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Song Lesson: Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust”

By Shawn Leonhardt for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer

Queen wrote a lot of great songs in many genres like rock, soul, funk, classical, and even disco-inspired hits. Their songs have a variety of guitar techniques, effects, and styles, making them perfect for practice. One of their biggest hits is also the easiest to play. So even if you are still learning how to play guitar, this tune is one you can add you’re your personal songbook. Here is a song lesson for “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Song Background

Queen released this hit in 1980 and went on to top music charts worldwide. It was an instant classic with its driving bassline, funky guitar, and rebellious fighting lyrics. Any song that makes you want to dance and vanquish your enemies at the same time is sure to be a hit. No matter where you play this tune, you will likely get the audience involved and tapping their feet.

The bassline to this song was inspired by Chic’s “Good Times,” the same sample that would go on to inspire “Rappers Delight.” Queen’s bassist John Deacon had spent some time recording with Chic, and that funky riff was the creative result.

While this song is mostly bass oriented, you can incorporate that into your guitar playing after you practice the basic chord structure. The song can be played on acoustic or electric; the key is to get that muted strumming down. That funky up-and-down stroke is essential to making the song sound proper.

It is played with mostly E minor and A minor shapes; however, the original recording was pitched up a step to Fm. So you can use a capo or stick to playing it in Em, it won’t be that big of a difference.

How To Play “Another One Bites the Dust”

The verse consists of the guitar chords Em and Am, so before you worry about playing specific notes, first get the riff down. After the first three heavy beats, we have an eighth note rest, and then the riff finishes.

1 2 3 (4) and 1 and 2 e and 3

The Em is played the whole time until the end at the 3, where we switch to the Am. This process is repeated for the verse and chorus. Don’t worry about having the strum perfect, this is a funky disco tune, so we want our riff to sound cool. Just focus on making that Em and Am as funky as possible.

Once we change into the pre-chorus we move back and forth on a C chord and a G chord before ending on an Am and B5 power chord. We then move into the same riff of Em to Am until he says the lyrics “hey”. On this word, we play an F#m and then into an A major and B5. The bridge then switches back and forth between the A and B before going back into the same verse and chorus pattern. You can always use a guitar chord chart to help with these chords.

Now that is the easiest form of the song to play on the acoustic guitar, using a mix of open and power chords, we can keep it simple instead of full barre chords. However, you may find you want to play a more complicated version. You can start by adding the bass riff into it. On the E string it can be played.

5-3-0-0-0-0-0-0-3-0-5

Or you can play it on a higher fret on the A string as 7-7-7-7-7-7 and up to the D string on the 5th fret, back to the A string 7th fret, and then down to D on the 7th fret. You can incorporate either line or both into your chords. And to make it sound funkier, we can play the chords higher up the fretboard.

Try the Em shape on the seventh fret, followed by the Am on the fifth fret. These higher-voiced chords can be played with a slightly muted strum to make the song sound better. Keep a 1/16th note strum pattern going, and that will help with the funk vibe. You can even slide from the fourth fret into the Am to provide a bit more of a groove.

The C and G can be played on the 3rd fret with that same muted strum. Power chords can be used for the A (57XXXX) and B (79XXXX), and after that, you can just hit the 3rd fret of the E string before moving back into the Em and Am. And this time, when we get to the “hey” line, we can use a F# power chord (24XXXX) before moving up to the A and B power chords again.

What Amp Settings and Effects Help?

If you are playing this song on an acoustic, you won’t have much worry about amp settings or effects pedals. However, if you are on an electric guitar, you may be looking for just the right tone to match the song. Usually, in funk music, the guitar amp is set to a clean and bright tone as we want that funky muted strumming to shine through.

If you are playing the bassline along with the chords, an octave pedal can help thicken up the bass. Otherwise, you aren’t looking for much distortion or heavy overdrive. If you find your version sounds too muddy, you will want to adjust your settings for more treble and top boost.

In the end, though, there aren’t many pedals or effects that give this song its vibe. The key to getting the right overall feel is to practice 1/16th note muted strums. Once you can do it on this simple tune you will find other funk songs are easier to play. It’s all about strumming back and forth in a clean and funky manner. That will be the hardest part of this song to learn. Otherwise, you can add this song to your list of other easy guitar songs.

Start simple with the basic chord skeleton; whether you want to use open chords or higher up the fretboard is up to you. Once you have the chords down start adding in some bass riffs and slowly mixing them together. And remember, the best way to play a tune like “Another One Bites the Dust” is to play the original recording as you learn. This will be the quickest method to get that well-known rhythm down!

Mitch Wilson

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