There’s a lot to learn from this tune by Death Cab for Cutie. A link to the video is below for reference. I’m not going to teach the song – because there are lots of free online lessons available, but I want to highlight some features to learn and practice.
“I Will Follow You Into The Dark” is played with a very steady bass pulse and rhythm.
The video has a brief shot from the guitar soundhole at 0:29, and you can see the pattern used in the right hand. You want to listen carefully and try to replicate that pattern as close as possible.
More on this later, but let’s start with the basics:
You will use basic open position chord forms of C, Am, F, Fm, G, and E. You can search Google images for these chord forms if you need to learn them.
This song is played with a capo at the fifth fret. The chord shapes remain the same, but they are renamed by moving up five semitones when played with the capo on the fifth fret. The new chord names are F, Dm, Bb, Bbm, C, and A.
Guitarists and songwriters love playing with a capo because the song can be played in a more comfortable key for singing. However, guitarists often do not know the name of chords they are playing when using a capo, so I urge you to learn the actual chord names.
For example, you should learn that a “C major chord at capo 5” is an F major chord, and so on with each chord.
Chords from the scale
Most pop songs use chords from the “home” key of the song. This song uses mainly chords from the key of F Major: F(I) – Dm(vi) – Bb (IV) and C (V). There are two pretty hip exceptions in this tune.
1) The A chord is a substitute for Am (iii), which adds a wonderful “surprise” harmony to the tune, in my opinion. Chord substitutions like this are common and help give songs their unique feeling.
2) The IV – IV minor cadence. Hopefully, when you play the Bb to Bbm progression, you recognize this sound from lots of pop music. The Beatles quickly come to mind. This sound of this cadence gives me a sense of “falling” back into the home (I) chord. Once you play it enough times, you’ll start hearing it on lots of songs.
Practice alternating bass notes with a percussive strum
We will use the verse chords for the exercise. Set the metronome to a slow tempo in 4/4 time and only play a bass note on click 1 and 3. Click 1 root – Click 3 fifth.
At this slow tempo, add a percussive strum to the whole chord on click 2 and click 4. I can see on the video that he uses the back of his right-hand fingernails to get the sound.
Using the first 8 bars of the verse as an example: F/ F/ Dm /Dm /Bb/ Bb/ F/ C. (Note: These are the chord names with capo in fifth fret – not the chord shape names)
Practice this pattern slowly as you change chords, which is a great challenge!
(Note: I don’t hear the alternating bass on every chord, but for practice purposes, I would suggest you find the roots and fifths of every chord to develop your right thumb dexterity).
I hope you did follow me on this tune breakdown. You can develop right-hand thumb independence, chord/key recognition, identify a chord substitution, and the IV – IVm cadence. If you’re a singer, you can move the capo around to find the best key for you. It will help you and your fellow musicians to learn those chord names too.
I hope you enjoy learning the tune, and please let me know in the comments if you found these ideas helpful.