Fortunate Son (John Fogerty) Guitar Lesson

Here’s a good old classic rock tune for today’s lesson: Fortunate Son. It’s got a great intro riff that will be instantly recognizable by anyone you play this for. Did I mention its also easy-peasy? Most of the riff is built on inverted third intervals (whew that’s a mouthful!). What I mean by that is the root note is on the B string, and they’re adding a third up from that root note (4 semitones), but dropping it an octave, thus inverting it (normally the lower note is the root, but in this case the lower is).

Take a look at the Em7 chord (barred, root on the 5th string – 7th fret) and ignore the bar part. That is the first formation in the riff, right? The notes that are being played are B (4th string, 9th fret) and G (2nd string, 8th fret). The root note is the G, and we’re in the key of G. If you count up from G 4 semitones (G#, A, A#, B) you hit B. B is therefore a major third of G.

If you can figure out the theory behind this, you can start to see broader applications for the patterns that are being used in this riff (different keys, songs, etc). Let me know if you’d like to know more and maybe I’ll do a whole lesson on this topic.

One other quick note. If you want to see the video larger, don’t forget you can click the button in the bottom right corner of the video player for full screen. You can also click on the HD for high definition (much better quality picture and sound). Also, I’ve got other guitar songs lessons on the site too.

Video Problems? Watch the Fortunate Son Guitar Lesson on Youtube

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  1. I cant thank you enough for your lessons, they are helping be learn guitar so much better that going thru books, I am switching fron Bass to guitar and you are taking me along on a great path that has been easy and quick learning.

  2. Jonathan, I’ve been trying to play acoustic for around a year now. I can play some songs with the most used chords including bass stroke and alternating bass. My problem is that when I change chords the neck of the guitar shifts around making it hard to change chords quickly and accurately. I remedy this by actually wrapping my strap around me and then sitting on it. It helps alot but I want to learn how to play in all postions, standing or sitting. I appreciate you videos. I watched the one on all the chords in the frets and really learned something useful. I think it will help when I try to learn to read music. Any advice on how to control the neck of my guitar?

    1. Hi Wayne – that’s an interesting one to diagnose without being able to see how you play.

      Here are a couple of ideas, hopefully one helps!
      – Get a real grippy strap (ie, a leather one, or something with a grippy part). Some of the nylon ones are super slippery and make things worse.
      – How hard are you gripping the neck? Your left hand shouldn’t be used to position the guitar very much – rather your hand should just be cradling the neck, not trying to hold it up.
      – Try practicing with bar chords and move them up the neck, one or two frets at a time. For instance take an F major chord (barred) then play a G, then an A, and a B, C, D, E etc. Moving up the neck a little at a time will help you practice the movements.

      That’s all that comes to me right now… but if you can describe it a little better I’ll try again =).

  3. Thanks so much Jonathan your a real inspiration….I’m learning more every time i see your clips on line, one question do you honestly recommend “Learn and Master Guitar” i love the blues and will learn to play them clean and crisp someday …Dean

    1. Thanks Dean!
      In regards to the Learn and Master question – I just recently did a review on the course. You can read the entire thing here: Learn and Master Guitar Review

      Everyone’s situation is different, and the guitar course that you choose to learn with should line up in some way with your goals. Learn and Master could be a good starting point to learn the guitar, from which you could get more specific towards blues… Most of the blues courses I’ve seen so far don’t deal with the guitar in general as much as they do the blues specifically – ie you already need to be at a certain level to take advantage of them.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Good lesson man. Playied an acoustic for a couple of years. You got me to by an electric. Now I practice two hours a day. peace.

  5. it was great lesson been playing since was kid was taught proper way such as cage system im drilling that know and getting there as i learn it i see the real importants off u can read music but not understanding thoery doesn t get u far have great day love lesson

  6. Great song Johnathon, all of CCR stuff was amazing. I believe I learned the notes in the opening riff to be called thirds, and are used to embelish a lot of guitar songs. (ie the opening in Brown Eyed Girl, Van Morrison). So a lesson on thirds would be an excellent idea. As you said they can be applied to so many songs and keys. Thanks and keep up the great work!

  7. Hi Linda, yeah the opening riff is based on thirds, but the way I’m playing them there they are actually inverted thirds, because the root note is the highest note, rather than the lowest note.

    Definitely doing a lesson on these is on my list… stay tuned! 🙂

  8. Thanks so much. I have enjoyed and learned from your lessons. any Bob Dylan Like A Rolling Stone Again Thanks Tom F

  9. Jonathon;
    thanks for the help. I can honestly say that you’re the Real Deal,i.e. calling no names,but there are sites, such as, ” learn 2 play the Blues with 4 notes”(!) ect. They send you Some free lessons,lightly touching on the subject, THEN proceed to pitch the For sale,No weasle clause ect. YOU,on the other hand seem to have a desire to TEACH, primarly,secondary,2 make $$,which is cool,but you keep it real,simple yet detailed. Thanks
    Peace FreddyD. NYC

  10. Jonathan,

    Nice insight into some of the great CCR stuff!! If I may offer a suggestion on how you shoot videos, could you please move your camera to your right some (viewer’s left) so that the view of your finger placement on the fretboard is not obscured by the knuckles of your hand and/or fingers. Or, maybe just raising the camera and angling it down some would help too!

    Otherwise, I think your doing a great job, and who cares about the bricks in the background! We are all after the content, not the packaging.

  11. Jonathon…thanks much! I really enjoy your video lessons and appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge and techniques. I also like your guitar; what kind is it?

  12. Hi Jonathon,

    Thanks for the lesson. I was wondering about the strumming pattern. I seem to be struggling a little with it. Can you go into some detail. Thanks again!

  13. Thankyou, That’s a great song! I am following your lessons and doing good. I practice my scales(Penta tonic, Major, and minor blues)almost every day. Up and down. I’m surprising myself. I still am not sure how to apply the scales in a solo. I am working on Samba Pa Ti(really like Santana). Got it pretty much down.Thankyou for all you do! I hope others appreciate it as much. At the present, I am in school(Digital Media Prod.)and am starting all over in life.The guitar is something I began in 1968 with an SG, then put it down. I am regreting all those wasted years but am HARD at it again. I’ve always knawn the barre chords and basicsfortunatley. I’m working on learning songs and riffs now. Thanks again! Sincerely,Chris

  14. Thanks Jonathan, keep ’em coming. Found that if I used my index and middle fingers on the first riff/first 2 positions and then middle finge and ring finger on the second two positions it was so much easier for me. Thanks again!

  15. I’ve been playing forever(1968). Self taught wich means I got a ton of bad habbits and I don’t really know what I’m doing. I started playing around with what I thought was “the blues” and found I knew even less than I thought. So when I started getting your tips it has been a real joy. I’m learning something new. Like “Chris” I’m still trying to get my head around scales. I started out learning old folk music from a book at the ripe old age of eight on an accoustic silvertone. Thank you for the tips and video. As soon as I have two nickles to rub together I would like to buy a lesson set. Thanks for the service to all us lovers of music making. Fred

  16. Love your lessons! I have two questions about the ‘C’ chord in this song. 1 – Why not just play an open C. And, 2 – when I play the barre ‘C’ I can’t get the high ‘E’ string to ring, so, the chord is just ringing on 5,4,3, and 2 strings. Is that OK?

  17. Hi John, you can play an open C if you want; I like to mix up the chord positions to get different sounds.

    In regards to making the chord though, it will probably take a bit of practice, but you do want the E string to shine through.

  18. I can’t play barre chords for nothin’ just to let you know. The riffs seemed great though. I also don’t really understand the theory either…still relatively new at this.

  19. I like the brick layout behind you, it looks nice, and that way I do not get distracted and start looking at scenary. Lately, I watch several of you videos, and I learn stuff, and enjoy them all the time. Thanks.

  20. Hey Jonathan,

    I enjoy your instructional teachings because your straight
    You show what you know, and for that there is no substitute.
    I would like to thank you for your efforts, and the brick wall is fine ( kinda like a man cave setting ) not to worry.


  21. Hey Johnathan, great lesson dude….I would really dig a lesson on thirds if you can find the time to make one…keep up the great work and god bless you and your family.

  22. I really appreciate you really break down the lessons to make them as simple as possible to understand! I am an intermediate level player, a few gigs & Sundays at our praise band. But I enjoy the way you don’t take simple things for granted. Keep rockin!!!

  23. I’ve always liked that song, and you broke it down nicely so everyone can learn how to play it. I look forward to more of your lessons.

  24. Thanks, man! It’s one of those things that you go, “oh yeah!”, as I did with the intro to “Take it Easy”. Keep up the excellent work, man, and thanks for all the work that you do!

  25. Great site and you do very well. John used an open g tuning on this song. You should try it. It realy gives it the authentic sound. especially when you hit the last 2 notes of the intro you end up with an open low G ringing out.
    I used to work with CCR in Berkelry and spent many a day at “The Facory” I owned John red “Ric” for over 30 years. It now sits as the center piece at the Hard Rock Cafe in NY. Jogn also played his Black LP Custon with a drop full tuning. So he could get that droan struming sound for instance on Proud Mary. Everyone else was struming CCC-A CCC-A CCC-A G FFFF-D DDD DDD DDD while he was fingering a completley different chord progression to end up with an Open E Chord as the D. Very interesting and I was blown away y it when I was 15 yrs old at the time learning all of his licks. Anyways I thought i would drop in and say Hi. Keep up the good work.

  26. Jonathan – your lessons are helpful, but your video streaming sucks. The choppy video is more annoying than helpful. Watch your own video and you can see what I mean…
    Clean up the video and you would be helping a lot more students!


    1. Hi Tom, my videos are streamed by Youtube; they’ve got more experience & resources in streaming video than anyone. The problem may lie with your internet connection. You can also try clicking the Youtube link beneath each of my videos and watch it on their site directly.


  27. Hey Jonathan,

    I enjoy your lessons, I find them very helpful. You have a great way of getting things across. I wish I could get private lessons, but I figure Ottawa Ont may be a bit far.


    1. Hi Frank, I believe this problem is only on older versions of Internet Explorer. We’re trying to fix it, but in the meantime I would recommend upgrading to the most recent version of Internet Explorer, or else use FireFox or Chrome or Safari instead.

  28. Sure wish you would include tab from us slower folk. It takes about 15 times of watching a video for me to transcribe the tab myself and then all my band whith is used on one lesson.

  29. Hi Jonathan thanks for another great video lesson. Pity you don’t give a tabed sheet with it for us old slow learners. Keep up the good work Clive farthing.

  30. Hey man you could yer vids Back against the Wall,..or Wall of just after hearing yer comment about the about Cool Wall Lessons,..hell I lods for lesson ty,..leaves us to guess bits Justin guitars does the same thing,’s ok dude I have joined many..

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