Learn to Play John Prine’s “Hello in There” | AG Patreon Song of the Month

The AG editorial staff regularly queries readers about the songs that they would like to learn to play, organized by title, musician, and style, and one of the most requested singer-songwriters in these surveys is consistently John Prine. Combing through the magazine’s song archives, we noticed that we had been remiss in never publishing one of Prine’s most memorable tunes, “Hello in There,” from his self-titled 1971 debut. We are pleased to offer an arrangement exclusively to our valued Patrons this month

Prine was just 22 when he wrote the song, which explores the themes of isolation stemming from aging. He has said that it was inspired by visiting a Baptist senior living facility in Illinois as a youth, accompanying a friend who was delivering newspapers, and having some of the residents treat him as a beloved family member rather than a worker. 

“Hello in There” has seen notable covers by Joan BaezBette Middler, and Jason Isbell. The transcription here captures Prine’s original studio recording note for note. It’s played in the key of G major, using mostly open shapes, and sounding in C due to a capo at the fifth fret. The verse paints portraits of ordinary older people, sticking to the I (G and Gmaj7), vi (Am), V (D7and D/F#), and IV (C) chords, while the chorus, which speaks more generally about the condition of aging, introduces the bVII (F) for a marked contrast. 

The guitar accompaniment is based on Travis picking—the thumb picks bass notes squarely on the beats, while the fingers add syncopated notes above on the higher strings. As with any song in this vein, it’s less important to play the guitar part exactly as written than to go for its overall flowing feel—and to support the lyrics without overpowering them. 

The TAB and notation for “Hello in There” is available to members of the Acoustic Guitar Patreon page at the Supporters tier or higher. Join our community to access live workshops, song transcriptions, exclusive podcast episodes, and more!

For a lesson on the inner workings of John Prine’s guitar style, see the November/December 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar, which also features a transcription of Bonnie Raitt’s arrangement of Prine’s song “Angel From Montgomery.”

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