Jolene by Dolly Parton Lesson

Learn to play Jolene by Dolly Parton on JustinGuitar!

View the full lesson at Jolene by Dolly Parton | JustinGuitar

I’ve been working on this for about a month now and am up to about 3/4 speed for the whole riff/finger picking version. I’ve played for many years and, yes, this one is a bit of a challenge. I found a live video of Dolly accompanied by one guitar on Youtube. I think Justin has the riff nailed.


Hi ,
I can remember in another thread a while ago that more people were working on this iig Donna
@DonnatheDead (right Donna? and how do this go? ,after many weeks/month(?)of hiatus I’m finally going to try to get this intro up to the right speed :sweat_smile:)

Now I just noticed that at the bottom of the fingerstyle intro pattern in the 2nd bar, the …2… on string D must be a …0…

Edit: 13:45 it’s good to see.

Edit 2 :(sorry)
But at the end Justin also says that he is not 100% sure if everything is good in his lesson, so I assume that the intro as written under the lesson is the right one, and the difference is (for me) so minimal that it doesn’t matter, maybe just do what is least difficult for us…I’m going for the video lesson.


HI @roger_holland. Yes, “Jolene” has been an on and off project for me for a while. It seems I can play the strum version and sing, or a modified fingerstyle, or the “right way” without singing. I can’t seem to get it all together. :person_shrugging: I checked out the link to Justin’s lesson, and swear it’s slightly different from the one I started learning from. I don’t even remember him mentioning the intro before. I think this song is one of those where you have to try a few different things, and then go with the version that feels right to you.

On second thought, I know it’s a different JG lesson! I remember wondering why he didn’t mention the hammer on, but in this video he definitely talks about it.

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Hi Donna,

As far as I know there’s one totally different song called Jolene, but I only play (try) this :blush:.
The big challenge for me/us is the riff on the A minor, I’ve got it now sometimes at the right speed … but then I can’t put the C after it and I end up with the fingerstyle and then on to the A minor then I also get stuck…but it will work in weeks :crossed_fingers: ,I will give myself at least another 2 weeks of regular practice (so maybe a month :smirk:)…imitating this perfectly will bring me a lot I know…but luckily I don’t have to/can’t to sing (the comming years) along :sweat_smile:

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Hey folks, just starting on this one. Can I confirm that 1 bar of the d d udu strum equals one 2 2 time bar of the song? So like the d d is in the first half note (1) and the u du is in the next (2).

Understanding timing is my biggest learning challenging atm. Once I’ve got it I can play it, but trying to read it can take me a bit of work,especially when I’m converting a 4 4 count to 2 2 :slight_smile:

Justin explains the timing of that strum pattern at around 6:20 of the video.

When teaching the strum pattern, he counts in 4:4 time, so the pattern is


takes 4 counts (i.e. 1 bar). But, he says that actually, in the song it should be counted as 16th notes:


So the D D UDU pattern takes up 2 beats or a half bar and you have to play it twice to get a full bar of music.

PS,I’ve watched the video, so yes, understand everything you said. My question is how does a pattern from 4 4 time, as 16ths, look in a song that is 2 2 time.

I think I can take from your reply that the pattern repeats once in a 2 2 bar,but it’s still ambiguous as you say you repeat it twice for a full bar.

PPS, what’s the target/original tempo for this? Got a long way to go I think but any suggestions for where I am trying to get the metronome up to?

I looked at a few instances of sheet music for Jolene and the time signatures given are 4:4, 2:4 and 2:2, from different publishers.

In any case, I watched a bit more of the video, and it seems to me that in the verse where there is the sequence Am - C - G - Am , for each of those chords he’s playing D D UDU one time (see ~ 6:40 in the video). (I think earlier in the video, he’s doing 2 strums on each of these chords). Whether you consider that 2:4 with 1 chord per bar or 4:4 with 2 chords in each bar, is somewhat arbitrary.

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Thanks, that’s enough confirmation I’m not totally messing it up to keep going :wink: appreciate the patience and detail of your replies!

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Sorry for dumb Q but…where is the tab to the Intro? Justin said he’d post it but I can’t find it…

Hi Leon @leonmarkham, welcome to the community! Justin offers a subscription to tabs for songs in the lessons. It costs about $50/year. I understand this is to cover licensing charges. I don’t know if this is what he was referring to when he said “I’m going to put it up on the website…” – it looks like the video may predate the Tabs subscription, and he made that comment referring to a mistake in his printed songbook. In any event, there is a section called “Fingerstyle Intro Pattern” in the tab for Jolene. If you are able to subscribe, I highly recommend it. The way I look at it: $50 is less than the cost of a one-hour lesson, and I get way more out of the subscription than I would from a single lesson!

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Ooh thanks - I had actually subscribed but I hadn’t realised that you need to press “see more” to see the end of the tab.

I was hoping someone could break down the timing for the fingerstyle portion for me. I can’t quite get it to sound like how Justin does it, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to be counting.