Hotel California Chords & Guitar Lesson

Lesson 1: Introduction

In this song tutorial I'll teach you how to play the classic song "Hotel California," as made famous by The Eagles. This is one of the most quintessential guitar songs of all time, packed one rippin' solo after another, interesting chords, harmonized rhythm and lead parts, great acoustic guitar parts, and a seemingly never ending stream of cool ideas.

To recreate all these parts live you would need an army of guitar players, so this lesson is obviously going to be modified; but it's really cool to know and understand how this classic song is built up - guitar part for guitar part. First we'll breakdown the classic intro with the 12-string guitar part. Then I'll break down the two driving rhythm parts in the verses, the chorus with the unison lines and awesome lead fills, the verses with the harmonized guitar parts doing call and response, the epic solos, and how to get your guitar tones just right for this song. There's a lot to learn, so pack your bags and get ready!

Lesson 2: Gear & Tone

Let's start with talking about the tones that you hear on this recording. And remember that with just a bit of tweaking, your tone can sound just like the players your trying to imitate because it's ultimately all in the fingers. But it's all fun to talk about anyway!

For the acoustic guitars I'll be using this 12-string acoustic. If you're not familiar with the 12-string guitar, all you need to know is that it's the same as a 6-string, except that there's an extra string for each one. On the lower strings, the duplicated string is just an octave higher, and on the higher strings, the extra strings are the same notes. That makes it quite a beast to tune, but once you've done that you just play it like you would on a standard 6-string guitar. Just don't look at the strings and get confused! Your fingers will naturally hit the 2 strings at a time, so don't worry. It's a great, full sound! And in order to avoid confusion, I'll show you all the 12-string parts on a regular 6-string acoustic.

I'm also using a nylon string acoustic for the intro, which adds a little bit of flamenco vibe to the track.

For the harmonized electric guitars in the verses I'll use my 335 and run it through a modeled Marshall Plexi amp with a little bit of reverb. You want quite a bit of gain for these parts, but not too much since they have to stay in the background!

For the main lead guitar I'm also using my 335 and I'll run this through a modeled VOX AC30 amp. I have a bit more treble on this part to give it a little more "pop" since it's the main lead guitar that interacts with the vocals. I'm also using a subtle delay effect with the mix set to 11 o'clock, and the delay time set to match the eighth note and 2-3 repeats.

For the other lead guitar, I'm using the same basic tone but on a different pickup and with an added chorus pedal. The chorus pedal adds a subtle psychedelic sound to it, and helps differentiate it from the other guitar. I'm using a chorus pedal with just one knob, and I have that set to 11 o'clock.

Lesson 3: A Shimmering Light: 12-String Intro

In this lesson you'll learn how to play the song's intro. It's played on a 12-string guitar with a capo on the 7th fret, and is using a combination of picked and strummed quarter notes with arpeggiated sixteenth notes. I'll show you the parts on a regular 6-string guitar to avoid confusion, and then I'll show you what it sounds like on the 12-string.

Lesson 4: Stop For The Night: Intro Guitars

In this lesson I'll show you how to play the two other guitar parts that you hear in the intro of this song. One of the parts is a very cool melody played on a nylon string guitar, and the other part consists of swells played on an electric guitar using the volume control.

Lesson 5: The Mission Bell: Verse 12-String Rhythm

I'll show you what the 12 string is playing in the first verse. You don't have to play this part note for note, but each of the variations has a different sound that you might like and may want to use in your own version. I'll walk you through the first half of this verse, bar for bar, and then I'll show you how to imitate the strumming patterns in the second half of the verse.

Lesson 6: Showed Me the Way: Verse Electric Rhythm

Now I'll show you what else is being played in the first half of the first verse. There are two main electric rhythm guitar parts playing throughout the verses, and they play a really important part in the over all groove. One guitar is doubling the first half of the bass line, and the other is playing "reggae style" scratchy upbeats.

Lesson 7: Down The Corridor: Harmonized Verse

In the second half of the first verse, two new lead guitars enter. These distorted guitars harmonize a line that outlines the basic harmony, and it sounds really cool. I'll show you the most basic version of this part as well as the variation they use.

Lesson 8: Such A Lovely Place: Chorus Rhythm

Let's move on to the rhythm guitars in the in the choruses. The harmonized lead guitars play some really effective unison lines, the scratch guitar keeps on scratching, and the 12-string keeps on strumming the Hotel California chords!

Lesson 9: Plenty Of Room: Chorus Fills

Now I'll show you how to play the lead fills in the choruses. These fills answer the vocal phrases and play an important part in the sound of the chorus. They are mostly based on a very creative use of the basic major pentatonic vocabulary.

Lesson 10: Tiffany-Twisted: 2nd Verse 12-String

After the first chorus we go back to the verse, but this time there's a bit more going on. First, I'll show you what the 12-string is playing in this section, and then you can pick up any of the variations that you like.

Lesson 11: Sweet Summer Sweat: Harmonized 2nd Verse

In the second verse we have two pairs of harmonized guitars playing a really cool call and response part. In this lesson I'll break it all down. One pair is playing the basic harmonized line that I showed you earlier as the "call," and the other pair is playing the "response."

Lesson 12: Just Prisoners Here: Breakdown 3rd Verse

It's very typical that songs do something different after the 2nd chorus - most often it's a bridge. In "Hotel California," they actually go to another verse, but they break down the first half, so it sounds a lot like the intro. In this lesson I will go through this breakdown verse, bar for bar, and you can pick up any of the variations that you like.

Lesson 13: Steely Knives: First Solo

Right after the breakdown verse, we dive into the first of the rockin' solos. The lead playing really follows the underlying harmony, which leads to some new and unfamiliar notes, but they are all important and super cool sounding, so hang in there!

Lesson 14: Kill The Beast: Second Solo

After the first guitar solo, another guitar comes in and solos over the verse. This solo is based on the same basic vocabulary as the first one, but is played with a slightly different tone.

Lesson 15: Running For The Door: Trading Licks

After the two lead guitars have had a turn soloing over an entire verse, they start trading back and forth. They each play some cool licks and end with a longer, harmonized phrase leading into the next section. This phrase is very tricky, but it's worth the work.

Lesson 16: Any Time You Like: Harmonizing Lead 1

After the two lead guitars have traded licks back and forth for a verse, they start harmonizing. They both play triad arpeggios that follow the basic harmony. Each guitar plays a different inversion, and the two parts together create the epic outro that everybody is familiar with.

Lesson 17: You Can Never Leave: Harmonizing Lead 2

In this lesson I'll show you the other half of the harmonized outro solo. This is the same basic concept as the previous part, but with different notes.

Lesson 18: Hotel California: Performance

Now it's time to play through this whole song with the backing track. Since there's so much going on, it's really important that you listen and watch without playing as many times as you can.

I hope you've had fun with this tutorial on "Hotel California." Learning all the parts in this song is the musical equivalent to running a marathon- it's not something you can just pick up and do without practice. But it's a lot of fun, and anything you learn from this classic song will benefit your playing. So take as much as you can handle from this classic and timeless song, and come back to the rest if you don't get it all in one big gulp. Every note is awesome and important... have fun with it!

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