The River by Bruce Springsteen

“The River” is one of those iconic Bruce Springsteen songs – which is saying something! For someone with such a robust songbook, it’s hard to pick out just a few that are completely representative of the man and the band, but this one happens to also make for a great lesson.

According to The Boss himself, he wrote “The River’ as a way to pay tribute to older folk music, and you can definitely hear that strong influence throughout the tune. Lyrically, he delved into the “narrative writing” style that he would, among other things, come to be known for. In that sense, this song is all about exploring and embracing different voices and experiences.

So, that’s what we’re doing here! The chord structure in this song isn’t terribly complicated, but there are some minor variations here and there that keep things interesting.

The big thing in this song (and the reason I’m excited to teach it to you all) is the picked fingerstyle he uses, which is kind of like a strum-picking technique. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? Basically, the technique Bruce uses adheres to a general picking pattern, but the motion in your wrist resembles a strum. As you get up to speed with it, the “strum” becomes all the more evident.

As a part of my intermediary course, I’ve actually done a lesson on this picked fingerstyle where I break it down even further.

The end result is a warm, gentle song that has a level of intricacy woven into it.