In this guitar lesson we’re going to look at the Miserlou TAB. By the end, you’ll know how to play arguably the ultimate surf rock guitar song. We’ll be learning the Dick Dale version specifically. Hope you like 16th notes because there’s a lot of them in this one.
Miserlou is very 16th note heavy and in parts, it can be a little tricky but don’t let that put you off. This one is very much playable for any intermediate guitar player that’s willing to put in the practice. Let’s learn the ultimate surf rock song!
Miserlou (Misirlou) a brief background
Misirlou is a folk song from the Eastern Mediterranean region. The original composer of the piece is unknown but musicians were playing is in the 1920s. The earliest known recording was from the year 1927.
The song was a hit in 1948 for the one man piano duet Jan August. Then in 1962, the song became a worldwide hit with the Dick Dale version originally titled Miserlou. This version was influenced by an earlier Arabic folk version and will be the version we’ll be looking at today.
More versions of the song were created later based on the Dick Dale version and the Dick Dale version gained renewed popularity once again in the 90s when it was used in the film Pulp Fiction and again even later when it was sampled by The Black Eyed Peas.
Before we begin
So Miserlou is very alternate picking / 1 string / 16 note based. What I would recommend it that you use the TAB as guidance and not worry massively about trying to match the 16/8th notes exactly. I actually find it easier to play as many 16th notes as possible. When I play this, I probably play more 16th notes than you’ll see in the TAB but feel free to throw in more 8th notes and mix things up if you prefer. Just a) stay in time and b) don’t stray too far from the rhythm provided.
Furthermore, it should also go without saying that a little artistic license with the rhythm doesn’t mean that you should screw with the melody.
Another thing that I’d like you to know before reading on is how I’m going to be showing Miserlou to you. Long story short, I am going to break it down into little bite sized parts in chronological order. Learn 1 part then move on to the next.
Miserlou TAB and guitar lesson
Naturally we’re going to start with the intro of Miserlou. The intro is short but shows us the feel that we’re going to be using pretty much throughout the track. Here’s the TAB.
Miserlou TAB – Intro
We first have that slide down from fret 12 on the low E string to the open E note and then we alternate pick that note for 2 bars. Nice and simple.
Following that comes out first section which we I guess we can call a verse. I’ve split this verse section into 2 halves and here’s the first.
Miserlou TAB – verse 1 part 1
This track is kind of weird in that it looks tricky and can feel it too at first but once you get the hang of it, it’s not that hard at all. The hardest part is remembering where the notes change. You’ll find that you go auto pilot with the picking.
Speaking of the picking, remember that you don’t need to stick religiously to the 16th and 8th notes outlined in the TAB. You can pretty much improvise the picking. The same goes for other sections similar to this so use your common sense. You can also include a little slide at the end of this section to lead into part 2 of this verse.
Miserlou TAB – verse 1 part 2
This part follows a similar feel as the previous but the placement of the note changes is a little more difficult. You’ll need to listen closely to the track to get this just right.
This part ends in a specific way and that end begins in bar 6 of the TAB. This part will require close attention. My top tip for this part is in the second to last bar, remember 5 open E notes then the surf rock slide to end the part.
Miserlou TAB – verse 2 part 1
So we’ve moved to the high E string now but the melody has stayed virtually identical to part 1 of the first verse. The only difference here is that I’ve included that slide which you can see at the end of bar 4 because this is specifically from fret 7 whereas the slide that I said to include in the first verse can be done however you like. Aside from that, if you can play part 1 of verse 1, you can play this.
Miserlou TAB – verse 2 part 2
Once again, verse 2 part 2 is virtually the same as verse 1 part 2 only on the high E string and once again, paying close attention to the track is key. This part ends with a chord. The chord in question is a standard open E major chord which is followed by a non-guitar lead part but we’re going to learn how to play it on guitar.
Miserlou TAB – solo section
This lead section is kind of a break for you at this stage because it gives some welcome rest from the constant 16th notes. It sounds pretty good too. I personally like to quickly switch to my neck pickup for this part just to switch up the sound a little.
The hardest part is linking this section to the next which we will refer to as the breakdown.
Miserlou TAB – breakdown part 1
This part isn’t difficult thanks to the easy to follow note changes but it does see a return to the low E string and lots of 16th notes. This part is a nice little anticipation builder.
Miserlou TAB – breakdown part 2
This part is a little trickier than the previous part of the breakdown but just listen closely to the track and you can pick up on what’s happening easily enough.
Next we mix things up a little bit with some chords.
Miserlou TAB – chords section
A simple enough section. We’re pretty much just playing that open E major chord for 6 bars after the end of the breakdown. There’s some piano playing over the top which then leads us to the final verse of the song which sees a return to the high E string once again.
Miserlou TAB – verse 3
I’ve decided not to split this final verse into 2 sections because of reasons. The melody does change things up slightly but it’s not a major deviation from what it was before. Once again, if you listen closely you can hear what’s going on as you read the TAB. I know I’ve said that a few times in this lesson but your ears are the key to getting Miserlou down.
This final verse merges with the final section which is the outro. Here’s the TAB
Miserlou TAB – outro
We end with some more chord based playing and once again we’re based around that open E major chord. This is a fade out so just repeat the chords at the end. If you want a way of finishing the track without a fade out then perhaps something simple like this.
Miserlou TAB – outro alternative
Once you get the hang of it, Miserlou is extremely fun to play on guitar. There’s a few tricky little bits in there but nothing that a bit of practice won’t fix. This is a track that looks really impressive. Definitely worth putting the work in. There’s also some scope for further development in a few different ways. But I’ll let you figure that out.
Miserlou is definitely a classic guitar track. If you enjoyed the Miserlou TAB and guitar lesson then you may also enjoy some of the other classic guitar track lessons that I’ve created for Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat so far.
Here are a few other tracks that you may consider learning starting with the most relevant to Miserlou.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.