How to play “Down by the River” by Milky Chance

In this guitar tutorial, you will learn how to play “Down By the River” by Milky Chance. This song was released as the second single from their debut album Sadnecessary.

This album made the German duo known worldwide. It featured two major hits: “Down by the River” and “Stolen Dance”. “Down by the River” was written and produced by the duo themselves and released to great success in March of 2014. In addition, the song was also featured on the soundtrack for the immensely popular video game FIFA 15. No wonder it was so successful! Here’s how to play “Down by the River” by Milky Chance. 


Firstly, we need to address the harmony. In other words, let’s start with the chords. “Down by the River” features a very simple chord progression with easy chords. Additionally, the progression remains the same throughout the song. Yup, this is an easy song, pal. But before we get started, tune-up with a good tuner. Keep in mind that we are in standard tuning (E, B, G, D, A, E). The chords are F#m, A, E, Bm. You’re gonna play them in that order. 

Diving into the chords

These are basic chords, however, let’s quickly review how they are played and fingered. For the F#m, you’re gonna bar on the second fret with your index finger. Then place your ring and pinky fingers at the fourth fret on the fifth and fourth string respectively. For the A chord, bar your index on the fifth fret. Place your middle finger on the third string, sixth fret, and your pinky on the fourth string, seventh fret. Lastly, place your ring finger on the fifth string, seventh fret. For the E chord, place your index on the third string, first fret. Then place your middle finger on the fifth string, second fret, and your ring finger on the fourth string second fret. Finally, for the Bm, bar the second fret with your index finger. Then place your middle finger on the second string, third fret; the middle finger on the fourth string, fourth fret, and the pinky right below it. 

Strumming pattern 

The strumming pattern for “Down by the River” is a fun one. You’re gonna pluck the bass note of each chord with your thumb, followed by your index and your middle finger on the fourth and third string respectively. Pluck each note individually. In other words, pluck the bass note (sixth string), then the fourth (index finger) and third string (middle finger), separately. Once you have that down you can do the variation which is basically a rapid up-and-down strum movement of only your thumb. Remember to move to the fifth string bass and third and second string with your index and middle finger for your Bm chord. There is also a part where you have to hold the Bm chord for two bars. That happens after you go four times around the progression. 

Make sure you listen to the song a few times before you try to play it on the guitar. Listening is often the best teacher. Furthermore, you need to develop your ear. And there is no better way to do that than by listening deliberately. Once you have a basic grasp on the form, pick up your guitar and start playing along. Use this tutorial of “Down by the River” by Milky Chance along with the video. With some focus, you will be playing this song in no time, and have it as another one for your repertoire. Feel free to leave us a comment on which songs you’d like to learn.