PJ Harvey

Song Lesson: PJ Harvey – Good Fortune

Despite being released in 2000 the song “Good Fortune” by PJ Harvey has a bit of an 80’s guitar vibe, which is fitting considering that is when her career began! As a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and poet-like lyricist she would go onto bigger fame with the alternative music of the 90’s. Here is a quick song lesson on how to play PJ Harvey’s “Good Fortune” on guitar.

Remember it is an alternative type of song, so we aren’t going for chord and guitar perfection

Like so many other guitar-based British songwriters, PJ Harvey uses Rotosound guitar strings

Playing Alternative and Indie Music Styles like PJ Harvey

The alternative and indie music of the ’80s and ’90s was meant as a contrast to the predominant heavy metal guitar riffs and R&B that topped many of the charts back then. This alternative music has its roots in early psychedelia and music that puts more emphasis on content and lyrics as opposed to amazing playing or showmanship.

Even the heavier alternative bands of the day were known for lyrically meaningful songs with simple power chords. One of the other features of indie and alternative groups was their broad styles and appeals. PJ Harvey has been called art rock, punk blues, and she has incorporated electronic and folk elements. Despite all the new personas and reinventions her music still has that singer-songwriter feel and so is very accessible to beginning music and guitar students.

How to Play Good Fortune By PJ Harvey

There are a couple different ways to play this depending on your skill level, if you need to stick to open guitar chords that is fine. Otherwise like most alternative and indie songs they mostly use power chords. Also keep in mind there is a rhythm guitar part and more of a lead so don’t expect to play it all by yourself! You can learn both and mix them, but first just get the chord changes down.

Opening Measures and Verse

The opening and verse start by repeating Am to G, sometimes it is tabbed as an Am9 or G6, the difference being the extension we put on the chord. If we just play the power chords then it is 577000 back to 355000 for the first four measures. Often these other treble strings are not played but here we want a little dissonance. This tune’s simplicity makes it a great song to use if you are trying to learn how to play guitar.

We then stick to more normal power chords of 577XXX to 355XXX for another 4 measure as the singing begins and then we move up to 810100 (C5) and then all the way back to the 13300 (F5) power chord. This is a big jump for a beginner! But it is only for two quick measures before we go back to the 577 and 355. This happens again for four measures before another C-F movement. But this time we moved up to 131514000.

Again this can be tricky even though they are power chords. This process repeats for 24 measures and then goes into the chorus. If you have trouble with power chords you can also play the open Am-G and C-F chords and it will still work.

Am A minor barre chord guitar diagram chart
Gmaj G major barre chord guitar diagram chart
Cmaj C major barre chord guitar diagram chart
Fmaj F major barre chord guitar diagram chart


Here we switch to easier open chords by playing Am-G and then C-D during the chorus which lasts 8 measures. The interlude then goes back into the power chord riff that we started with for 4 measures before going into verse 2 with the same riff as above for the full 24 measures. It is a long verse! And then we switch to the same chords for the chorus again. But this time we repeat the chorus twice.

The outro is going to be the same for the intro of the song before ending on the 577000. You may have noticed that this power chord is an A5 and not technically an Am, that is fine as it still works in the song, the minor aspect can be provided by your vocals when singing the song. Besides some awkward jumps the power and open chords to this song are rather easy to play. 


We want a funky and rhythmic strum over the basic chord structure of Am, G, C, F, and D. We are mostly strumming downwards in 1/8 notes, with an occasional upward strum to add to the groove. D-D-U-DD works fine, but the key is to switch chords mid strum. Hit the initial Am with a D-D and then a quick upstroke before going to the G chord. At times the changes from the C-F are a little faster with some added upstrokes.

The best way to learn the strum is to get the chord movement going and then copy along as it plays. Repeat the first part of the song over and over if you must, once you have the strum down it stays the same for most of the song, save for a change at the chorus, where it is mostly downstrokes. Remember it is an alternative type of song, so we aren’t going for chord and guitar perfection, singing along in the proper way is just as important.

PJ Harvey guitar Rotosound strings. Photo credit murplejane on Flickr
Photo credit murplejane on Flickr


Of course, this song can be played on an acoustic guitar with no special effects units or amps. It is a great guitar riff that will sound good in a variety of styles, but if you want an accurate version there are a few pedals and amp settings to look for. This song is not too distorted with more of a clean amp tone. A little overdrive and boost are nice for grit, however, keep it simple.

Next, some compression and a chorus pedal can add to that shimmering sound that the guitar has. That is a very common vibe for alternative music, just a little touch of chorus and reverb to add a mellow feeling to the overall track. The ’90s were a time of heavy grunge so this song was a callback to those earlier indie hits that had clean and sparkling guitars.

Like so many other guitar-based British songwriters, PJ Harvey uses Rotosound guitar strings.

Once you have the chords and basic strum down you can always play your own cover of this song. Like many singer-songwriter hits this tune leads itself to many interpretations, whether that be played slower or faster with even more of a punk vibe!

The song “Good Fortune” by PJ Harvey is a little misleading as its lyrics are about falling for someone but its chord progression is in a minor mode! Of course, this was all part of the plan as we get a song that provides a mixture of feelings and vibes. It is not too hard to play on the guitar, perfect if you are taking online guitar lessons, and once you have the chords and lyrics down it is a great song to add to your repertoire. 

By Shawn Leonhardt for

Guitar Tricks

By Shawn Leonhardt for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer

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