Margaritaville Piano Lesson: How To Play The Intro Riff And Chords

margaritaville piano lessonToday we’re going to explore a Jimmy Buffett inspired Margaritaville piano lesson. I’m going to have some fun and teach you how to play the classic intro riff from the song.

I can’t tell you how many times this song has been requested in bands that I’ve played with.

So, learning it will be very useful for you. Plus, it’s just a fun song to play.

I hope you enjoy this Margaritaville piano lesson (Video, chord chart, notation, and lots of extra piano tips below).

Margaritaville Piano Lesson Video

Why not take a few minutes and watch as I teach you how to play the Margaritaville piano intro. The riff is pretty easy but watching and listening to it demonstrated with definitely speed up your learning process.


Notation And Chords For The Margaritaville Piano Intro

Here are the chords and the notated riff from the intro.

margaritaville sheet music chords

(You are welcome to share this notation online but please credit with a link if you do)

Quick Note: On some recordings I’ve heard Jimmy Buffett place the last notes (A and F#) rhythmically on the “the & of beat 4”. Some recordings he plays the notes on beat 1 an eighth note later.

Play it the way you that feels the best for you. Since Jimmy has changed it up over the years you can too! Now, lets explore some other very important things to help you learn!

8 Tips To Help You Master This Margaritaville

Piano Lesson

Harmonizing A Melody On Piano

1. This riff is in the key of D and features a melody harmonized in 6ths. If you want to apply a really sweet and effective harmonization trick to other piano songs you can use the same technique. Just put a 6th interval right below your melody.

2. It doesn’t surprise me that Jimmy Buffett has recently started guest appearing on several country artists recordings. A lot of his music has influences of country, island music, and rock. You’ll find the harmonizing in 6th’s technique used quite a bit in country piano licks as well.

As a result we could even call this a country piano lesson if you think about this technique in a big picture way.

An Extremely Common Chord Progression

3. The chord progression to the Margaritaville lick is D, G, A7. This is just a simple I-IV-V(1-4-5) chord progression that you’ll find in countless pop, rock, and country songs.

I also feature a variation on this important chord progression in my major piano chord decoration lesson

Bass line Rhythm and Notes Tips

4. At the end of the riff the famous Margaritaville bassline starts. This pattern is just a simple 1 to 5 pivot. You’ll hear this all the time in country, calypso, samba, and bossa nova styles.

Power Chords Rule!

5. In my left hand I play power chords to accompany the main riff in my right hand. Power chords are very easy to play. They feature a low root of the chord, the 5th of the chord in the middle, and the octave of the root on top.

Power chords are a term mostly used by guitar players but I think we can use the term as well. Especially, if we play guitar dominated styles like country, rock, and pop. 

Getting The Right Sounds

6. If you’re using a digital keyboard I recommend you play this riff using either a piano sound, a wurlitzler sound, or a steel drum sound. I’ve always liked the Wurlitzer and steel pan sounds in the Yamaha S90XS.

Piano Technique Tips

7. To make the Margaritaville piano riff sound legato I use the sustain pedal quite a bit. If you’re sort of new to using the sustain pedal just remember the basic principle is when you play a new chord you should pedal again.

8. From a piano technique perspective, remember to keep your wrists relaxed and tension free while playing the riff. This will help you keep good rhythm, dynamics, and help you avoid straining your arm.

Your Next Steps

Sometimes people need a bit of extra help when trying to practice. If this is you I recommend you first try to master each hand separately. Make sure you can play each hand cleanly and then try to put them together.

I also recommend you practice this riff with a metronome. It’s very important that you keep very good rhythm when playing this riff.

Since the riff starts the song it will be very hard for a band to follow your lead if you play it with rhythmic inconsistency.

You can start the metronome at a slow tempo and gradually speed it up till you can play it all full tempo. Go for playing clean first and speed will come later.

As always have fun practicing!!


I hope you enjoyed this Margaritaville piano lesson. If you have questions or comments please feel free to leave them below.

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  1. don on August 28, 2013 at 1:50 am

    i like it keep going with more stuff

  2. Terri Eisert on November 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    New to Piano and taking voice lessons. Want to learn to sing and play Margaritaville. Thank you for this website!

    • Steve Nixon on March 15, 2015 at 1:27 am

      My pleasure Terri.

  3. Paul Boland on March 24, 2014 at 2:53 am


    I would really like to learn to play this entire song on piano. Do you a full lesson for the whole song or can you recommend a lesson? I can’t read music sheets so I need to see the keys to press like the way you do it or via an on-screen keyboard showing me the keys to press. Appreciate any feedback.


  4. George on January 13, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Hi, thank you for your lessons, they are very clear and easy to understand.You will note by my question that I am a beginner.Would you explain what a 1 to 5 pivot pattern means.
    All the best, George

  5. Gerry Farrell on July 15, 2016 at 2:38 am

    Really enjoy your tuition…

    • Steve Nixon on July 15, 2016 at 4:00 am

      Thank you Gerry. I appreciate the comment and look forward to sharing music with you further!

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