Eric Clap­ton Tears In Heaven

This emo­tive bal­lad from Old Slow­hand is a real crowd pleaser! Jon Bishop tran­scribes it and says it’s a per­fect, fun-to-tackle and ap­proach­able acous­tic party piece!

Guitar Techniques - - Play: Acoustic -

Eric Clap­ton wrote Tears In Heaven about the loss of his son, Conor, who died trag­i­cally in 1993. It was recorded the same year and also fea­tured in the movie Rush. Its com­bi­na­tion of taste­ful acous­tic gui­tar work and emo­tive vo­cal made it a world­wide hit.

The track is mostly in the key of A but mo­du­lates into G for the bridge (start­ing on the IV chord, C). With a 77bpm tempo and a straight 4/4 time sig­na­ture it’s a typ­i­cal slow rock bal­lad. Songs at this tempo can prove de­cep­tively hard to play ac­cu­rately, sim­ply be­cause there’s so much space in be­tween the notes. Many gui­tarists be­come fix­ated with play­ing fast, but it is also im­por­tant to de­vote time to be­ing able to play slow tem­pos with a good feel and con­sis­tent groove.

A key com­po­nent of EC’s ac­com­pa­ni­ment is his thumb-plucked bass notes. These are played on beat 1 of the bar and on sub­se­quent off-beats, giv­ing both for­ward mo­men­tum to the track and pro­vid­ing in­ter­est­ing har­monic con­text for the chords. This is partly be­cause Eric doesn’t al­ways play the ob­vi­ous bass note, the root. He’s be­ing a bit clev­erer...

If you har­monise the A ma­jor scale in 3rds you get the chords: A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m, G#dim. Any of these can be played with the

Many gui­tarists be­come fix­ated with speed, but it’s im­por­tant to de­vote time to play­ing slow tem­pos with good feel and con­sis­tent groove.

root note in the bass, but we can also sup­plant the root with one of the other notes from the chord. This cre­ates ‘in­ver­sions’. Plac­ing the 3rd (C#) in the bass cre­ates ‘first in­ver­sion’, while us­ing the 5th (E) we get ‘sec­ond in­ver­sion’. In­vert­ing cer­tain chords in a se­quence can cre­ate smoother bass lines.

Try play­ing the Tears In Heaven in­tro chords (A, E, F#m, A, D, E7, A) keep­ing each one’s root as the bass note. See how the bass line jumps around? Eric plays the se­quence with some of the chords ‘in­verted’ so the bass notes move al­to­gether much more smoothly.

In­ver­sions are writ­ten as ‘slash’ chords - A/E, A/G# etc - the chord name com­ing be­fore the slash and the bass note af­ter). With Eric’s in­ver­sons the se­quence be­comes: A, root po­si­tion; E, first in­ver­sion (E/G#); F#m, root po­si­tion; A, sec­ond in­ver­sion (A/E); D, first in­ver­sion, D/F#); D/E (E9­sus4); E7, root po­si­tion; A, root po­si­tion. The bass line has be­come much smoother.

In­ver­sions go hand in hand with an­other key com­po­nent in Eric’s gui­tar part - voice leading. Voice leading is when the notes within each chord move smoothly and log­i­cally into the next, in a way cre­at­ing mini melodies - Stair­way To Heaven is a clas­sic ex­am­ple. It makes for a very mu­si­cal sound and means that Eric’s rhythm part would stand up as a re­spectable piece on its own.

The GT tran­scrip­tion com­bines the key gui­tar parts, in­clud­ing lead fills, into one piece. The back­ing has these parts re­moved so you can play along. It will also be easy to adapt, should you wish to per­form the song as a solo piece, with­out back­ing. All the rhythm parts are no­tated at some point in the tab, so it’s just a case of work­ing out what goes where.

Many thanks to Jez Davies for record­ing and per­form­ing all the key­board parts!

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