“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” is a song co-written by soul singer Otis Redding and guitarist Steve Cropper. It was recorded by Redding twice in 1967, including once just days before his death in a plane crash.
Barre chords are used in the original recording.
With Barre Chords…
Using Open Chords
You could play a more basic version that only uses open chords. You can still provide some of the “walk”.
Take the chord/lyric sheet and instead of using barre chords, just use the open chord form of the chords listed:
G B7 Sittin' in the mornin' sun C A I'll be sittin' when the evenin' comes G B7 Watching the ships roll in C A And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah
Here we go, just using open chords:
But, what about that cool walk from the C chord down to the A chord as found in the original transcription?
We can even add an additional walk from the G chord up to the B chord:
Chords And Lyrics
Now, we’ll go over the lyrics and discover how to mix the chords in. It’s easy once you get the hang of it! Just keep working on it…
The song was written by Otis Redding and guitarist Steve Cropper and was recorded in 1967 and released in 1968. Unfortunately, Redding died before the song’s release in 1968. I wonder if he could have imagined the success the song would have.
“Sittin’ in the mornin’” is sang over the G chord. As soon as we get to the word “sun”, we’ll switch to a B7 chord (or you could substitute a plain old B chord). We’ll hold that B chord and start singing the next line, ” I’ll be”, then change to C on “sittin’ when the evenin’”, then to an A chord on the word “comes”. Work through the changes slowly before you try playing it in time. Pay close attention to the words that the chords change on. Go line by line if you must. That way you only have to worry about one chord change at a time.
G B7 Sittin' in the mornin' sun C A I'll be sittin' when the evenin' comes
The 2nd part of the verse follows the same chord progression: G, B7, C, and A.
Starting on G, “Watching the ships roll”, switch to B7 on the word “in”. We stay on the C chord until we get to “watch”: “And then I’ll (B) watch ’em roll away (A) again.
G B7 Watching the ships roll in C A And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah
The Tricky Part…
“(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” is suitable for anyone to play- even beginners. If you do find difficulty in performing the song, it may be that you need to spend more time learning the chords that are used in the song. Spend time practicing changed from chord to chord. If you are busing trying to figure out the guitar chords you won’t be able to concentrate on the vocals.
Timing may be an issue as well. Keep a steady 1, 2, 3, 4 beat. Realize that each line in the 1st verse has two measures. For example, when you sing and play the 1st line, “Sittin’ in the morning sun”, you’ll have completed two measures, so if you counted out loud you would have counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4.
One trick of the song in the verses is that the 2nd chord in each line comes in on the upbeat of the 4th beat, so right before the new measure. You might be able to pick this up by ear, but if you can’t you’ll want to break it down. Count 1, &, 2, &, 3, &, 4, &. This allows you to subdivide the measure into eighth notes. The audio below will show how you count this subdivision in the case of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay”.
So, when you can count the subdivision you’ll want to try these chord changes that occur on the upbeat of the 4th beat. Remember it occurs only the 2nd chord of each line. The G chord of the first line begins on beat 1 and then B7 is on the upbeat of 4. In the next line, C begins on beat 1 and the A chord is on the upbeat of 4.
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
Practice, Practice, Practice
The key to getting it down is a lot of practice. Once you’re able to make it through the 1st verse as outlined above, you’ll be able to add more intricate strumming, walk-ups, and even alternating bass:
Once you’ve got the first verse down, the rest should be easy.
We begin with G again:
(G) I left my home in (B7) Georgia (C) Headed for the ‘Frisco (A) bay
(G) ‘Cause I’ve had nothing to (B7) live for and look like (C) nothin’s gonna come my (A) way
G B7 I left my home in Georgia C A Headed for the 'Frisco Bay G B7 'Cause I've had nothing to live for C A And look like nothin's gonna come my way
For the bridge, we’ll move briskly. We’ll have a new chord for the first three syllables of each line: G, D, and C. For example, (G) Looks (D) like (C) nothing’s gonna change. Just ride out that C chord for the rest of the line and begin again with each new line until the 4th line where we’ll switch to F: (F) So I guess I’ll (D) remain the same…
G D C Looks like, nothing's gonna change G D C Everything still remains the same G D C I can't do what ten people tell me to do F D So I guess I'll remain the same, yes
The bridge provides a nice build up and climax and then we’ll head right into the 3rd and final verse:
Again, if you’ve mastered the 1st and even 2nd verse, this verse should be easy:
G B7 Sittin' here resting my bones C A And this loneliness won't leave me alone G B7 It's two thousand miles I roamed C A Just to make this dock my home
The outro simply goes from G to Em and provides the backing for the whistling part. Can’t whistle? Well, that’ too bad, because the song calls for it.
Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay Text file with chords and lyrics