How to Play Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell (Guitar Lesson)

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Mark Brennan

Big Yellow Taxi

Big Yellow Taxi appears "on Joni Mitchell's" Ladies of the Canyon album released in 1970. After Mark teaches the song, he performs it as a duet with his wife Marla.

Taught by Mark Brennan in Rock Songs with Mark seriesLength: 23:13Difficulty: 2.0 of 5

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

DorichanDorichan replied

This is one of my favorite Joni Mitchell pieces, and I usually play her music on the piano... and this is the first guitar piece I've tried of hers..Love the tuning and easy chords.... But..... I'm struggling with the strumming pattern! I've even written it down.... DUDUDUUUUDUDUUUU.... still not getting it right. Does anyone have suggestions???

DorichanDorichan replied

This is one of my favorite Joni Mitchell pieces, and I usually play her music on the piano... and this is the first guitar piece I've tried of hers..Love the tuning and easy chords.... But..... I'm struggling with the strumming pattern! I've even written it down.... DUDUDUUUUDUDUUUU.... still not getting it right. Does anyone have suggestions???

DorichanDorichan replied

This is one of my favorite Joni Mitchell pieces, and I usually play her music on the piano... and this is the first guitar piece I've tried of hers..Love the tuning and easy chords.... But..... I'm struggling with the strumming pattern! I've even written it down.... DUDUDUUUUDUDUUUU.... still not getting it right. Does anyone have suggestions???

Bradley.ConwayBradley.Conway replied

Hello Dorichan! My advice would be to stop concentrating so much on the ups and downs. I would thoroughly learn the chording until you can cleanly move through the chords without thinking about it. After you get to that point sit down with your guitar and play along with the song without your notation. Just be in the moment with the song and the vocals. Many of Joni's chord phrasings and changes are determined by her vocal cadences, and you just can't get that from notation without it feeling too mechanical. You have to "feel" the song and let it take you on the ride. Good Luck and Happy Jamming!

DorichanDorichan replied

Hello Bradley! You are right about that. I couldn't follow at all using the ups and downs he recommended, and not at all sure about what he means by ghost strums.... whether they are simply muted/slap strums or not strumming at all. I even slowed the video down to 50% to see if I could follow without luck. knowing this piece through the lyrics, which by the way aren't on this site, I'll take your advice. Thanks for the great advice Bradley. I appreciate it! I'm an old 60 year old gal who spent her teens years playing and singing Joni on the piano, so its time this gal learned new tricks.

jboothjbooth replied

I've got in touch with Hemme (our lead notation guy) and asked him about putting the lyrics for the song in within the tab.

Chasing-WindChasing-Wind replied

Time to learn another song from Mark. This promises to be a good one!

bwedwards67bwedwards67 replied

great job, thanks for the lesson

CoysquibblyCoysquibbly replied

Very nicely done. great voice Marla.

ailesailes replied

You and Marla are an inspiration; I found you just in time!! I was ready to give it up and store my guitar, now I'm practicing again and making progress. Thank you both, you and your wife. Jim

misha1dibbsmisha1dibbs replied

Thanks, Mark. She Talks to Angels and Big Yellow Taxi are rockin' songs, and I am very close to mastery of them because of your very well explained lessons:)

austing12austing12 replied

Is there a reason why you tuned to open D but put a capo on the second if you could've just tuned to open E?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied

The open D tuning puts less stress on the neck of the can use open E if you like. This issue came up in my lesson on She Talks To Angels (which is currently off the site), in which I taught using the open E tuning. Many students were concerned about the stress the tuning was putting on the neck of their using open D with a capo resolved this problem.

apodestaapodesta replied

Now that's what I call a duet. What a priviledge to be able to see and hear your wife. Absolutely fantastic.

slimmchantsslimmchants replied

Where did the "She Talks to Angels" lesson go? I can't find it. Thanks!

melodiusthunkmelodiusthunk replied

Woo Hoo! Encore, Encore!

DCbluesDCblues replied

Love to see a James Taylor tune on JamPlay.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied


tloeswicktloeswick replied

Mark you have probably been asked this a bunch - where can I find the words and the music together?

marco antonio 1marco antonio 1 replied


rockenrocken replied

Hi Mark - I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed your lessons - this one and Landslide - both quite excellent. Beautifully planned and presented - and it's great for me to see songs of this vintage on JamPlay. Marla adds such a lot - it really helps me to get to grips with playing AND singing the songs - the enjoyment of your performance really shows through as is really infectious! So, thanks guys! More Joni and Fleetwood Mac would be good or maybe some CSNY, Eagles or Damien Rice. Thanks again. Kind regards, Ken

velvetantlersvelvetantlers replied

Hi Mark, Thanks for the song. You mentioned teaching Ghost Strumming earlier and I'm wondering where I can find that lesson?

diggerdigger replied

Great song Mark, well taught stright to the point, and then the song itself by your wife Marla, great voice, well done.

kevinoneillkevinoneill replied

Any tips on working through the rhythm for this song? I just can't seem to find the groove :(

joehobbsjoehobbs replied

Bravo, Marla! Great voice and you know how to use it.

kevinkevin replied

nice song what guitar

bigjoebigjoe replied

Great song and excellent teaching ! Love you guys doing the tunes together..........How about "strong enough to be my man" by Sheryl Crow ?

jkfordjkford replied

Love this song, its a great strumming song and once you get it down its pretty easy and makes a much better guitarist. thank you.

currannicurranni replied

mark any chance you might do love the one your with by stephen stills??? or black queen?? amazing songs i d love to learn.. pretty please??? :D

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied

Love The One Your With by Strphen Stills would be a very cool song....another great open tuning song....I'll keep it in mind.

currannicurranni replied

cool thanks ;)

aquariartyaquariarty replied

Fantastic you two ! - and lovely to see a couple who compliment each other so well.

guitarperryguitarperry replied

Marla has a beautiful voice please encourage her to do more of these. It really helps in learning how the song fits together when performed. Does she sing Pink Floyd songs too?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied

She does an awesome "Great Gig In The Sky" with our Pink Floyd tribute band, Wish You Were Here.......

nmoundnmound replied

Love the acoustic songs Mark!!! Keep 'em coming...

gone workingone workin replied

How could you teach a song like this without voice. Again Marla is awesome. Thanks for a good old accessible strum song. Very upbeat. I'm going to press my wife into learning it with me. Both beginners.

jaronjaron replied

Mark is that a new Martin guitar?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied

Yep...check out scene 3.

flyrerflyrer replied

Thanks Mark and Marla, what jewel of this site!!!!!!!! Russ

Rock Songs with Mark

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Take a step back in time with Mark and learn to shred some rock n' roll classics.

She Talks to AngelsLesson 4

She Talks to Angels

Mark Brennan and his wife, Marla, take on "She Talks to Angels". This song is from The Black Crowes release, Shake Your Money Maker.

Length: 34:12 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Big Yellow TaxiLesson 10

Big Yellow Taxi

"Big Yellow Taxi" appears on Joni Mitchell's Ladies of the Canyon, released in 1970.

Length: 23:13 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
LandslideLesson 11


Mark teaches you the ins and outs of a Stevie Nicks' / Fleetwood Mac fan favorite. After Mark plays the full song demo, Marla (Mark's lovely wife) joins him and sings this beautiful song.

Length: 34:23 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
You and MeLesson 13

You and Me

Mark Brennan takes you through the mega hit that brought Lifehouse international attention.

Length: 23:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
AqualungLesson 14


Mark Brennan teaches this classic rock song by Jethro Tull.

Length: 69:09 Difficulty: 2.0 FREE
Bad Moon RisingLesson 15

Bad Moon Rising

Mark Brennan teaches this classic rock staple.

Length: 35:05 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Down On The CornerLesson 16

Down On The Corner

Mark Brennan teaches this Creedence Clearwater Revival classic.

Length: 31:14 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Proud MaryLesson 17

Proud Mary

Mark Brennan teaches this Creedence Clearwater Revival classic.

Length: 36:25 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
I've Got A Rock 'n' Roll HeartLesson 18

I've Got A Rock 'n' Roll Heart

Mark Brennan teaches you how to play this hit song from Eric Clapton. Released on Money And Cigarettes in 1983, the song has had a recent boost in popularity thanks to its use in a cell phone commercial.

Length: 75:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Dear PrudenceLesson 19

Dear Prudence

Mark Brennan returns to JamPlay with a song lesson for "Dear Prudence" by The Beatles. Originally released on the famous White Album, this song was written about Prudence Farrow.

Length: 72:55 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
BlackbirdLesson 20


Mark Brennan returns to his Phase 3 lesson set with a lesson on the classic Beatles tune "Blackbird." This is a somewhat simple, but elegant fingerstyle acoustic arrangement that chronicles the struggles...

Length: 28:13 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Rocky RaccoonLesson 21

Rocky Raccoon

Mark Brennan returns with another song for his Phase 3 series. In this lesson, he tackles the Beatles tune "Rocky Raccoon." This is The Beatles' attempt at a bit of humor and some country western flair.

Length: 22:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Mark Brennan

About Mark Brennan View Full Biography Mark Brennan, born August 12th, 1954 in Cleveland, Ohio, began playing guitar at the age of 10. His first influences were from the Ventures and the British Invasion, especially the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Shortly afterwards he was playing in rock bands with his brother on drums, developing his ear by learning songs straight from records. Playing in a band became a passion.

In high school, he grew to love acoustic and classical guitar. He spent time playing acoustic music, influenced by The Eagles, CSN, Dan Folgelberg, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, etc. In the 70's, he headed a very popular Cleveland band, The Brennan-Cosma Band, which played a variety of acoustic and rock music, along with originals. He also took up classicalguitar, and began developing his fingerstyle technique.

Mark is a graduate of Cleveland State University (1980), with a Bachelor of Music in Classical guitar performance. He also studied Music Composition, and took many Music Education classes. After graduation, he began his private teaching career, teaching electric, acoustic, and classical guitar, along with music theory. He taught in various studios and guitar shops throughout his career, and currently has a private practice at his home in Fairview Park, Ohio.

In the 80's Mark took an affection to Progressive rock. With his band Polyphony, he was influenced by the music of Yes, Genesis, Kansas, ELP, Styx, along with a set of prog rock originals.

Currently, Mark is in the regionally successful Pink Floyd tribute band Wish You Were Here. The band performs faithful renderings of the Floyd classics spanning their entire catalog, along with a strong visual stage show. Here, Mark displays his command of the David Gilmour style.

Mark is excited to be part of's fine roster of teachers. He's looking forward to extending his 35 years of performing and teaching experience to the JamPlay members. His philosophy is about developing a passion for guitar and being the best musician you can be; being true to yourself and developing a personal style, and truly expressing your heart through your music.

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