7 Skills to Take-Away from Stairway to Heaven...

Did you know that the song "Stairway to Heaven" has the capability behind it of teaching you seven highly credible guitar skills? And, the best part is that once learned, these skills will continue to pay off in your guitar playing forever!

Rather than do endless guitar exercises to get your playing skills down, you can actually achieve a lot of your core guitar skills through the parts performed in Stairway!

In this lesson we’re going to break down this classic piece, but not in a way that dozens of other internet guitar teachers have already done.


Because this piece already has several YouTube videos explaining “how” to play it, we’re going to instead talk about what skills this song can "teach" us as guitar players, and why it can be such a valuable song to learn. 



The first thing that Stairway to Heaven can teach us is how good it can be to learn a well-developed finger-picked harmony line. Stairway begins with a finger-style patterned guitar phrase that applies voice-leading.

If you’re unsure of what this is exactly, then learn this short riff that I’ve put together for you. It’s not the exact riff from Stairway. 

But, many of you probably know that riff, so instead, this riff I created for you focuses on the exact same principle as the part from the original song – so you can instead focus on the skill involved with playing the part.


Stairway to Heaven goes on to modify the harmony of the riff heard in the songs opening. But, before leaving the intro. section, Jimmy Page decided to add one ‘final twist’ to his riff.

This change is one that's excellent for the development of every guitar students finger-picking technique. All he did was, play the chord changes from the intro. riff through one final time except he used a 16th-note double time feel.

This occurs right at around the 2 minuet mark of the original song.

The basics of what’s going on here, are exactly the same as to what any guitar student would be doing when they train on higher level finger-picking skills. It’s a really cool technical concept that any guitarist can always add to their repertoire when practicing finger-style.

Here’s an example I created using the same 16th-note double time technique that’s found in Stairway to Heaven…


15 seconds later in the third section of this song there’s a very cool rhythm guitar part that blends two rhythm concepts together.

We get an open position chord strumming part mixed against an along the neck triad part. Now, this style of rhythm guitar doesn’t happen all the time, (most songs either use one, or the other), but guitarists like Eric Clapton, Santana and Eddie Van Halen all these guys (and many others), will apply this technique, so it’s a really good one to practice.

I’ve written a similar idea that also applies this same concept. So, if you already know the part from Stairway, you can try my idea for some additional practice using this blended strumming technique… here it is…


Into the fourth section of the song, we get another finger-picked idea that’s actually easier to play than the first finger-picked riff of the song!

Now, the thing is, that this new part is another important technique for any guitarist learning about finger-picking. It’s generally referred to as, “Arpeggiated Chords.”

And, what happens with this concept is we simply ascend, or descend across any basic chord pattern. This is a great technique to learn about, and I’ve gone ahead and composed an example of one of these ideas for you to learn as well.


The fifth section of Stairway applies something I’d simply call more advanced strumming technique. It’s a strumming approach that isn’t something you’re going to find in all too many songs out there.

What happens in this part, (which you can listen to at just after the 3 min. mark of the original tune), is we end up mixing a busy sixteenth-note triplet strum-pattern that includes a moving upper register group of notes.

That idea is mixed against a straight-time 16th-note strumming part that also targets the upper-register notes of each chord to come together and create a melody that’s built right into the structure of the entire chord progression.

It requires some smooth and accurate technical playing to perform properly. And, if you’re already somewhat familiar with the part from the original song, I’ve come up with my own version that applies this technique, so that you can study it and learn it yourself.


The sixth section of Stairway is the guitar solo. When I study guitar soloing with my own students here in the studio, one of the things I want to help students get together (as soon as possible), is to link-up what’s happening with the underlying chord changes and the notes that will be used to construct the solo.

In Stairway, we find one of the most common underlying chord changes for a solo in a Minor Key. It’s a chord drop from the root chord to a 2nd inversion of the 3rd chord and then to the 6th.

Once you can solo over this group of chords, you’ll establish an excellent feel for soloing in Minor keys. So, this makes it a perfect soloing practice format. Plus, it (and close variations) will get used in a lot of other songs as well.

In the solo for Stairway, we have a pretty common application of the Minor Pentatonic and the Nat. Minor. So, try applying this chord progression within your own practice routine. I think you’ll find it a great sound to get a solid feel for soloing in Minor keys.

I’ve gone and composed an example of this type of chord progression in the key of "D Minor" so that you try it yourself. Here’s how it sounds…


The seventh section of Stairway is another rhythm guitar idea, (and it’s very similar to the part that was used in the solo).

That’s probably why Jimmy Page eventually goes and adds some additional lead guitar over-dubs into the mix on it. Essentially, it’s just a variation of the chord harmony that we had already played throughout the guitar solo.

But, in this case, the final ending chords drop through the key directly off of the root – down to the 7th and then to the 6th.

This makes it not only an excellent rhythm part but it’s a great guitar soloing format too. And, you can use it for additional solo practice, or you can focus on it for perfecting your rhythm skills since it has a really strong groove that’s based around what’s often called “Scratch” strumming, or it’s also called “Ghost-Note” strumming technique.

I’ve put together a practice exercise out of this style of groove that you can work on yourself. Let me demonstrate it right now for you.




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