Dan Zanes

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The Cuckoo Bird

Chords, Rhythm and Riffs

Dan Zanes Lesson >

The Cuckoo Bird > Chords, Rhythm and Riffs

Greetings My Fine Summer Strumming Friends! OK, we’re getting serious now with The Coo Coo Bird. I first heard this on a recording by Clarence Ashley which appeared in the mind bending compilation called The Anthology of American Folk Music on Folkways Records. He played it on banjo but it’s an awesome guitar song and as flexible as you want it to be. It’s fun to learn old time music the way the older cats played it and it’s satisfying to make it your own which is what we’re all about in this lesson. The song is in the key of Dm and rocks back and forth from a Dm to a C chord. Not too complex! The spice is really in the ways we play the chords and how we use the bass strings to create some interesting runs. This is social music and of course we’ll talk about how to sing this one with a group. There’s music to be made out there people!! The world needs you to get up and bring this joyous experience to our public spaces. Let me know how you’re doing…

Dan Zanes




Topics and/or subjects covered in this lesson:

Print Print Chords & Tab

Loop 0:00 Run-Through of Cuckoo Bird


Download the Sheet Music PDF


Loop 2:12  What You Will Learn Today

Loop 3:09 Chords, Riffs and Rhythm Breakdown

Loop 16:40 Using a Capo

Loop 22:00 Closing Thoughts

Loop 23:22 Practice Loop of Whole Song





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Patrick Oscarson
Patrick Oscarson Aug 18, 2019

Great song. Love the sound of that Guild guitar. What model/year is it? Thanks-Patrick

Dan Zanes
Dan Zanes Jan 19, 2020

Hey there Patrick....

Whoa! I apologize for the delay here. 

The Guild is an F-30 that I've had since I was 13. I believe it's from the late 60's. It was already used when I bought it. I think it's fair to say I'm a very happy Guild player...The cutaway that I play in other lessons was something I found in the trash (!) about 6 years ago...

Jay Jul 13, 2017

wow, great tune, nicely done. and thanks for the suggestion of listening to the anthology of american folk music. it's like a gold mine.

Dan Zanes
Dan Zanes Jul 26, 2017

thank you jay! yeah, that collection blew my mind when i first heard it. i was learning to play 5 string banjo at the time and it felt like i was given a pair of wings. in these days of spotify and the rest it's just so easy to get ahold of the music. the human elemant can get lost in the process though. one of my first impressions of sonic junction was that it took electronic media and used it to bring the idea of human connection BACK to the music....so, i'm glad we're all here!

tim james
tim james Jul 01, 2017


Dan Zanes
Dan Zanes Jul 03, 2017

thanks man! i'm glad you like it....this is such a flexible song. it seems like any key it was played in would conjure different flavors. i hope you're rocking with it...let me know!  thank you for tuning in!!

yr pal,


tim james
tim james Jul 04, 2017

i'm still working on 'rock island line' mate  ha ha, but i'll be on to this and the last 2 tunes soon, i'm busy with some of corey's stuff and harp stuff and this and that ha ha, cheers again Dan !!!

Dan Zanes
Dan Zanes Jul 26, 2017

ha! thanks tim.....i'm glad you like it.

talk about flexible music!! it's pretty much anything you want it to be.

that's the funny thing about recorded music, it's preserves the songs but it also can freeze certain versions and they become the standards.

i like that we unfreeze them as much as possible and make them our own. of course we need a few chops to do that!

it's good that we're all meeting at The Junction to get them together...

good luck, brother!

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