how to play “Fire and Rain” on guitar by James Taylor | acoustic guitar lesson tutorial

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An acoustic guitar lesson on how to play “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor from the album “Sweet Baby James” released in 1970.

This is one of the greatest folk/pop songs of all time IMHO. I’ve always loved this tune. I found out a bunch of things that I never knew when I was researching it.
This is from Wikipedia:
“On the VH1 series Story Tellers, Taylor said the song was actually about several incidents during his early recording career. The second line “Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you” refers to Suzanne Schnerr, a childhood friend of his who committed suicide while he was in London, England, recording his first album.[2] In that same account, Taylor said he had been in a deep depression after the failure of his new band The Flying Machine to coalesce (the lyric “Sweet dreams and Flying Machines in pieces on the ground”; the reference is to the name of the band rather than a fatal plane crash, as was long rumored).”

James Taylor is a great finger picker and a big part of his sound is that he has fake nails glued on to his existing nails on his picking hand. This allows him to get that really strong attack on the strings and also for a very bright and even tone between his thumb and fingers. He has a video on his youtube channel where he shows how he constructs the nails. He’s very serious about it!

Anyways, it’s a very beautiful song and is a lot of fun to play. I tried to stay true to the original recording except in the chorus which I embellished a bit to get the full descending bass lines that the strings play on the record. It will take some work to get it sounding good and a fair bit patience as well, especially the intro which is so iconic. You’ll want to make sure you get it right.

I hope you enjoy the video and enjoy playing this great old classic.

I get a lot of questions about my sound so here’s what I’m using:
The acoustic guitar I’m playing here is a Taylor 214ce koa deluxe. I really like this guitar, it intonates amazingly well and its tone is very balanced. It’s also very easy to play.
I’ve recently changed my strings from Elixir phosphor bronze 12-53 with nanoweb coating, to Elixir HD lights. The HD lights make my guitar sound better, with an even more balanced sound. The slightly heavier top strings really make the high end come out more. I really love them! These strings are a little bit more expensive, but for me they easily last 4-5 times longer than non-coated strings.
Folks may be surprised at how much time and effort goes into creating these videos. If you’re getting something out of the lessons and can afford to contribute, I’ve setup a Paypal link. If you can’t afford it no worries, but if you can, any amount is appreciated and will help me to continue to make the videos.


Thanks for all the comments, and questions and of course for subscribing. A special thanks to all of you that have contributed financially by making a donation! I really appreciate the support. Good luck to everyone with their guitar playing.
Video Rating: / 5


  1. great attention to detail – as usual.

  2. Roger Paterson

    I love JT and he has his own lesson on youtube…..I hate to say it, but your lesson is easier to follow, at least for me!! Fantastic! Thanks from Sweden!

  3. Wow you nailed it perfectly !!

  4. such an amazing song by James Taylor. Thanks a lot for the guitar tutorial.

  5. Very well done Nice sound Taylor ?14ce. If you don't mind me asking? How are you recording your guitar

  6. great lesson as always. Ive played this song for years. now its better. Yay.
    Any chance we could see a World Party song….Put The Message In The Box. maybe?
    Thanks for the constantly great lessons.

  7. Jason Chung (JamCham)

    Can you do a tutorial on Layla Unplugged by Eric Clapton please

  8. Also you should teach some Red Hot Chili Peppers songs

  9. Could you please do the no quarter live solo off of the song remains the same concert by led zeppelin? I think that is one of the best guitar solos I've ever heard

  10. Chris Bruggeman

    Superb as usual; nicely done. You should sing more. ;-)

  11. you are such a great guitar player and teacher man! the best

  12. Please do Salamander by Jethro Tull!

  13. Thank you again for another beautifully played and demonstrated, very challenging (to play it correctly) piece of guitar work!

  14. is that a 612? I am going to donate for your time..what you are doing is excellent and I have played James's music a long time and have a couple Olson guitars…Met James Olson right before he dropped a guitar off in Boston for JT to play..the rest is history!

  15. Ok man in black, you have taken me through Clapton, Page, McCartney, Santana, Bowie, but this one looks the most difficult. I am weary of making those chords in a very different pattern for fear it will somehow rub off on me and I will start doing them that way all the time. Thanks for doing this one, it is a very beautiful song. I will somehow manage to learn it.

  16. Been following your tutorials for awhile, been meaning to support the cause, this one pushed the wallet open,  thanks for all the hard work in making theseexcellent instructional videos, $25.00 to your paypal acct. is all I can do for now

  17. Once again, another top-notch lesson, thank you! Your playing and teaching is truly inspiring. I started learning this song about 30 years ago and this makes me want to go back and really get it down this time. Cheers!

  18. Great playing and great sound. What do you use for an acoustic amp?

  19. I've always considered this a downer/depressing song.

  20. awesome! thanks

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