Tips & Tricks to Master Bruce Springsteen's Guitar Techniques

If you want to learn how to play Bruce Springsteen's music on guitar, check out these tips and tricks!

Bruice Springsteen Guitar Techniques

Bruce Springsteen is a New Jersey native who became an iconic rock artist in between the 1970s and 1980s. Throughout his career, he created 20 albums and amassed numerous Grammy awards. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of heartland rock. He was often referred to as "The Boss" because of his songwriting and guitar playing prowess. Music artists continue to emulate his style today. To master Bruce Springsteen on guitar, here are some tips and tricks to master.

Basic Music Theory to Grasp the Bruce Springsteen Guitar Technique

Before trying to conquer Bruce Springsteen on guitar, you should become proficient in guitar theory basics.

Guitar Scales 

A scale is a set of seven musical notes. There are two general types of scales.

  • Major scales: These scales typically have a happy sound. They are characterized by having a “major third,” which is a musical interval that spans two whole steps or four semitones.
  • Minor scales: These scales usually have a somber sound. They never contain a major third. 

There are major and minor scales that share the same set of notes. These pairs are called relative scales. The relative minor of a major key starts on the sixth note of its relative major scale. For example, the relative minor scale of the C major scale is A minor because A is the sixth note in the C major scale.

You should learn to play the following two scales to start conquering Bruce Springsteen chords.

  • E Major: This scale has four sharps. The notes in this scale include E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, and D#. Note that the relative minor for this scale is C# minor. His top song, "Born To Run," is written in E Major, which can be described as sounding joyous and triumphant.
  • G Major: This scale only has one sharp. The notes in this scale are G, A, B, C, D, E, and F#. Note that the relative minor for this scale is E minor. Bruce's song, "The River," is written in G major, which can be used to evoke a calm mood. 

Many of Springsteen's songs have several key changes. Knowing how to play the scales and understanding the relative pairs will help you to learn each of his songs more quickly.

Chord Construction

A chord is typically created from the first, third, and fifth notes of a scale. For example, if you use the C major scale, a C major chord is composed of the notes C, E, and G. The root note of a chord can begin on any note within a scale. Each root note delivers a different chord type.

  • Major chords: The root note starts on notes 1, 4, or 5.
  • Minor chords: The root note starts on notes 2, 3, or 6.
  • Diminished chords: The root note starts on note 7. 

To continue with the C major scale, the major chords in this key are C, F, and G. The minor chords are D, E, and A, and the diminished chord is B. Understanding the barebones behind building chord triads will help you to flesh out your repertoire of Springsteen chords.

Chord Box Tips for Playing Springsteen on Guitar

When you come across guitar tabs, a string of chord boxes is often displayed at the top of the sheet music. These chord boxes give you a bird’s eye view of all the chords within a particular song. Knowing how to interpret these diagrams will bring you closer to playing Bruce Springsteen on guitar.

A chord box tab is created with five horizontal lines and six vertical lines. The horizontal lines represent the frets and the vertical lines represent the strings. The six strings match with the fretboard of your guitar and represent the notes E, A, D, G, B, and E, from the bottom to the top.

Within the chord box, you will see the following symbols:

  • Black dots: These dots indicate where to place your fingers on the frets. 
  • Open circles: These indicate open notes. 
  • X's: The letter X indicates what is not played during a particular chord.
  • Curved lines: These lines indicate when you need to play multiple notes simultaneously. 
  • Numbers: Numbers indicate which finger to use to play the notes. The index finger is 1, the middle finger is 2, and the ring finger is 3. 

There are several other ways that guitar tabs are composed but understanding how chord boxes work is the quickest way to master the general sound of a Springsteen song.

Springsteen Chords to Sound like the Boss

Bruce Springsteen’s guitar tone is known for being unique and is described as being a “wall of sound.” The following chords demonstrate how he transformed chords into something more Boss-like.

E5 Chord

The E5 power chord is usually played with only one finger. An easy way to play this chord is with the index finger on the 5th string, 2nd fret. In the song, “I’m on Fire,” the E5 power chord is played with an additional B note on the 4th fret of the G string. This extra note lends a melodic sound to this chord.

C# Minor Chord

To play this chord you have to press your first finger down from the 1st to the 5th string at the 3rd fret, put your second finger on 4th fret of the second string, put your third finger on the 5th fret of the 4th string, and put your fourth finger on the 5th fret of the 3rd string. In “Dancing in the Dark,” you would play this chord similarly, except you would play the 4th fret of the high E open. This gives the high E a subtle chorus effect.

Your Go-To Source for Sheet Music of Springsteen Chords

At Musicnotes, we proudly carry a database of over 400,000 unique arrangements of sheet music. With our digital downloads, you can learn to play Bruce Springsteen on guitar on the go or at home. To shop Bruce Springsteen's arrangements, click here.