In this lesson we take a look at the solo to one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs, Yellow Ledbetter. We’ll analyze the chord progression, scales, and walk through the guitar tab to understand the theory behind the solo.
Yellow Ledbetter Chords
Written by Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready and Jeff Ament, Yellow Ledbetter is played in the key of E major and uses the I, IV, and V chords.
|Key of E|
Yellow Ledbetter Solo Chord Progression
The chord progression played during the guitar solo is the same I – V – IV – I progression used throughout most of the song. From the key table above, you can see that chords are E major, B major and A major.
Yellow Ledbetter Guitar Solo Scales
The solo for Yellow Ledbetter comes straight out of the E major pentatonic scale:
The solo is played using positions 5, 4, and 1 of the E Major pentatonic scale and largely relies on the extended pentatonic scale pattern.
In the scale diagrams below I’ve highlighted each of the E major pentatonic scale positions used in isolation. In the full diagram I’ve highlighted just the notes used in the guitar solo.
Next, we’re going to go through the tab and break down the solo bar by bar. Before we do, take a listen to the guitar solo so it’s fresh in your mind.
You can listen to the solo here: Pearl Jam – Yellow Ledbetter
When listening, be sure to pay close attention to the rhythm and chord progression backing the solo. See if you can hear the chord tones targeted in the solo as the progression moves from E major to B major and A major etc.
Yellow Ledbetter Solo Tab Breakdown
As stated before, the Yellow Ledbetter guitar solo works right out of the E major pentatonic scale, starting with position 5 as noted in the tab below. Note that the black boxes above the tab indicate the chord being played in that bar. The gray circular notes are the landing notes, highlighted to make it easier to see how they relate to the chord being played.
As I go through a solo and break down what’s going on, one thing I like to look for is how chord tones are targeted throughout the solo. You can see in the second bar that the F# is targeted as a landing note over the B major chord. F# is the 5th of the B major chord.
In the third bar the solo transitions to the 4th position of the E major pentatonic scale over the A chord. Here the E note is targeted, which is not only the tonal center but also the 5th of the A major chord.
Bar 4 stays in position 5 over the E major chord and starts with a bend up to the G#, the 3rd of E major. In bar 5, he comes back to the G# from position 5 of the E major pentatonic, bending up from the 11th fret of string three.
Over the B major chord in bar 6, he again targets the F# note (the 5th of B major), out of position 5 of the scale.
Bar 7 transitions to position 1 of the E major pentatonic for the first time. Here he’s playing over the A chord and targets the C#, which is the 3rd of A major. Bar 8 stays in position 1 over the E chord and lands on the E note at the 12th fret of the first string, the tonal center.
Bar 9 returns to position 5 and acts as more of a transition phrase into bar 10, where the root note, E, is targeted over the B major chord.
The remainder of bar 10 and half of bar 11 stays in the 5th position and again targets the tonal center E, before transitioning to position 1 to end the solo on a slide down from C# over the E major chord.
Full Solo Tab
Below is the full tab for the Yellow Ledbetter guitar solo.
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