The Nightfly - Donald Fagen --------------------------- From the album "The Nightfly" Transcribed by Chris Davis [crdavis (dot) music (at) gmail (dot) com] and Howard Wright [hakwright (at) gmail (dot) com] Chris' Notes: ------------- What a song! This ranks high amongst other SD songs that sound harmonically reasonable, but are full of deceptive slash-chords and curveball voicings. The voicings, in particular, are tough to navigate on the guitar... fortunately, between the harmony instruments on the recording there is enough information to have a few different options for the trickier chords. I have indicated this where possible. In most cases, however, I have tried to retain the top notes of the voicing while keeping it playable on the guitar, something prevalent in Howard's transcribing philosophy. The verse harmony is dictated by the electric piano for the first three bars. It's a little tough to hear - in fact, I hadn't even noticed it until I sat down to transcribe this a few months ago! I'm pretty sure this is accurate, but any suggestions are welcome. The riff at the end of each chorus phrase contains a lick that, if the bass notes are included, is challenging to execute, but if one omits the bass notes, it actually lies really nicely on the guitar. The riff is tabbed out for clarity. Howard's notes -------------- For a song that's strongly keyboard-driven, with more than it's fair share of rich Fagen harmonies, and with some relatively fast-moving changes, it's a pleasant surprise that this track can work well in a single-guitar arrangement. The transcription that Chris sent me had already done most of the hard-work of figuring out chords and finding some great guitar- friendly voicings. It was a real pleasure to play it through! I've tweaked some chord shapes/names, and added some alternative voicings in places, but I don't think I would have even considered tackling a challenging song like this, so a huge thanks to Chris for sending me such a great transcription to work on. The bulk of the chord changes sit pretty comfortably on the guitar, but as Chris notes, there are a few riffs and phrases that move more quickly and are a little more challenging on just one guitar. Having another instrument support the bass parts for these sections, so the guitar can drop the bass notes to make it easier, might be the best solution. As with many Fagen and Steely Dan songs, many of the shapes use muted strings. In most cases you can use your fretting fingers to mute the strings, allowing you to strum the whole chord with a pick, but in a few places (e.g. the more minimal E7 E7sus4 changes in the chorus) several strings need to be muted. You'll need to use a different approach here (either finger picking to play only the required strings, or if using a pick, strike the bass note separately and a little earlier than the other strings). And what about those chord changes in the bridge section? Magnificent. Intro ----- Am9 A/B Cmaj7 Em7 Am/E Em7 Bm7/D Em/D Fmaj7 B7 Gmaj13 C9 Am7 Daug(add9) Verse ----- Gm6/9 G6/9 Gmaj7 G6 I'm Lester the Nightfly, hello Baton Rouge G13sus4 G9sus4 Am/E Em7 Won't you turn your radio down B7 Am6 Am7 Cmaj7 B7#9 Em7 Respect the seven second delay we use Dadd4 C Am11 G Bb/C F C/G G Daug(add9) The riff used here in the verse (and at the end of the verse) is: E------------------- B--3--1----0--5----- G--3--2-0--0--3----- D-----3-0h2---4----- A--3----------5----- E----------3-------- A slightly simplified version that works a little better on the guitar is: E-------------------| B--3--1-----0--5----| G--3--2-----0--3----| D-------0h2----4----| A--------------5----| E-------------------| Gm6/9 G6/9 Gmaj7 G6 So you say there's a race of men in the trees G13sus4 G9sus4 Am/E Em7 You're for tough legislation B7 Am6 Am7 Cmaj7 B7#9 Em7 thanks for calling I wait all night for calls like these Dadd4 C Am11 G Bb/C F C/G G Chorus ------ Am9 A/B Cmaj7 An independent station Em7 Am/E Em7 Bm7/D Em/D Fmaj7 W J A Z B7 Gmaj13 With jazz and conversation C7 A/B Em7 G/D From the foot of Mount Belzoni A/E Em7 F#7 B7#9b13 Sweet mu - sic tonight the night is mine E7 E7sus4 A13 Am13 Late line Esus2/G# Gmaj7 'Til the sun, 'til the C6/9 Gmaj7 C6/9 Gmaj7 C6/9 Sun comes through the skylight A13b9 C/D D/E Bm/A C/D Am7 Daug(add9) Verse 2 ------- I've got plenty of java and Chesterfield Kings But I feel like crying I wish I had a heart of ice; a heart like ice If you want your honey to look super swell, You must spring for that little blue jar Patton's kiss and tell - the kiss and tell Chorus 2 -------- Same as Chorus 1, with this variation on the ending: A13b9 C/D Am7 F#7b9 Bridge ------ F#/B F#7#9 You'd never believe it B13 Emaj6/7 But once there was a time D#7 Emaj6/7 When love was in my life Emaj6/7 Bmaj7 A#m11 D#7#9 G#m9 G#9 G#9sus4 B6/F# Amaj9 I sometimes wonder what happened to that flame? D#7 Emaj6/7 The answer's still the same G#m7 D#7#9 It was you, you G#/B Fm7 Emaj6/7 Gmaj7/A It was you D#m7 G#13b9 C#m9 E/F# Eb/F Tonight you're still on my mind Am7 Daug(add9) Guitar solo (over verse) ------------------------ Same chords as previous verses. Chorus 3 -------- Same as Chorus 1 but with more repetitions of C6/9 and Gmaj7 over the "sun comes through the skylight" line, and with different final chord. Given the synth effect on this last chord with all the notes bending upwards, it's hard to mimic on the guitar. The chord quality sounds like a 13b9, so try playing x05676. Chord Shapes ============= All chord shapes used are listed below (including alternative shapes), broken down by section. In some places, a chord is used several times in the section, but using different voicings; the different shapes are included below. For some chords, you have the option of playing a more compact 4-note chord (e.g. x6867x) or a slightly wider 5-note chord (e.g. x68676). It's down to personal preference which way you go, the suggestions here are mostly intended to give voicings that provide a smoother and stronger set of chord transitions, but feel free to vary the shapes if you wish. Intro (and first part of Chorus): --------------------------------- Am9 A/B Cmaj7 x 0 10 9 8 7 7x7655 x35453 You could also use 757655 (Bm9) for the A/B shape above. Em7 Am/E Bm7/D Em/D Fmaj7 0xx787 0 x x 9 10 8 xx0475 xx0453 xx3555 B7 Gmaj13 C9 Am7 Daug(add9) x2424x 3x445x x32333 x0555x x5435x Other options for the Gmaj13 chord above are 3x4455, or G6/9 xx5455, or the slightly darker-sounding xx5452 There are some slides (4ths) played on the guitar over the Gmaj13 and C9 chords but it's difficult to manage these while holding down the rest of the chord, so best to ignore these while playing solo. Verse: ------ Gm6/9 G6/9 Gmaj7 G6 G13sus4 G9sus4 xx5355 xx5455 xx5777 xx5757 3x3555 3x3535 You could leave out the top note from the last two shapes above to make them a little easier to play. An alternative for the G13sus4 chord is x 10 10 10 10 0 There isn't a very good option from this shape to change to the G9sus4 so you can just skip the change and hold the first shape for longer. Am/E Em7 B7 Am6 Am7 0 x 14 14 13 x 0 x 12 12 12 x x2x242 x0x575 x0x553 Cmaj7 B7#9 Em7 Dadd4 C x3545x x2123x 0x000x xx0773 x3x553 There's a hint of Cmaj7 in the last chord, so after Dadd4 you could play x3x453 Am11 G x0553x 3x543x Bb/C F C/G G Daug(add9) x3x33x xx321x 3x201x 3x000x x5435x As seen above in the transcription, the suggested way of playing this is fairly easy and helps retain the spirit of the riff. The trickiest part to pull off is the change to the C/G chord, but as in the suggested tab above, you can focus on the D and G strings for this change (hammering on from open D to E) to make it a little easier. The final riff leaves out the Daug(add9) chord. Chorus (2nd half, after "jazz and conversation") ------------------------------------------------ C7 A/B Em7 G/D A/E Em7 x35353 x2x220 0xx433 xx0787 0xx655 0xx433 F#7 B7#9b13 E7 E7sus4 A13 Am13 2x232x x21233 0xx13x 0xx23x x0567x x0557x Esus2/G# Gmaj7 C6/9 A13b9 C/D 4x445x 3x443x x32233 x05676 x5x553 You can also use a G/C shape (e.g. x3543x or 8xx787) in place of the C6/9 D/E Bm/A C/D Am7 Daug(add9) x7777x x0x432 x5x553 x0555x x5435x Second ending: Am7 F#7b9 x0555x xx4353 Bridge: ------- Bmaj7 F#7#9 B13 Emaj6/7 D#7 Emaj6/7 7x887x xx4355 7x789x x7x644 x6564x x7664x The first chord of the bridge probably also has a C# in it, so you could also play 7x867x. For the second Emaj6/7 (after "love was in my life"), the 2nd shape above gives a slightly tighter sound, but you could repeat the first shape. Emaj6/7 Bmaj7 A#m11 D#7#9 0x6644 x24342 6x664x x6567x G#m9 G#9 G#9sus4 B6/F# Amaj9 4x4446 4x4546 4x4646 x9x897 x06657 The B6/F# to Amaj9 sequence, in the keyboards, has D# F# G# B and C# E G# B voicings in the right hand, but there's no way to play this on guitar along with the bass note changes, so you have to drop a note from each chord. D#7 Emaj6/7 x6868x 0x6644 An alternative for the Emaj6/7 that captures the high voicing from the rhythm guitar part is 0 11 11 11 12 11 G#m7 D#7#9 G#/B Fm7 Emaj6/7 Gmaj7/A 4x444x x6567x 7xx898 x 8 10 8 9 x 0x6644 x05432 D#m7 G#13b9 C#m9 E/F# Eb/F Am7 Daug(add9) x68676 4x4565 x42440 2x2100 xx3343 x0555x x5435x For a slightly simpler shape, you could play F/G# 4xx565 instead of G#13b9Back to Steely Dan and Donald Fagen guitar tabs
Last updated: July 2020
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