Tom Sawyer Guitar Lesson – Rush

In this Tom Sawyer guitar lesson video, I will show you how to play all of this Rush classic on the guitar.

Guitarist Alex Lifeson uses some unique chord voicings along with some tricky riffs throughout this rock masterpiece. His solo was improvised through 5 different takes. The final solo that appears on the record is a combination of the best parts of each of those takes.

The guitar enters with a layered guitar riff. The way I will teach it in the lesson is the way Alex Lifeson plays "Tom Sawyer" live. The chords create a very full and rich texture throughout the into and verse.

After the verse we get to what I believe is probably the hardest part of the song. The pre-chorus consists of a tricky riff that requires you to accent an ascending and descending bass line while arpeggiating chords on top. I will break down this section in detail so you will know how to approach it and make it sound like the album.

The chorus section is by far the easiest part to play of the entire song. It consists of just basic chords throughout.

There is a quick little musical interlude section that is dominated by a keyboard melody that is eventually taken by the guitar an octave lower. Just for fun I have transcribed this keyboard melody on the guitar and of course Alex Lifeson's guitar riff that he uses to join the keyboards. The way Alex Lifeson fingered this riff requires some pretty quick shifting, but is very fun to play.

For the guitar solo, I will break down each phrase note-by-note which I feel is the best way to tackle it. There isn't anything overly difficult in the solo even though there are definitely small licks in there that were "winged" to quote Alex Lifeson. In a couple parts of the solo it can get a bit erratic and difficult to recreate, but for the most part it is a melodic solo that is easy to follow.

The final riff of the song consists of just two chords but the rhythm can be a bit tricky. However, if you can play the pre-chorus, you won't have much trouble with the outro riff.

Hope you guys enjoy learning this incredible rock classic from Rush!


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Tom Sawyer Guitar Lesson - Rush


  1. Frank Montalti on August 11, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks Carl!…love Rush….keep them coming

  2. Frank Montalti on November 7, 2016 at 7:34 am

    Hi Carl, Excellent lesson as usual. Could you create a lesson for Red Barchetta…its a big Rush fan favorite

  3. Ric59 on July 13, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    Great stuff…. Loved your Alex Lifeson comment regarding the solo…. so true!

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