May 11, 2013 in Tips & Lessons

Green Day – When I Come Around

greendayGreen Day’s Dookie album is one of the albums I credit with having a huge impact on my early teenage years. I was in my early teens when it was released, but due to the fact that I wasn’t allowed to watch MTV and the internet didn’t exist yet, it took a year or so for me to find out about it.

This was one of the first albums that really felt like it spoke directly to me. I could relate to these dudes. So naturally, as soon as I picked up a Fender like Billy Joe’s I was learning these songs. Like most kids my age, I was a big fan of Longview, Basket Case, and Welcome To Paradise. But the song that I really felt I related to was When I Come Around.

The song was written by front-man Billy Joe Armstrong about breaking up with his girlfriend because he needed time to himself. Interestingly, the couple got back together and were eventually married.

When I eventually did see the video for When I Come Around, I was blown away. I was so impressed by the way these guys dressed and how they just didn’t seem to care about anything. This had a tremendous impact on my view of the world. Some credit Billy Joe’s striped sweater with starting a fashion trend. He was also known for his different colored hair.

Aside from the music video, there were two public performances that really took Green Day to another level. This first was at Woodstock ’94. This is where they had the infamous mudfight with the crowd. Later that year, they appeared on Saturday Night Live. Both of these performances had a tremendous affect on the band’s popularity in a pre-YouTube world.

Here is the Saturday Night Live Performance:


As you can see, back then Billy Joe was known for his baby blue Stratocaster that was covered with various stickers and tape. Armstrong changed the bridge pickup on this guitar to a humbucker.

bjstratOne of the great things about these early Green Day songs is that they aren’t terribly difficult to learn. The entire song is basically five chords played tuned down 1/2 step. If you have never played power chords before, this is a perfect song to learn them. If you are a more talented player, this song will be a breeze to add to your arsenal.

The intro, verse, and chorus are the same progression of four power chords. It starts with a G5 power chord on the third fret, then drops down a string and moves up to a D5 power chord on the fifth fret, then slides up to the seventh fret and back down to the third fret. Repeat that a few dozen times and you have the general idea of the song.

The only other part you need to play all the way though this song is a little pre-chorus part that is a version of an Am and a C power chord. Once you have those five chords figured out, it is simply a matter of listening to the song to get the rhythm and strumming patterns down.

Here is a great video explaining the basic approach to playing When I Come Around:

Buy the entire Green Day catalog from Amazon’s music store.

Share FenderRocks

Posted by and tagged as ,

Leave a Reply