One of Taylor Swift’s biggest hits and, according to Wikipedia, one of the best selling singles of all time, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” was released in 2012 to critical and commercial success. Taken from the American singer’s “Red” album, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” was written by Swift, Max Martin and Shellback, with the latter two names also handling production. This blog has already covered 2 songs by Max Martin in “I Don’t Care” and “Blinding Lights”, just proving what a prolific pop songwriter and producer he is. The song features a unique guitar picking part and a very catchy chorus, and it’s easy to see why it was a number one song in the US, and a top five hit in the UK. In today’s online guitar lesson, we will look at the chords and tab to this tune.
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” – Guitar Chords
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” contains just 5 different chords, and most of them can be played with roughly the same left hand position. Here are chord diagrams for each of the 5 different chords in the song:
As mentioned above, most of these chords have a similar left hand position. 4 of the 5 chords involve placing your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret on the B string, and your 4th finger on the high E string, making changing between the shapes fairly straightforward.
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” – Guitar Tab
Intro & Main Riff
This song has a very specific arpeggiated chord progression which is played on acoustic guitar. It is a very prominent part of the song, and can be heard in nearly every section. Although this part has been digitally manipulated in the studio, with a few of the notes reversed to catch the listener’s ear, it is still possible to perform it on either electric or acoustic guitar in a live setting. I have transcribed this part below, with my suggested picking directions in order for you to play the part as fluently as possible:
Although this transcriptions looks fairly straightforward at first, it is quite demanding to keep the picking pattern consistent. Practice it slowly and gradually increase the tempo until you get used to it. Remember that this is the main part throughout the verse and pre-chorus section of this tune.
Although the picking sequence transcribed above is also present in the chorus, there is another guitar underneath playing the following chord sequence. If you are playing this song as a one guitar arrangement, then switching to this strumming pattern in the chorus would be an effective way to give the chorus some contrast. Here is the part below, note that the 4th and final time around finishes on an extra staccato stab of the Dsus4 chord:
Harmonically, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is a simple song consisting of only 5 different chords. However, it is the dynamic production abilities of Max Martin and Shellback that really helped make this song such a big hit, with Swift’s vocal in particular standing out. This tune is in the key of G major, so to help us with our music theory analysis, let’s have a look at the harmonised G major scale below:
As you can see, although the song is completely diatonic to the key of G major, we actually start out on chord IV, which is the Cadd9. Although Cadd9 does not appear in the harmonised G major scale above, it is still diatonic to the key signature, as it is simply a C major triad (C, E & G) with an added 9th, which is D. Since D is in the key of G major, we still have a diatonic chord which we can refer to as chord IV. The song then moves to chord I (G) before transitioning to Dsus4 in bar 2, which is chord V. Similarly to Cadd9 in the previous bar, Dsus4 still contains notes from the G major scale (D, G & A) so it is still “in key.” We then finish the progression on chord vi, which is E minor. In the chorus, this Em chord is replaced with an Em7, which again is still diatonic to the key signature, as we are only adding a D to the Em triad to make it an Em7 chord.
To sumarise, we have a IV, I, V, vi progression in the key of G as the building blocks of this song. We have already studied hit songs containing chords I, IV, V and vi on this blog, so it is easy to see why these chords are so frequently used in pop music.
A fun song to play with a surprisingly tricky guitar part throughout, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” might take a bit of practice to get it up to speed, and to a standard where the part can be performed accurately throughout, but the results will be worth it in the end. You will notice an improvement in your right hand picking technique upon mastering this song, which you can then apply to other songs with similar broken chord sequences in them.
I hope you have enjoyed learning this song with me. As always, have fun, and I’ll see you next time.