Here is a relatively simple yet still somewhat challenging single-guitar arrangement of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” which was included in the artist’s 1970 smash album, Moondance.
Providing a single guitar accompaniment to a singer can be challenging, especially if you’re the singer as well as the guitarist. You can, as many do, simply strum chords to a song, but doing so for each song you play becomes monotonous to both you and your listeners. But you don’t want to be playing something so complicated that overshadows the song’s melody and lyrics or, worse, that hinders you from singing well.
Part of the issue is that when we cover songs as musicians we tend to use the original recordings as our basis for arrangements. And while an original recording is certainly a fine place to start, you’re not going to be able to replicate an entire group with a single guitar, unless of course you’re using all sorts of wonderful digital extras, (and more and more performers do so these days). The interesting thing about doing a digital layered arrangement is that it often takes a lot more time and energy to arrange than a single guitar arrangement. Plus, very few people pull them off all that well.
So you should take heart that it’s not all that hard to work up single guitar arrangements for just about any song. In the case of “Crazy Love,” the challenge will be in keeping as much of the flavor of the gorgeous, yet spare guitar part of the original recording (played by John Platania) while still maintaining a steady rhythm and harmonies that would normally be filled in by the piano, bass, and drums.
In terms of song structure, “Crazy Love” follows the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus format. The verses can be broken down into four lines of lyrics, each of which is two measures long and each of which is identical in terms of chord progression. The chorus is a two-measure phrase (“…she gives me love love love love crazy love…”) which is repeated, making it four measures long in total. The bridge, like the verses, is eight measures long and the first two measures are repeated in measures three and four. So as far as putting the pieces together, this shouldn’t take a lot of work.
The Basic Verses
The song is played fairly slowly and is in the key of A. The verses use a repeated progression that runs from A to C# to Bm and then back to A again, with each chord being played for two beats. The first thing that we’re going to do is to look at some easy ways to spice up the chords a bit in order to give them a little more tonal depth and texture. This will be similar to the ideas covered in our lesson on “Melissa,” where we make use of the open high E and B strings of the guitar to embellish simple open chord shapes as they are moved here and there on the neck.
You’ll want to take a moment or two to familiarize yourself with these chords:
For our arrangement of “Crazy Love,” we’ll be embellishing the A, C#m, and Bm to Aadd9, C#m7, and Bm(add11)/D. And, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just use the regular chord names in our music notation and tablature examples. Making smooth transitions with these chords is fairly easy if you do yourself a favor and keep your ring finger on the D string throughout each change. For the “A” (which is really an Aadd9), use your ring finger for the seventh fret of the D string and your middle finger for the sixth fret of the G string. To change from the “A” to the “C#m” (really a C#m7), pick your middle finger off the string while shifting your ring finger down a fret so it rests at the sixth fret of the D string. Use your index finger to play the C# note at the fourth fret of the A string and your pinky to play the C# note at the sixth fret of the G string. Now when you change from this “C#m” to “Bm” (which is really a Bm(add11)/D) all you have to do is shift each finger up one fret. Your index finger will be at the fifth fret of the A string while your ring finger (still on the D string) and pinky (still on the G string) will both be at the seventh fret.
Once you’ve got the hang of changing these chords, you’ve got some choices. You can, if you’d like, simply strum the verses using these chord forms. That will sound perfectly fine. If you’d like some other options, here are three different fingerstyle arpeggios you can use:
You’ll notice that the rhythm of each of these arpeggio patterns is very steady (Examples 1A and 1B are, in fact, the same) and you want to practice them so that you feel you can keep the rhythm smooth and even throughout the verses. You’ll also note that even though there’s a lot going on, the patterns, with their use of open strings, give a light and airy feel to the accompaniment, which is precisely what we’re looking for.
Again, if you want to you can simply play any of these patterns for the verses of “Crazy Love.” Or you can “mix and match” them, if you will, playing 1A for the first line, 1B for the second line, or however you see fit. You can even mix them into straight strumming.
And you don’t have to stick to just these particular finger picking patterns, either. For the last part of this first MP3 audio file, you’ll hear me taking a number of liberties with the picking. Once you’re comfortable with making the chord changes (which is why we started with those!) you’ll find yourself able to play each chord a little differently from the others and since you get four passes of this chord progression in each verse, not to mention three verses in the song, you are likely to sound a little different each time, which is precisely what you want to do as a guitarist unless, of course, you’re being paid big bucks to play in a Van Morrison tribute band.
We’re going to be coming back to this verse chord progression a little later in order to make playing it even more interesting. For time being, though, let’s move on and tackle the chorus. Believe it or not, we’re going to make use of a descending bassline, just as we did in lessons like “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and “Friend of the Devil,” both of which used walking basslines in the key of G.
Since “Crazy Love” is in A, we have a bit of adjusting to do, but the idea is still the same. The first and third measures of the chorus run through the chords A, C#m, F#m, and A again before starting the second and fourth measures with a D chord. If you think in terms of the A major scale (which has the notes A, B, C#, D, E, F#, and G#) you may realize that the easiest way to get from the A at the start of the first measure to the D at the start of the second measure in four beats is simply by going backwards through the A major scale:
- A is root note of A (the first of the four chords)
- G# is the fifth of C#m (the second chord in the progression)
- F# is the root note of F#m (the third chord in the progression)
- E is the fifth of A (the fourth chord in the progression)
- D is the root note of D (the fifth chord in the progression)
And you also may not realize it, but the Aadd9 we’ve been using in the verses lend itself very nicely to walking through the first three chords. Take a look at these chord shapes:
Here’s how these chord shapes turn into easy and elegant sounding arpeggios for the first line of the chorus:
If you play the first chord as you’ve been doing earlier, that is with your ring finger on the seventh fret of the D string and your middle finger on the sixth fret of the G string, then you will simply replace the ring finger with the index finger on the sixth fret of the D string to play the second chord in this example. For the third chord, you’ll slide the index finger down to the fourth fret of the D string and use your pinky or ring finger to play the C# note at the sixth fret of the G string. Finally, for the last A chord, slide your index finger down to the second fret of the D string and use your middle finger to get the note at the second fret of the G string.
Transitioning to the D chord from this point should be fairly easy, but then we’re going to shift the whole D chord up two frets to turn it into an E chord. This shifting of a whole chord form is something we’ve discussed before in tutorial articles such as “Moving On Up” and have used in song lessons such as “Man on the Moon” (using a C chord) and “Brain Damage” (using a D as we are doing here).
Note that you want to clear your fingers off the neck so that you can play an open high E string to end the second measure. This will allow you to shift your fingers to be ready for the second line of the chorus, which we’ll play in “pinches,” using the note of the open A string as a “pedal point” (a constant and repeated note) in the bass. Here are the chord forms you’ll be using:
The reason for using this set of chord voicings is to add a harmony (played on the high E string) to the notes of the descending bassline, which still runs from A to G# to F# to E on the D string. The first three notes of this harmony line(C#, B, and A – all played on the high E string) are the same notes as the melody line of the chorus, which can be a help to the singer. Using G# with the final A chord (which creates an Amaj7, by the way) makes sense because the final note of this harmony line will be F#, which is the third of the D chord that starts the second measure.
Here are two different ways to play the second line of the chorus:
The only difference between these two patterns is the use of the open B string in Example 3B, which provides a little more motion in the rhythm and gives each chord a little more complexity. Since you’re going to be playing the chorus four total times in the song, it’s good to have a slight variation to fall back on.
You might find it easiest to play these pairs with your index finger fretting whatever notes are on the D string while your pinky handles the notes on the high E string. This sets you up nicely to play your D at the start of the final measure by barring your index finger across the three thinnest strings at the second fret while your middle finger gets the D note at the third fret of the B string. Forming your D in this position allows you to easily reach the A note at the fifth fret of the high E string and then all you need do for the final A chord is pick up your middle finger, since your index finger will be on the C# note at the second fret of the B string.
You’ll also note that I finish the MP3 audio file for Examples 3A and 3B by playing the whole four measures of the chorus, going from Example 2 to Example 3A. It’s essential to be comfortable playing the whole chorus even though you’ve learned it in two separate parts. Take the time to make sure you can make smooth and seamless transitions between the first line of the chorus (Example 2) and the second line (either Example 3A or 3B).
And always remember that one of the easiest things you can do to become more creative in your accompaniment is to simply change things up slightly in terms of picking or rhythm. You heard how that was possible in the verses in the MP3 file that accompanied Examples 1A, 1B, and 1C. In the final MP3 of this lesson you’ll also hear it done with the choruses. Don’t wonder about how to copy exactly what’s played. Focus instead on all the variations you are capable of playing once you are comfortable enough with the chord changes.
Making More of the Verses
If you listen to the original recording of “Crazy Love,” you can hear that John Platania’s guitar part is very spare, alternating between melodic single note fills and the occasional strummed chord or two. Because our single-guitar arrangement doesn’t have the luxury of relying on other instruments to keep the rhythm steady for us, we’re going to do our best to combine some of John’s ideas with the steady rhythmic pulse we’ve been practicing to create a more interesting take on the verses.
Let’s look at a whole verse, broken up into the four phrases of each line of lyric, which are played one by one at a very slow pace on the MP3 file:
Giving the tablature a quick glance, you’ll realize that you have some new chord forms to work on. Let’s take a look at the four that show up in the “first phrase” of the verseh fret of the B string) in each of the four chords of the verse, creating some pleasant musical tension before resolving as the root note of the A chord at the end of the phrase:
The “first phrase” starts out by playing the Aadd9 with your index finger on the fifth fret of the A string. This same A note shows up again (albeit at the tenth fret of the B string) in each of the four chords of the verse, creating some pleasant musical tension before resolving as the root note of the A chord at the end of the phrase.
Begin by playing the Aadd9 as an arpeggio. Aside from adding your index finger to the first fret of the high E string (as we just mentioned), you’ll still want your ring finger on the seventh fret of the D string and your middle finger on the sixth fret of the B string. After playing the open B string of the first arpeggio, slide your ring finger up to the eleventh fret of the D string and then use either your middle finger or index finger to fret the A note at the tenth fret of the B string. This will get you through the C#m arpeggio that completes the first measure.
You can play the next arpeggio, the Bm/D, with either your ring finger on the G string and your middle finger on the B string or with your middle finger on the G string and your first finger on the B string. It’s truly not a matter of which is right as much as it is a matter of how easily will you be able to for the A chord (which is played as an open-position D shape) that follows. That’s going to be the big challenge of the “first phrase” so try out different ways of getting there. It shouldn’t be all that difficult as you can probably play a regular D chord from any chord you choose down along the first four frets of the guitar. Just think of this shift as you would forming a regular D chord and you’ll be fine. Don’t make the Bm/D to A more than it really is!
You’ll undoubtedly form the D-shaped A with your index finger on the ninth fret of the G string, your ring finger on the tenth fret of the B string and your middle finger on the ninth fret of the high E. Keep these fingers in place while dropping your pinky onto the tenth fret of the high E string to play the D note, then pull it off to sound the C# note at the ninth fret (where your middle finger should still be sitting!). After playing the tenth fret of the B string (with your ring finger that is sitting there) and the ninth fret of the G string, slide your index finger down to the seventh fret of the G string and then down one more fret to the sixth fret. Add either your middle or ring finger to the seventh fret of the D string and you’re good to start the “second phrase.”
The “second phrase” begins with a lot of space, music-wise. The A and C#m chords are played as fully strummed chords on the second beat (the A chord) and fourth beat (the C#m chord) of the first measure after a pair of single eighth notes (played on the G and D strings) that are picked on the first and third beats. With all the practice you’ve had at changing between our Aadd9 and C#m7 chords by this point, you should handle this first measure of the “second phrase” fairly well.
The Bm/D that start the second measure of the “second phrase” is a new chord form but it also probably the easiest one you’ve done yet. Here it is, along with two other new chord shapes you’ll be running into in the “fourth phrase” later on:
All you need to do here is to lay your index finger across the three thinnest strings at the seventh fret. As you do so, also add your pinky (or your ring finger if you prefer) to the ninth fret of the high E string to perform the pull-off before switching back to the “first phrase” version of the Aadd9 that has your index finger on the fifth fret of the high E string. This switch, from the “second phrase” Bm/D to the “first phrase” A is one of the trickiest ones you’ve done in this arrangement, so don’t worry if it takes a bit more practice than some of the chord changes you’re already playing quite nicely. With some concentrated effort and repetition, you’ll be making this shift in chords fairly easily.
And to reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve done with these first two phrases, the “third phrase” is simply a repeat of Example 1B. You can, of course, use any of the three options you’ve played in Example 1 or come up with your own variations. The point is to enjoy yourself with something you’re confident about playing before starting the “fourth phrase.”
The A chord that starts the “fourth phrase” is based on the second A chord of the “first phrase,” the D-shaped A chord at the ninth and tenth frets. To play this one, though, you may find it easiest to use your index finger for the note at the ninth fret of the G string and your middle finger for the note at the tenth fret of the B string. This allows your pinky to get the note at the twelfth fret of the high E string and to stay there as you lay your index finger flat across the ninth fret to change over to the C#m chord. Notice that you also get an open high E string at the end of the first measure to help you make a smooth shift of your index finger back to the seventh fret of the high E string for the Bm/D chord you played in the “second phrase.” And the whole verse concludes with one last strum of the “first phrase” A chord (the Aadd9 with the index finger on the fifth fret of the high E string) and then you can move along to the chorus, which you already know!
And that just leaves the bridge to deal with. As mentioned earlier, the bridge is eight measures long and the first two measures are repeated in measures three and four. So let’s take a look at those first two:
Here you’ll find just simple open position E, D, and A chords. The E is played in the same rhythmic arpeggio as much of the rest of the song while the D and A chords are simply strummed. To give the D a little more interest, you get to play a Dsus2 (open position D chord with the high E string open) on the fourth beat of the first measure. And you also get a little fill that mimics the repeated “I need her” of the backing vocals. Use your pinky to get the fourth fret of the D string while keeping the A chord in place.
The last four measures of the bridge start out the same as the first two, but then you’re going to run into three new chord forms:
And here’s how you’ll work them into the music:
Start with the same E arpeggio and strummed D and A as you used in Example 5. Then strum an Asus2, which is an open positing A chord with the B string left open. If you use your middle finger on the second fret of the D string and your ring finger on the second fret of the G string, this will free up your index finger to get the F# note at the second fret of the low E string to turn this Asus2 into an F#m7. Then slide those fingers up to the seven fret but take your middle finger off the D string and you’ll have your Bm.
To change from Bm to this new E7, keep your ring finger in place at the seventh fret of the G string and add your middle finger to the seventh fret of the A string while shifting your index finger to the sixth fret of the D string. You now have lots of simple options when it comes to the final change of A and back to E7. The easiest is probably just to shift your index and middle fingers to the appropriate strings.
And that’s all the pieces of “Crazy Love.” Let’s put it all together, shall we?
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this song lesson. “Crazy Love” is a wonderful song to play and working out your own arrangement, as you’ve read and heard, isn’t all that hard to do. It’s certainly bound to improve your sense of musicality when it comes to being an accompanist, whether for someone else or for when you do your own singing.
As always, please feel free to post any and all questions, comments and suggestions either right here on this lesson page or on our Forum Pages (we’ve got one dedicated specifically to Guitar Noise Song Lessons, by the bye!). You can also choose to email me directly at email@example.com if you’d like.
And, again as always, until our next lesson,
John Platania, who played the single guitar part heard in the original recording of “Crazy Love” back in 19 was part of Van Morrison’s touring band during the singer’s 2007-2008 World Tour. As a session guitarist, John has worked with artists such as Randy Newman, Judy Collins, Bonnie Raitt, and Chip Taylor (writer of “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning”). And while John toured with Don McLean for each of the singer’s tours from 1981 through 1996, he’s never done any studio work for the “American Pie” songwriter.