How to play Paperback Writer by The Beatles

Primarily written by Paul McCartney and released in 1966, "Paperback Writer" was not only the only No.1 hit for The Beatles that year, but also proved to be a musical gem that has stood the test of time.

In this quick little video guitar lesson I will show you how to play Paperback Writer in just a few minutes.

I think the opening riff, which is revisited many times throughout the song, is one of the coolest guitar riffs The Beatles ever wrote. You simply can't get more catchy than that riff!

I am using a slightly distorted guitar tone, in standard tuning. The key to this main riff is to do a barre with your first finger across strings 4-6 on the 3rd fret.

You should let the notes of the riff ring together as much as possible. Pay special attention to the hammer-ons in the riff. In the first hammer-on, the timing of the two notes is as an 8th note just like the other notes of the riff. In the second hammer-on, the first note is a grace note, meaning that it is barely heard before the hammer-on. If you are having trouble understanding this don't worry, I will explain it in the video lesson more easily.

Also, be sure to take note of the slight variation of this riff played just before the last chorus. It is just a very small difference from the main riff, but I put it in the lesson for completeness sake. 🙂

So besides the main riff, we have the chords used during the verse. Pretty simple stuff here, since we stay put on a G major chord for most of the time.

The only difficulty that may arise here is with the large stretch with your little finger to reach the 7th fret. This classic Chuck Berry move helps give the riff a more driving feel, but does require quite a big reach on the guitar. If you can't get this under your fingers, don't worry about it too much. Simply strum the normal G major barre chord here and it will sound fine without that little Chuck Berry move.

We eventually leave the G major chord briefly and take that chord shape up to the 8th fret making it a C major chord.

When they are playing the C chord, they are kind of randomly shifting between a C major and a C7 chord. I will demonstrate how to easily do it in the video lesson.

So once again we have a great classic Beatles tune here that will take most players only a few minutes to learn, but will provide a lifetime of fun! Pretty good deal I think.. 🙂


If these free lessons help you, please donate to keep new ones coming daily. Thanks!! 🙂

Donate to GuitarLessons365
Other Amount:

How to play Paperback Writer by The Beatles


  1. Denis Rasikhov on January 3, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Cool! Your videos just awesome =) It would be great to see a lesson for “Falling Slowly” by Glen Hansard, or some of his popular songs. Just wanted to play it as he’s plays, but i didn’t found that anyone else is playing it properly. Hope you’ll think about it =)

  2. Tommy Rad on June 6, 2017 at 9:39 am

    Hey Carl: Back again. Was out for a while. Can you do “Oh Darling” from Beatles, by any chance. I know the cording is pretty strait forward but, I just wanted to see if I got the guitar right. Its the vocals that are nearly impossible.
    Tommy Rad.

    • Carl Brown on June 7, 2017 at 12:12 pm

      Great to have you back Tommy!

      I will check out that tune for you. Already have a couple other Beatles’ tunes coming in the next week or so though. 🙂

  3. Steve Knell on August 22, 2020 at 6:06 pm

    Great lesson Carl, thanks. This was the first song I ever purchased. Bought it on a 45 at a garage sale if you can believe that. A “lifetime of fun” for sure. What is he doing with the outro G Maj? I don’t think I hear the Chuck Berry move in the outro. Thanks!!!

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.