Introduction: How to Play "Hold Back the River" - James Bay

About: We are Craig&Olivia! An acoustic duo that loves to have fun with the music we make :)

Once you get the plucking part down then you can play the whole song! With a simple number system, and an alternative method that is much easier, this lesson will make "Hold Back The River" an easy and fun song to play.

Check out the YouTube video above for reference, as 4 easy steps will cover the whole song.

Step 1: The Intro/Verse Riff (Chords)

The intro riff is plucked with two fingers, personally I use my thumb and index.

There are five chords to be plucked, each with only two strings being used. For the sake of simplicity, I'll name them by number.

1. Index on 5th Fret of A // Pinky on 6th Fret of B
2. Index on 7th Fret of A // Pinky on 8th Fret of B
3. Index on 8th Fret of A // Pinky on 10th Fret of B
4. Index on 7th Fret of D // Ring on 8th Fret of High E
5. Index on 8th Fret of D // Pinky on 10th Fret of High E

Step 2: The Intro/Verse Chords (Order)

1... 2, 3... 4, 5... 4, 3... 4, 5... 4, 3.... B

B Chord:

Index: A/2nd Fret

Ring: D/4th Fret

Pinky: G/4th Fret

Middle: B/2nd Fret

Step 3: The Chorus

Chord Shapes:

Asus4: Ring: D/2nd Fret // Pinky: G/2nd Fret

E: Middle: A/2nd Fret // Ring: D/2nd Fret // Index: G/1st Fret




Hold back the river, let me look in your eyes. Hold back the River so I...


Can stop for a minute and see where you hide, hold back the river, hold back...

Step 4: Alternative for Verse

Instead of plucking while you sing, you can strum on open strings and make it much easier for yourself.

While strumming open low E, you move around the A string.

With Open E


Index: A/7th Fret --- Index: A/9th Fret --- Ring: A/11th Fret

With Open A


Index: D/9th Fret --- Ring: D/11th Fret

The same order as before:

1... 2, 3... 4, 5... 4, 3... 4, 5... 4, 3... B