Love The One You’re With – Stephen Stills

Stephen Stills

I am hoping that some of you have read my last column, Moving On Up. In today’s lesson, yet another (very) old chestnut from the early seventies, we’ll be seeing practical applications of the chord shapes learned there. For good measure, we’ll toss in a few (very) easy fills and then also look at how we’d play it in Drop D tuning. Sound okay?

Shall we also get the other “usual” stuff out of the. way as well? Yes, there are (many) other ways to play this song. Yes, I’m sure that this will cause lots of people to exclaim, “That’s not the right way!!” Yes, I still don’t care about all that. As I said just a paragraph or so ago, this lesson is meant to show you a way to use moveable chords so that you can go on to use them yourself.

This is from one of Stephen Stills’ early solo works. Possibly his first but I cannot tell you that for sure. While I have a lot of dates and chords and numbers in my head, I still do not trust my ability to keep them straight.


All right, then. We’re going to play this song in the key of D major, for reasons which will (hopefully) become apparent as we progress. There are only four chords in the song. In this key, they are D, G, C and A. Technically speaking, there is a Cmaj9 (a C major chord with B and D added) which is used in the OUTRO, but you’ll see that it is so easy to play you’ll laugh at me for calling it a chord.

The major hook of this song is the four measure D – G – D – C – D progression that makes up the introduction and verses. It is a matter of both rhythm and chord voicings. Let’s look at the rhythm first. Before delving into the somewhat harder stuff, we should get the main pattern down pat. You will find that most complicated rhythm patterns are minor variations of simple ones, so if you nail down the simple one, you’re halfway there! And here’s the simple one:

Takedown Notice

Remember that when faced with something that seems difficult, fall back to the easiest ground possible. For me, that is thinking of four downstrokes to make up the four beats of a measure. Then, I add up strokes on the offbeats (the “ands” if you count it “one and two and three and four and…”) so that I am playing straight eighth notes. Then I start taking things out. It’s almost become second nature for me to kick out the first offbeat. On the second beat I do a downstroke while muting the strings with my strumming hand and then I come back with an upstroke on the second offbeat followed by an immediate downstroke on the third beat. Repeating this process gives me a driving rhythm guitar part, which sounds very strong when you play it quickly. And this is a fast song! But please, please, please, remember to start out as slowly as you have to in order to get things right. The strummed chords (in capitals) will almost seem like a train going down a track when played with the silent or muted strokes (in parentheses) – “ONE (and two) AND THREE (and four) AND ONE (and two) AND THREE (and four) AND…”

If you’re still not sure that you’ve got it right, try this: without your guitar, tap out the rhythm on your knees. Use your strumming hand to beat the fully strummed beats and offbeats on one leg and your other hand (on your other leg) to quietly tap out the silent or muted ones. When you have it safely and securely fixed into your head, then try it out with the guitar. First only play it with one chord (D would be a good choice) and really get the feel of it before you try to do it while changing chords. This may seem like a lot of overkill, but when you think about it, anytime you’re playing the guitar there is a lot going on. Rather than let yourself feel overwhelmed or get frustrated, break things down into smaller parts that you can deal with before trying to tackle the whole thing at once.

Once you are confident with this rhythm, then try this one:

Because this rhythm is a little more complicated, I usually hit everything from the third beat onward with upstrokes. For me, I now know to pay more attention to what I’m doing because I’ve broken out of my normal down/up every eighth note pattern. The first three beats are actually quite easy when I stop to analyze it. A full downstroke on the first beat followed by a palm muted downstroke on the second beat followed by a full upstroke on the third beat. The fourth beat also gets a full upstroke. Then things look a little strange, right? Well, again, remember that everything can be slowed down and taken apart. That is up to you. Just as we’ve learned to divide our quarter notes into two eight notes, we can then split them into four sixteenth notes:

Quarter notes - one beat each
Eighth notes - one half of a beat each
Sixteenth notes - one quarter of a beat each

The dot after the eighth note on the fourth beat indicates, as all dots do, that we are to hold it for the length of an eighth and a sixteenth. So the note we finally play, again using a full upstroke, occurs on the last half of the “and” as we are counting it. By the way, sometime early next month I should finally have finished Part II of the Guide To Reading Music Notation, which will deal with measures and timing so hopefully this will all begin to make sense to you.

Now, when you are ready to do so, it’s time to put the two rhythms together, like this:

Again, first do this playing one single chord and strumming at a tempo that allows you to do it correctly. I know you probably get tired of me saying this, but I can assure you it will always be to your benefit. When you are confident about your rhythm, then you’ll find that dealing with weird chord voicings is not anywhere near as traumatic as you might think.

Chords And Chorus

In fact, we’re probably going to breeze through this section! As I said earlier, the verses consist of a D – G – D – C – D progression. But this progression will be played with only two chord shapes:

Better yet, the way the rhythm of the song is structured, you have built in time to make the moves up and down the neck! You’d think someone planned it that way!

You can see how this is going to work. The first beat is on a regular first position D chord. Then you slide the entire chord shape from the second and third frets up to the seventh and eighth frets, where it becomes a G chord with the D in the bass. On the next measure we’re back to the D chord again, but this time it is a D chord in the A shape. I finger this with my index finger on the high E (1st) string, ring finger on the B string and middle finger on the G string.

Being a D major chord, you can feel free to bang away on the open D and A strings. With these particular chord voicings in the key of D, the open ringing D and A strings serve as a drone and give you all the bass you need.

In the third measure, we are still playing our D chord, which is still in the A shape. We then shift the whole shape down two frets where the chord becomes a C/D (C major with D in the bass) and then come right back to original first position D at the start of measure four. This is pretty much the hard part of the song! Nothing to it, right?

Like everything we’ve done, take your time practicing this before working it up to speed. If you are using the upstrokes I showed you in the rhythm for the first and third measures, you should find the chord transitions pretty smooth and also that you have more control over the ringing D and A strings because you’re coming from the bottom up.

And when you get to the chorus, you’ll find it dull in comparison! Mere D, A and G chords in first position? Well, to make it a tad more interesting, I threw in some very easy fills on the second measure of the G:

Fill #1 starts with your hand holding the G chord. Strike the G note in the bass (3rd fret on the 6th string) and then remove your index finger so that you can strike the open A string. Now use your index finger to hammer on the second fret to get the B note. Repeat this process of using the index finger as a hammer on the second fret on the D and then G strings. Finish off the final hammer on the G string with a pick off back to the open G.

The second fill is just the opposite. Again, starting with the G chord, use whatever finger you use to fret the G (3rd fret) on the first string and pick off to the open E. Then use that same finger to pick off from the D note (3rd fret on the B string) to the open B. Go back to your trusty index finger for the final two pick offs.

Now, you may find these to be pretty simple, too, but there’s a method to my madness. You should notice that both of these fills are easy to perform if you keep your hands in the open G shape when you play them. This is an important thing to remember – the less work you have to do, the more you will be able to do. If you get comfortable finding riffs wherever your hands happen to be, you’ll find yourself always playing something instead of just sitting on the chord. This makes for interesting moments and is essentially how a lot of people develop their own style.

And this is also something we’re going to be covering in the next few lessons!

The Extras

There is an outro. In the original recording, this is also played immediately after the second chorus and before an instrumental chorus. So structure-wise, Love The One You’re With looks like this:

  • 1st VERSE
  • 2nd VERSE
  • 3rd VERSE

The outro basically consists of a measure and a half (six beats) of C alternating with Cmaj9. Now, before you start thinking you don’t want to learn a complex chord like that, take a look:

How much easier can it be? Play a C chord and then simply remove your index and middle fingers. Presto! Cmaj9. I told you that you’d laugh. For the final D, I like to use this chord voicing:

And here’s the finished product:

Okay, now if you want to have some more fun with this, try it in Drop D tuning. To get this, you tune the low E (6th) string down one whole step to D. Now play the verses the same way, same chord shapes and all but with one difference – you can play your 6th string at will! Just listen to how much more oomph you get from your guitar when you play these chords! And, man, you should really try this on a twelve string!

In Drop D, though, you will run into a little trouble on the chorus. These are two ways to play the G chord:

If you use the second form, you should have no trouble with the fills (although the first note of the first fill will now be a D instead of a G). Using the first G chord, you are going to lose a step in the transition and should just start the riff one note later. It’s no big deal either way.

When I play the A and C chords (and the two C chords in the outro as well) in Drop D tuning, I usually mute the 6th string by grabbing it with the tip of my thumb. Not the most gracious of techniques, but it works!

I hope that you enjoy this lesson and that it gives you more of an understanding of the chord shapes we discussed in Moving On Up. Next time out we’ll not only look at more of these shapes, but we’ll also start to examine single note riffs used in songs. It’ll be a little different from our past lessons in that we’ll look at a number of songs, not just one.

And, as always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments, concerns or songs (and/or riffs and solos) you’d like to see discussed in future pieces. You can either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email me directly at [email protected].

Until next lesson…