the 6th string. For Em and Dadd11, it’s back to the 5th.

Smooth Transitions:

While transitioning between chords, maintain the flow. For example, when shifting from Cmaj7 to G, you can add a brief hammer-on with your index finger on the 5th fret, A string. These tiny nuances add a touch of authenticity to your rendition.

Lyrics & Groove: Making It All Gel

With the chords and picking pattern down, it’s time to bring in the vocals. If you’re singing along (or even if you’re not), it’s essential to feel the song’s groove and dynamics.

Feel the Story:

“Fast Car” is a narrative. It tells a story. As you play, visualize the narrative unfolding. The verses are more subdued, introspective. The chorus is where the energy and emotion amp up.

Sing & Strum:

Initially, singing while maintaining the fingerstyle pattern can feel like patting your head and rubbing your belly simultaneously. It’s tricky! So, take it slow. Maybe start by humming the tune as you play, gradually bringing in the words as you gain confidence.

The Road Less Traveled: Understanding The Song’s Heartbeat

It’s always a good idea to get a feel for the soul of a song, beyond the chords and riffs. Knowing what a song’s about can profoundly influence the way you play it.

Dive into the Lyrics

“Fast Car” isn’t just a song; it’s a narrative. It paints a vivid picture of hopes, dreams, and the longing for a better life. Chapman’s lyrics touch on themes of poverty, escape, and the cycle of life. When playing, let these themes resonate. Every strum, every pluck, should echo the sentiments of the song.

The Cultural Impact

“Fast Car” isn’t just iconic for its guitar work. It’s an anthem that transcends its time. Even today, newer generations discover and relate to its timeless lyrics. Being aware of its cultural significance can deepen your connection to the song.

Video: How To Play Fast Car on Acoustic Guitar

Advanced Guitar Tips: Turbocharging Your Play

Feeling comfortable with the basics? Awesome! Let’s now add some spice to your rendition.

Fingerstyle Flair

While the primary fingerpicking pattern we discussed is integral to the song, feel free to experiment. Try variations, such as:

  1. Alternate Bass Notes: Instead of always hitting the same bass note with your thumb, alternate between two. This adds depth.
  2. Percussive Slaps: Occasionally, slap the strings with your thumb for a percussive effect. It brings a rhythmic dynamic, especially in parts where the song crescendos.

Dynamic Dynamics!

“Fast Car” has its highs and lows, both emotionally and musically. Adjust your playing dynamics to mirror the song’s flow:

  • Play softer during the verses.
  • Amp up the energy during the chorus.
  • Pull back during the bridge for introspection.

Geek Out: Gear and Tone

While Chapman’s original was recorded on an acoustic guitar, there’s no reason you can’t bring your own flair with different gear.

Acoustic Vs. Electric

The warm, organic vibes of an acoustic guitar are perfect for “Fast Car”, but electric guitarists can have a blast too! Just ensure you have a clean tone, maybe with a touch of reverb for that expansive sound.

Effects Pedals

For those on electric guitars, using a chorus or a slight delay pedal can add that ambient touch, making your rendition sound ethereal.

The Encore: Covering Vs. Creating

While it’s super satisfying to play “Fast Car” as Tracy Chapman intended, there’s nothing wrong with innovation. In fact, countless artists have covered this song, each bringing their unique flavor:

  • Tempo Tweaks: Some artists slow it down for a more soulful rendition. Others pep it up for a poppier vibe.
  • Genre Jumps: From reggae to electronica, “Fast Car” has seen it all.

So, why not experiment? Maybe merge “Fast Car” with another favorite song of yours for a mashup. Or reinterpret it in a totally different genre.

Wrap-Up & Words of Wisdom:

  • Perfect Practice: Repetition is your friend. The more you play the progression, the more second-nature it becomes.
  • Play Along: Once you’re feeling confident, play along with the original track. It’s a great way to gauge your tempo and dynamics.
  • Make It Yours: While it’s rad to play a song note-for-note, don’t shy away from adding your personal touch.

So there you have it, the roadmap to mastering “Fast Car”. It’s a journey, a beautiful one. In the next segment, we’ll dive deeper, exploring nuances, discussing the song’s history in greater detail, and more. So, keep those engines revved, and see you on the flip side!

“Fast Car” is more than just chords and lyrics. It’s a journey, a narrative, and an emotion. As you continue your guitar escapades with this song, remember that it’s not just about hitting the right notes but feeling them too.

Keep playing, keep experimenting, and most importantly, enjoy the ride. The road to “Fast Car” mastery is scenic, filled with musical landscapes waiting to be discovered. So, take it slow, soak in the views, and always, ALWAYS, play from the heart.

Till next time, keep those strings singing and your musical heart soaring! Safe travels on your musical journey! 🚗