Gimme Shelter Guitar Lesson – The Rolling Stones

When "Gimme Shelter" was released in 1969 off of The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed album, the Vietnam War was in full swing and The Rolling Stones wanted to make their own protest song. So Mick Jagger and Keith Richards set out to write this legendary track.

"Gimme Shelter" was never released as a single but has still become known as perhaps The Stones' greatest work.

In this Gimme Shelter guitar lesson, I will show you how to play all the chords to this rock classic. Guitarist Keith Richards' rhythm guitar style is very unique and will provide some nice challenges for the player that is unfamiliar with his playing style.

You will need to tune your guitar to "Open E" in order to play all of the chords of this Stones classic. Starting from the 6th string, tune your guitar to E B E G# B E. Keith Richards employs open tunings throughout a lot of The Rolling Stones' repertoire to great effect. He is a true master out of conjuring interesting guitar riffs that are rich in detail.

The lesson opens with me performing the lengthy guitar intro. This section can seem very complex, but in reality it is based around a few basic chord shapes. These chord shapes are made possible and relatively easy to perform because of the open tuning.

Like I mention in the video lesson, it is important not to get too hung up on trying to recreate each note of every riff exactly like the original recording. Keith Richards never plays it the same way twice so why should you have to? To recreate it make sure you understand the chords all of the melodic content is based around and stay in that steady 8th note groove and everything will sound fine.

As the full band begins to play and the verse section enters, the feel of the music becomes much looser. Once again everything is based around some simple chords and the most important thing here is locking into the groove and recreating that loose rhythmic feel that Keith Richards is so well known for.

The chorus has a much more precise feel about it that repeats in a pretty consistent manner. It is also probably the easiest part of the song to consistently recreate due to this fact. However, you will have to play some quicker 16th notes strums during the chorus to help propel this more energetic section of the song.

During the second verse the rhythm approach used by Keith Richards is also a lot more consistent than during the first verse. I will demonstrate this second verse as well and you should aim to play it the same way every time throughout the rest of the song. 🙂

Well I hope you enjoy learning this classic rock masterpiece by The Rolling Stones!


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Gimme Shelter Guitar Lesson - The Rolling Stones


  1. Kerry on April 14, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Excellent lesson. I love finding out which alternate tunings Keith used on all of the different Stones songs. Thanks Carl!

  2. Kerry on April 14, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Oops. Forgot to ask… will you be doing Mick Taylor’s part in the future?

    • Carl Brown on April 15, 2015 at 11:51 am

      I may do the solo if enough people want to see that. But it will be a looonngg lesson. 🙂

      • Michael Ford on August 6, 2018 at 6:17 am

        This is one of my all-time favorite songs. I’d love to see you do a lesson on it!

        • Michael Ford on August 6, 2018 at 6:19 am

          solo lesson, that is!

  3. JoeVance Upton on January 30, 2016 at 5:38 am

    I enjoyed the lesson I have to get my timing down and speed together going to regroup and do over about 100 times whatever it takes and look and see if you have it where I can play along with you the whole song if possible would be great if you have any thing like that thanks for the help

  4. george kerr on March 8, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Please do the solo.

  5. Natalie on January 15, 2017 at 9:05 am

    Hi everybody,
    does anybody have problems with his hands too? I feel my strength is not enough to do these bars… I have 10-46 strings with medium action, normally I can do barrees quite well but it feels the low strings have much more tension when tuned up that way.. makes this song uncomfortable to play. I would like to hear if anyone has the same problems. Maybe I just need thinner strings.
    Cheers Natalie

    • Carl Brown on January 16, 2017 at 9:39 am

      Hey Natalie, going down to 9-42 gauge will certainly help.

      Depending on the model of guitar you are playing, the scale length of the guitar (distance from bridge to nut) could be a little on the long side which makes the string tension higher.

      Also, if the guitar ism’t properly set up, the strings could be too high off the fretboard, usually referred to as having too high of string action. Lowering the strings will help a lot.

      Those setup adjustments should be pretty cheap to have done with a good repair guy. 🙂


  6. Natalie on January 23, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Hey Carl,
    I play a german Framus which has a prs-type length I believe.
    Thanks for your good tipps. Fortunately I do setups on all my guitars myself – so I tried tighten the neck and lowering the action a little and it’s already become much better without buzzing. (it’s still not too easy though so next time I may try 9-42 ;-)… Really appreciate your help, Natalie

  7. george kerr on March 30, 2017 at 10:38 am

    Thanks as always for the lesson. I hope you will do the solo. How about doing some songs from either Get yer Ya’s Ya’s Out or Exile on Main Street.

  8. Michael on June 12, 2023 at 5:22 pm

    Hey Carl,

    Any chance you will be doing the solo to this? I know it would be a long lesson.

  9. Michael Saunders on June 20, 2023 at 6:27 pm

    Hey Carl. I know you did this video a while ago. Any chance you will be doing the lead parts?

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