How to play ‘Shallow’ from a ‘Star is Born’ on guitar

The “Shallow” chords and tunes by Lady Gaga and Bradly Cooper from the movie A Star Is Born won two Grammys and an Oscar. We decided to dissect the track so that everyone can jam to it on guitar regardless of skill level. In this blog post we’ll explain the “Shallow” chords and tabs, and go deeper into the history of the song and the music theory behind it.

Estimated reading time: 22 minutes


How to read this article

This article consists of three main sections. In the first section – also the largest one – we explain the song “Shallow” for guitar and all skill levels. Here you’ll find the song’s structure, the chord progression, all the chords explained, and a video tutorial. 

The second section is all about the music theory behind the “Shallow” chords. Here you can knock yourself out with all the nerdie theory that makes this song so awesome. This way you’ll not only be able to play the hit, but you’ll also have the knowledge for future jams. If music theory is not your thing, don’t worry about it and just stick to the chords.

Or of course you can check out the third section in which we take a closer look at the history of A Star Is Born, the theme behind the “Shallow” lyrics, and the way Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper talk about the song. So there it is, a brand song explained especially for you. Enjoy!

Song structure and for guitar

You can see that there are many different parts in this song. It’s worth knowing that some parts contain the same chord changes, but a different line-up of instruments. This is why we will start every time by showing you the chord diagrams first, after that we’ll explain how these chords follow each other up in a really basic and abstract way by using a chord sequence. Once you’ve mastered the sequence we’ll show you the real thing together with the lyrics. This is a step by step approach so you don’t get overwhelmed  

So what is a chord sequence? Well, the sequence is a block of chords, which are used and repeated in a few parts of the song. We put these sequences in here as educational material. If you can play them, then you’re ready to play the entire song. As you can see each sequence has its own color. This color will return in the song structure at the end when all the chords and lyrics come together.

Here’s a little something to look forward to: knowing how to play the first chord sequences, you can already play about a half of the song! Let’s dive in, shall we?

Guitar beginner

In this part:

  • easy guitar chords
  • chord sequences with lyrics
  • video tutorials
  • chord overview with lyrics

Chord diagrams and chord progression for the first sequence of “Shallow”

If you’re a beginner and just started to play guitar this song is great for expanding your skills. The track contains many basic triad chords, better known as open chords. So, great material to practice on! Let’s start with the first chord sequence. For this sequence we have four different chords: Em, D, G, C. Let’s take a look at these chords on your axe.

Try to play this chord sequence first. If you feel comfortable with it, then we have good news for you: now you already can play about half of the song. Many parts of the song consist of this sequence or variations of the sequence. This is what it looks like.

Remember the song structure we showed earlier? Imagine that after mastering this chord sequence, now you are able to play: the intro, verse, pre-chorus and interlude. It’s time to take a closer look at these parts and to see how the first chord progression is represented. To make it easier we’ve also added the lyrics as a good orientation point for the chord changes.

Video tutorial intro, verse, pre-chorus and interlude

Check out video tutorial to hear how this first chord sequence sounds on guitar.

Chord diagrams and chord progression for the second sequence of “Shallow”

As you can see the first chord sequence is presented in each part. The intro and the interlude are a variation of this chord sequence. Now it’s time to take a look at the second part of “Shallow”. First we’ll start off with the chorus. All choruses are based on our second sequence. So, it’s definitely worth checking it out. For this sequence again we have four different chords: Am, D, G, Em. Let’s take a look at these chords on your guitar.

This is what the second chord sequence looks like.

After you feel comfortable playing this sequence, you’re ready for the real thing. Let’s take a look at how these chords are applied in the song itself together with the lyrics.

Video tutorial chorus

This is how the chorus sounds on your six string.

Chord diagrams and chord progression for the third sequence of “Shallow”

And now it’s time for the third chord sequence that Bradley Cooper plays in the bridge. It appears in the song only once during the vocalization “Oh – Oh…” where Lady Gaga is building up to the final chorus while showing off some mad singing skills. For this Third sequence we have four different chords: Bm, D, A, Em. Let’s take a look at these chords on your axe first.

Okay, so this is how these chords relate to each other during the bridge.

Video tutorial Bridge

Okay, so this is how these chords relate to each other during the bridge.

Chords & Lyrics

Wow, you’ve done it! You’ve now mastered the beginner version of “Shallow.” You’re good to go now. Just practice the song a few times and don’t be afraid to perform it at the next campfire session.

Stay with us for the intermediate and pro version where we’ll learn the fingerpicking melody of the intro and the actual, more complex, chords that Bradley Cooper uses for “Shallow.” But first: Check out the chord sheet of whole song with lyrics (Figure 10).

Guitar: Intermediate & pro

In this part:

  • advanced guitar chords
  • chord sequences with lyrics
  • tabs and sheet music for the Shallow Intro
  • video tutorial
  • chord overview with lyrics

First chord sequence

So, you’re an experienced player? Great! In this section we’ll show you how to get as close as possible to the original sound of “Shallow.” This gem is written for guitar, that’s why it’s a great song for working on your fingerpicking skills.

A very important part of “Shallow” is the intro. This is the kind of intro that all your friends will instantly recognize as soon as you pluck the first chords. And since you’re an advanced player, we would like to dive deeper into the intro and show you how to get the fingerpicking right.

Chord diagrams and chord progression

But first things first. We’ve divided this song in a few chord sequences to make it easy for you to learn. The intro, verses, interlude and pre-choruses are based on the first chord sequence. They have the same chord shapes and colors as shown in the song structure at the beginning of this section. Let’s take a look at those chords first (Figure 11).

As you can see, this sequence has five different chords: Em7, D(sus2)/F#, G, C, D. “What does ‘sus2’ mean?” you ask. Well, welcome to a very quick explanation of the sus chord (or suspended chord). Simply put, a sus chord is neither a major nor a minor chord. It doesn’t have this quality. These types of chords rely on the chords that surround them: They reflect the context they’re played in. So, a sus chord can sound major or minor. Kind of like a chameleon. Let’s take a look at the chord sequence (Figure 12).

So, now is the time to dive into the pro part of the track: the intro. Excited!? I know we are.

How to play the intro of ‘Shallow’

You can find the tutorial of this intro in the explanation video below. Let’s talk a bit about the right-hand technique: it’s a combination of arpeggio and plucking. You can also see many ties — those are the curved lines connecting notes — between notes here. This intro is based on the open chord shapes for Em, D, G and C. The effect that you accomplish by letting your open strings ring while you change the current chord or add some extra passing notes above is amazing.

Video tutorial on how to play the intro

In the video tutorial below you’ll see how our guitar teacher plays the intro. Listen and watch carefully. After a few listens just give it a go.

How to play the verse, pre-chorus and interlude

Let’s go back to the first chord sequence (Figure 12). Do you remember the structure of “Shallow” we showed at the very beginning of this article? Imagine that it’s a to-do list, and you now can cross off the intro, verse 1, pre-chorus 1, interlude, verse 2 and pre-chorus 2. Cool, huh? It’s time to take a closer look at these parts and see how the first chord sequence is applied in the song when we add the lyrics to it (Figure 14).

Video tutorial verse, pre-chorus ad interlude

Watch our video tutorial to get a grip on the fingering of first chord sequence which is played in the verse, pre-chorus and interlude.

Second chord sequence

Alright, now we know how to play 50 percent of the track. How about we learn the second half? The chorus (chorus 1, chorus 2) is based on the second chord sequence, which contains the following five chords: Am, Am7/G, D(sus2)/F#, G, Em (Figure 15). Of course, the Am7/G is basically an Am7 chord with G as a passing bass note. Let’s take a look at these chords on your guitar.

Here’s how these chords are lined up in the second sequence (Figure 16).

And this is how this sequence is used in the chorus of “Shallow” (Figure 17).

Video tutorial chorus

Check out our guitar teacher playing chorus 1 and chorus 2 in this video, and try to play along.

Third chord sequence

Are you ready for the third and last part of this song? Cool, let’s proceed with our third chord sequence, which is used in the bridge. It appears in the song only once, during the vocalization of Lady Gaga when she builds up to the last chorus using these chords: Bm, D5, A, Em (Figure 18).

This is how the chords are lined up in the sequence.

Video tutorial bridge

Take a look at how our music teacher Kirill plays the bridge, and try to follow his lead.

‘Shallow’ chords & lyrics

It’s fair to say that we are proud of you! If you have followed along with every step of the way, your fingers must hurt like hell. And your head must be on the brink of exploding. That’s okay! Tomorrow you’ll see how this song will flow out of those hands — a bit easier than today in any case. Just keep practicing and try to imagine the look on your friends’ faces when you start jamming this track out of the blue. Yeah, it’s going to be epic.

To make it easy, we’ve put all the parts together so you can play the whole song without scrolling up and down too much.

Music theory: key center, diatonic situation and scales

As we showed you before, this song consists of nine different parts which are based on three chord sequences. Since you’re now experienced enough, we want to invite you to a harmonic analysis of this song. Where we’ll address the key, scale and diatonic situation.

Music theory: Key center of the first and second chord sequence

First of all, you probably already got the impression that this song has many chords. We have good news for you: The whole song has just two key centers! “Why is that good news and what does it actually mean?” So many questions, yes, we know. Give us a chance to explain.

The first and second part of the song, based on the first and second chord sequences — the whole song actually, except the bridge — are in the key of G major. Simply put, the G chord is the main chord in these sequences and all other chords are related to G; which means they’re from the G major scale. This phenomenon is called the diatonic situation. Knowing that, you can be sure that all notes from the G major scale will fit with the chords. So, for this song, it’s important to know the G major scale!

Don’t worry, we’ve got this figured out for you. The scale of G is: G (root), A, B (major third), C, D (fifth), E, F# (major seventh).

Music theory: Key center of the third chord sequence of ‘Shallow’

Now let’s check the rest of the song — the bridge. It’s is in the key of D major. All chords in the bridge are related to the D major scale. And as a consequence of this diatonic situation, all notes from the D major scale will fit the bridge.

This is what the D major scale looks like: D (root), E, F# (major third), G, A (fifth), B, C# (major seventh).

So now, using the G and the D major scales, you know how to jam on this track. But there’s even more to say about the chord changes here. Let’s take a look at the first chord sequence again.

These four bars are repeated a few times during the verses and pre-choruses. We would like to attract your attention to this detail: It starts with the Em chord and finishes with the D chord. Each round after the D we go to the Em chord again. Or, putting this more technically, the D chord resolves to the Em chord. Remember, in this particular part of the song we’re still in the key of G.

This is interesting because in the diatonic situation of G major the D chord usually tends to resolve to the G chord. Simply put, the D chord leads us back home to the G chord. When the D chord resolves to the Em chord, which is the 6th degree of the G major scale, we don’t miss the G but really enjoy how the Em chord serves as a home base.

The same interesting thing happens when we transition from the pre-chorus 2 to the chorus 1. Here are the chord changes for the second chord sequence, played in the chorus:

The last chord of the pre-chorus 2 is D. And, instead of G, the progression goes to the Am chord — the first chord of chorus 1. The Am chord is the 2nd degree of the G major scale. Again, Am sounds very naturally, and helps us to recognize the beginning of the chorus.

Three things you didn’t know about ‘A Star is Born’

“A Star is Born” tells the classic story of an artist who falls in love with a singer and kick-starts her career. The first movie was made in 1937, followed by two musical remakes in 1954 and 1976. The 2018 version with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga addresses themes like the hardcore lifestyle of artists and the way they cope with stress, depression and addiction.

The main character, Jackson Main, played by Bradley Cooper, is the embodiment of rock ’n’ roll. He drinks heavily, uses drugs and lives like there’s no tomorrow. This all changes when he sees Ally, Lady Gaga’s character, perform in the bar La Vie en Rose. He is amazed by her voice and takes her out after she’s finished with her shift. It turns out she’s a waitress but also a singer-songwriter.

Depression, stress and rock ‘n roll

They fall in love, and Jackson writes a song for Ally which he makes her perform with him on stage. After that, we see how Jackson’s career slowly declines while Ally becomes a superstar. This shows us the two sides of the coin, first you work hard for recognition and fame. After that, as we see in Jackson’s storyline, you can hit the ground hard. The lyrics of “Shallow” reflect this subject matter.

Lines like, “In the good times I long for change, and in the bad times I fear myself” address the stress and depression triggered by this lifestyle. According to Lady Gaga “Shallow” is also about the conversation between a man and a woman in which they both really listen to each other. It’s all about being heard equally.

Three fun facts to tell during parties about ‘Shallow’

Here are three facts you probably didn’t know about the 2018 movie “A Star is Born.” After reading these, you can act all sophisticated at parties when the subject comes up, or just use them for a self-made pub quiz. Ready?

Did you know that “A Star is Born” was written and directed by Bradley Cooper himself? Yes, he also plays the main character because that’s what you do when you direct your debut. To get in the proper vibe for the role Cooper hung out with Pearl Jam’s frontman Eddie Vedder, just to experience what it means to be a rockstar.

Real gigs

The concert scenes that you see in the movie were shot during real gigs. The scene where Jackson Main invites Ally on to the stage for the very first time, to perform “Shallow,” was recorded during a Lady Gaga concert. Some other scenes were shot during Willie Nelson gigs. So, the crowd consists of real people who go absolutely mental when the film crew is on stage. Not because of the cameras, but because Cooper and Lady Gaga know how to put on a great show.


Before Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper teamed up to make this movie, the initial idea was that the remake was going to be directed by Clint Eastwood with Beyoncé as the star. Plans for this project started in 2011, but after several years of nothing happening, Bradley Cooper signed to star and direct the flick.

Lukas and Promise of the Real

Did we promise you three facts about “A Star is Born”? We lied. Because here’s a bonus one for ya. The band that accompanies Jackson Main in the movie are none other than Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real — yeah, that’s Willie Nelson’s son with his band. Lukas and Promise of the Real contributed to the soundtrack and starred in the movie. Happy jamming!

By Kirill Dumchenko & Teo Lazarov

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