Correct Cliffs of Dover Lesson

I know there are obviously a plethora of Clifs of Dover lessons and tableture that exist out there. However, many of these do not take into account pickstrokes and the fact that Eric plays with DWPS. I see some guys out there teach it with a lot of legato. Others pick every note but use 2wps. As a result, sometimes the fingerings aren’t correct. Are there any correct lessons out there that provide which up and downstrokes are the way Eric actually plays it?


The best I’ve ever found is the Hal Leonard Play like Eric Johnson book.



I think the intro lick is dissected by Troy in the Cascade Seminar here in cracking the code:

It is the only way I play it (or try to play it). And it’s the only full DWPS compliant way that I’ve seen so far. All the other lessons use legato. Sometimes the way they teach it slow is not really the way they play it fast. And a lot of times the teacher himself sounds sloppy when playing it. I believe that the way Troy plays it is the closest to what EJ plays in the record.

Good luck!


This thread has prompted me to have another go at this, and for the life of me I cannot do a downstroke, carry it on through the next string and then do an upstroke without it completely throwing me into chaos.

I tried focusing on just that 12-15-14-12 on the e string, 15 on the b string, back up to 14-12 on the e string part and I could actually work it up to absolutely ripping speeds, only every time I realised I’d stopped doing the sweep and was swiping so as to come back up with an upstroke on the e string. Sounded ok, but completely throws the sequence out for playing the whole part.

Any tips for just working on the mini-sweep part? Regular EJ 5s also feel like trying to eat soup with chopsticks when I try that, though it’s a touch better if I sweep on a downstroke instead of on an upstroke.


Ah, those mini sweeps drove me crazy for a while! They got a bit better after I practiced a lot of licks using the down-down-up pattern on two strings (e.g. doing triads like in the Yngwie trilogy lick), both in triplets and 16th notes. This allowed me to get the Eric descending 5s to a decent level. But I haven’t tried that 12-15-14-12 etc. lick you mention.

Edit: the thing of doing both triplets and 16th was probably the key for me to improve. For a long time I only practiced these things in triplets and the accents were messing up my mechanics.


Yeah that’s the biggest problem I’ve found is that when they teach it slow it’s not the same as when they teach it fast. I’ll have to watch Troy’s intro lick lesson and then I suppose I’ll just have to slowly fill in the blanks for the rest of the song.

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You don’t eat soup with chopsticks? Seriously though, the big breakthrough for me was with edge picking (think that’s the right term; deviating from the plane suggested by the string, making the pick wider with a gentler attack). The “sweep” went from being like a card in bicycle spokes to, the pick sitting there ready to play the next string, with the authority of a classical rest stroke. Thin pick starts to approximate a finger tip and it just goes right on through. I could not for the life me, “get” sweeping until CtC came along and I made the connection. I’ve a couple of Gambale books, but apparently not the ones that really spell it out. :slight_smile:

I’ve found a few resources out there that may get closer to how EJ plays Cliffs on the album. The first is one of Wolf Marshall’s old “Signature Licks” books. It’s written in a way that suggests Wolf actually sat down with EJ and went through each transcribed tune exactly as they’re played on the record. There are even photos of EJ’s left hand as he plays through some of the transcribed licks. The book maps out the fretting hand pretty well, but doesn’t cover the pickstrokes. I’ve uploaded a sample of the book that covers the Cliffs intro below.

The other resource is from what looks like a now discontinued YouTube/iPad series called “On the Music Path.” Apparently, there was a lesson of EJ taking the viewer through Cliffs. I’ve never seen the whole lesson, but I’ve posted below a sample from it. EJ doesn’t play Cliffs note-for-note, but you can see both of his hands pretty clearly throughout.

Here’s the clip, and then a sample from Wolf’s book:


Thanks that helps. I was going based off of this lesson here:

They do the whole song, this is just part one. Not sure if it’s right picking-wise but…

I’ve seen that one too - it’s a very thorough lesson. But from what I remember, the teacher alternate picks everything rather than uses DWPS.

I think sometimes it helps to remind myself that it felt like eating soup with chopsticks the first time I picked up a guitar, and finding this feeling again can just mean there’s something to work on rather than meaning that I’ve found myself in a dead end.



My guitar playing can’t get even close to the player in the video. He makes great lessons and I like his videos.

Now that you’ve read the disclaimer, I would like to point out that his performance video is not very convincing to me. The way he plays the intro lick doesn’t look correct to me. It sounds good. It just doesn’t sound like what EJ is doing. So I wouldn’t take this lesson as a reference if wanted to play it the way EJ does.

If you really want to learn something like this, I highly recommend using transcribe or some other software to slow down the audio so you can really hear all the notes. Sometimes the timing or context can be misconstrued, or many times notes are just plain wrong in tab. Then I also shift positions string groups, etc to what works best for me as long as it doesn’t compromise the sound. It’s also more rewarding to figure this out by ear.

Yeah I think Rick Graham does a much better job in terms of performance:


Is there a good resource for the last half of the intro, covering the part past what Troy covers in his video? The pedal part makes sense to me now, but I need a good resource showing exactly how that last fast cascading lick goes at the very end after the pedal part

I think I recall that being explained somewhere in the Cascade seminar? I know it’s problematic in one part because it’s repeated descending 5’s with a string skip:

   D U   D  U   D

Repeat that over and over and it should feel a little weird. I think Troy at one point speculated it was possible the 5th note of the sequence (D natural on the 17th fret of the A string) could be a “hammer on from nowhere”, and also speculated some type of sympathetic “bounce” drummers get when they do a fast roll. I really hope I’m not imagining that but I swear something like that is in the Cascade seminar.

FWIW, I am pretty sure the tabs for the whole part are:


EDIT: while that works, probably not the way EJ played. More like this maybe?

  D D  U D  D U  D  U D D  U  D U  D


   D  U  D  U  D  D  U  D  U  D  D  U  D  U  D  D U  D  U  D  D
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I’ll have to finish Cascade to see if this section is covered then, thanks!

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Rick Graham did a lesson on this it’s on the lick library but it’s video only so no tab.

Guthrie Govan also did a transcription for guitar techniques but it’s not that accurate.

I have a transcription from total guitar which isn’t very accurate.

You think there would be someone out there who could do a super accurate transcription and analysis of the piece being how famous it is?

Levi Clay, who usually makes flawless transcriptions, transcribed a good chunk of the Live at Austin 1988 performance:

The one above is very good but I think this one is better.

There’s a mistake in bar 51 (2nd note should be 15, not 14), but aside from that, it’s the best one I’ve seen.