…once you master [Wonderwall] other songs of that key and feel will be straightforward.
Like many Britpop bands, Oasis used Rotosound strings.
Oasis Was Channeling The Beatles
Another reason the song jumped to being such a big hit were the many aspects of the song inspired by The Beatles. 1990s British pop and American alternative bands were seeing revivals of 1960s era psychedelic pop rock, as always nostalgia is a major factor in some of the biggest song hits.
There were some obvious points of fashion like the John Lennon glasses worn by Noel Gallagher during the music video and the title “Wonderwall” comes from a George Harrison album. But they also use similar instrumentation like acoustic and electric guitars, and even a mellotron which was used by The Beatles in their psychedelic heyday. However that is the end of the similarities as the rest of the song is really a product of the ’90s.
Music of that era often relied on stripped down guitar riffs and melancholic, but still catchy, bluntly metaphoric lyrics. “Wonderwall” is so popular to learn on the guitar because it is one of the easy guitar songs that are so simple to play and a genre defining song, once you master it, other songs of that key and feel will be straightforward.
How to Play “Wonderwall”
The original key of the song is F#m, and most people use a capo on the second fret, so they can use easier Em chord positions. This is one of the first confusing aspects for most players, you don’t have to play it with a capo, but that is what is easiest and most common.
The chord SHAPES for the verse are Em7-G-Dsus4-A7sus4, of course because we have a capo this means we are playing in F#m. If you look closely at these chord shapes they all have the bottom two treble strings pressed down for each chord. So you can keep that pinky held down while you move the other fingers. That is probably the most difficult part is strengthening that pinky!
The verse ends and moves to Cadd9 (which also keeps that pinky in place) before moving to a simple pre chorus of the chords Cadd9-D-Em7 for 2 times before adding a G chord between the D and Em7 and then ending on an A7sus4 again. There is a descending bass riff between the final G-Em7 where you hit the 4th fret of the low bass string between the G and Em7. In the verse we have a more minor feeling and then when we move to the chorus we switch to a major feeling, which is what gives the song its beloved contrast.
The guitar chords for the chorus are Cadd9-Em7-G-Em7 for 4 times before again ending on the A7sus4. And here again we keep our pinky on the two strings on that 5th fret. The chords to the song are very easy and once you have that pinky in place it’s just a matter of making the other chord changes at the right time. You can always use a guitar chord chart to help you find fingerings for all of these chords.
Your strumming is going to mostly be played in an alternate back and forth fashion, but with an occasional accent on the down strum. Rock is known for a heavy backbeat on the 2 and 4 so those are the beats you want to stress and accent, especially in the verse. The strumming isn’t always purely back and forth though, at times there are two down strokes before alternating up and down. It’s ok to experiment while you play along.
You can look up the tabs or music to this song if necessary, but the best way to learn to play it is to first practice all the chord shapes above with a capo. Once you are comfortable playing them, turn the song on and start playing along. It will be difficult at first and you will have to start and stop often. But this ear training is a far superior method to reading tabs, trial and error will get you further on the guitar faster!
Just make sure to fix mistakes as they come, don’t let bad habits become ingrained. As mentioned the pinky finger is what makes this song a little harder for beginners. So take it slow and make sure you are sounding the chords exactly as they should be with no errant strings playing.
- The intro uses Em7-G-Dsus4-A7sus4 4 times.
- The first two verses also use these chords in this order 4 times the same as the intro.
- Next the pre chorus plays the Cadd9-D-Em7 2 times and the final 3rd time we add in the G descending riff before the Em7 and onto an A7sus4.
- The chorus is also played 4 times with the chords Cadd9-Em7-G-Em7, the final time we again end on an A7sus4.
- After a drum break the 3rd verse copies the same progression as the first two verses.
- We then move to another final pre chorus and play it the same as the other.
- And then we end on a final chorus that is played the same way as before, except now ending on the Em7 that we started on.
Guitar Gear: Pedals, Strings, and Amps Used to Play “Wonderwall”
The original main acoustic guitar used was an Epiphone EJ-200 and in their early albums Oasis played their gear through Marshall heads and cabinets. This was a great way to add a little grit to the final sound. Even ’90s pop that wasn’t classified as metal still had a heavy and often grungy vibe to it.
Like many Britpop bands, Oasis used Rotosound strings. Noel Gallagher used Rotosound Jumbo King acoustic strings on his EJ-200, Bonehead played Rotos, and Guigsy played Swing Bass 66 strings. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds still use Rotosound strings.
While “Wonderwall” is not too heavy on the guitar effects, Oasis and other Britpop bands were the inventors of shoegaze rock. A style of music so named because the guitarists are often looking at the myriad of pedals on their boards. If you are a fan of this music you want to invest in a decent amp and a variety of effects pedals. Much of their music is not too hard to play or heavy on the gear, it’s just catchy simple riffs with slight distortion, delay, and chorus effects for the most part.
As you can see the song lesson for Oasis “Wonderwall” is not that difficult to play on the guitar. Once you have the basic chord progressions down for each part, turn the song on and start strumming along. The best way to really learn to play the tune is by listening, it may take some time to get all the chords but stick with it and soon the song will be a staple for you to play on guitar in the future!