how to play i see fire

Today we’re going to learn how to play I See Fire by Ed Sheeran on guitar. This song was commissioned for the film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and placed in the closing credits.

Peter Jackson, the movie’s director, asked Sheeran to write it after a recommendation from his daughter, who had just seen the British singer-songwriter in concert. 

Interestingly, this film was the second part of a trilogy based on the novel The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. This was also the first book that Sheeran ever read, and he’s had a lifelong devotion to it. Once Sheeran accepted the invitation to write the song, he flew to New Zealand where he wrote it and recorded it in less than 48 hours. I See Fire became a worldwide hit and fit the film perfectly. Without further ado, here is how to play I See Fire by Ed Sheeran on guitar.

First things first 

To start out, make sure your guitar is in standard tuning. Use a good tuner to ensure accuracy. Once you are in tune, place a capo on the sixth fret. This is exactly where Ed Sheeran places it. You can move it to a lower fret in case that fits your voice better, but if you want it to sound just like the recording, then it needs to be on the sixth fret. From this point on, we’re going to refer to all notes and chords as if the capo was fret zero. 


I See Fire features a beautiful guitar intro that requires some fingerwork ability. Start by placing your index finger on the second fret G string, and the pinky on the fifth fret on the B string. Prepare your ring finger right above the fourth fret G string but don’t place it on the string yet. Pluck the low E, G, and B strings. Then play a hammer on and pull off on the third string with your ring finger (remember your index is held in place on the second fret B string). After that, do a pull-off with that index into the open G string. 

Then pick the open D string and hammer that with the index onto the second fret and finalize the phrase by hitting the open G string. Now we’re going into a C chord by picking the fifth, fourth and third strings. Place your middle finger on the fifth fret A string, and hammer on the open fourth string with your index on the second fret.   

Moving on, now we’ve got a D chord shape without your middle finger. Pluck just the fourth string and the open G string and hammer on your index on the second fret. Then pick the B string with your ring finger on the third fret. Then go on to a standard E minor chord and pluck that. On the second and fourth beats, Sheeran tends to hit the guitar with his plucking hand for his signature percussive accompaniment. 

This intro might be too challenging for some. Like all things guitar-related, dedication, practice, and patience are the way to master it. 


The verse guitar part is significantly simpler than the intro. We’re going to start with an E minor chord on the three bottom strings and then the high E. Then we move on to the G with just the bass and the index on the second fret G string.  

We then have a D chord with the same intro hammer on for the third string, and then the C with the same hammer on as well. The second time you play that, the C becomes an A power chord (just the open A string, with the fourth and third-string on the second fret with your index and middle finger).

For the end of the verse, we move to an A minor shape. Just pick the open A string, the second fret on the D, and the first fret on the B string. Then we’ve got a G chord with the bass on B. Play this inverted G chord with your index finger on the fifth string second fret, open G, and third fret on the B string. Then we move on to the same C major chord as before, with its hammer on. 

It is important to note that in the second verse, this last part is repeated. 


The easiest part of the song! The chords here are Em, C, D with the hammer on for the third-string and back to Em. The Em is played in its conventional way, plucking the open E string with the fourth, third, and second strings. 

Then we have the C chord with the hammer on that happens on the fourth string, from open string to placing your index on the fourth string second fret. Then we move on to the D. Here you pluck the open D string, B string with the ring finger on the third fret, and the open G string, which is then hammered on with your index onto the second fret. Then we finish back on the Em. 

Then we repeat that twice and at the end of that cycle we place an A chord with an open G string. The second time the chorus comes around, it has more of a strumming motion, without the percussive hits on the guitar. Here, we no longer need the hammer-ons but feel free to play some of them to add variety and your own personal touch to the accompaniment. 


The bridge is just as simple as the chorus! We’ve got a straight strum of Am, Em, G, and D. All of these are the conventional chord shapes, except for the G which features an open fifth string. We repeat that two times and end it on a progression of Am, G (this time with the B on the bass), C, and D. This leads back to the last chorus, which also happens on a strum pattern. 

Learning how to play I See Fire by Ed Sheeran on guitar can be a nice challenge. The introduction is the most difficult part of this song, but it is still relatively simple. If you are new to guitar, you might want to move on to the verse and chorus and leave the intro for a later date. Or feel free to learn an easier song first to build your chops up before learning I See Fire. 

In any case, this is a beautiful song that could be a nice addition to your repertoire and that can also help you grow as a musician and have some fun while doing it.