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harry chapin

how to play cats in the cradleCats in the Cradle was made very popular in the 90’s by Ugly Kid Joe. On this post however, we will check out the original version by Harry Chapin.

I learned this song with the help of Guitar Tricks. This is part of their Acoustic lesson. If you want to check the full lesson, check it out – Click Here! <<——

How to Play Cats in the Cradle

The original song that Harry Chapin did on his version is with a capo on the 8th fret. The song is in the key of F major.

For this lesson, I will show you what was taught to me by Guitar Tricks instructor Douglas Showalter. This version is also on the key of F major but the capo for this version is on the first fret.

The chord position is on the open E chord but because of the capo, the whole song is on the F major key as well. This would be an easy version of the song.

You can also play the song in the 8th fret position but of course the chord shapes would be different. All would be in relation to the 8th fret capo.

Intro Guitar Riff

Here’s how to play the guitar riff of the intro, step by step (all notes will be relative to the capo, ie. E note):

  1. Play open E, 6th string and the 9th fret of the G string (both E note) together.
  2. Next, play 7th fret of high E string twice
  3. Play 9th fret of the high E string and then pull off to the 7th fret
  4. Play 7th fret of the B string followed by the 10th fret on the same string
  5. Go back to 7th fret and then play 9th fret of the G string, then back to 7th on the B, 7th on the G and back again to 7th of the B string.

Strumming Pattern and Guitar Chords

Below I will show you the strumming pattern and chords used for Cats in the Cradle


The chords for the verse is E-G-A-E. You repeat the pattern twice before going to the pre-chorus.

The strumming pattern is down-down, down-up-down-up on the E major, Up-down-down on the G major. You have to take note that 2 chords are in a bar for this song. So you must divide the bar for E major and G major. The same pattern should be applied on the second bar – A major and E major.

Please watch the video tutorial above.


For the pre-chorus, the chords used are: D-A/C#-Bm-A-G-G/F#-E, G/F#-G-E

You may notice that the bass part of these chords are descending from D all the way to E.

Strumming pattern is a bit different as you have to change chords faster for this pre-chorus. The first 4 chords get 1 beat each, or you can do one down stroke each.

There’s a slight pause before doing the G-G/F#-E, G/F#-G-E sets of chords.

Please watch the video tutorial above for more details.

Again – If you want to check the full lesson, check it out – Click Here! <<——


About Riff (165 Articles)
Riff Richard is an IT person, a husband, a dad, a couch potato and a passionate guitar player

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