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 on May 24th, 2017

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 on May 24th, 2017

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 on May 24th, 2017

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 on May 24th, 2017

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 on May 25th, 2017

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 on May 26th, 2017

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 on July 18th, 2016

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

bwedwards67bwedwards67 replied on September 10th, 2015

great job, thanks for the lesson

CoysquibblyCoysquibbly replied on July 15th, 2013

Very nicely done. great voice Marla.

tarregatarrega replied on June 2nd, 2013

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 on March 22nd, 2013

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 on February 8th, 2013

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 on February 21st, 2013

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 on July 23rd, 2012

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

slimmchantsslimmchants replied on November 1st, 2011

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

melodiusthunkmelodiusthunk replied on November 27th, 2010

Woo Hoo! Encore, Encore!

DCbluesDCblues replied on November 6th, 2010

Love to see a James Taylor tune on JamPlay.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on November 6th, 2010


tloeswicktloeswick replied on July 8th, 2010

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 on February 21st, 2010


rockenrocken replied on January 14th, 2010

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 on December 26th, 2009

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

diggerdigger replied on October 23rd, 2009

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

kevinoneillkevinoneill replied on September 26th, 2009

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

joehobbsjoehobbs replied on August 11th, 2009

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

kevinkevin replied on May 15th, 2009

nice song what guitar

bigjoebigjoe replied on April 28th, 2009

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 on April 23rd, 2009

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 on April 12th, 2009

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 on April 12th, 2009

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 on April 13th, 2009

cool thanks ;)

aquariartyaquariarty replied on April 11th, 2009

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

guitarperryguitarperry replied on April 10th, 2009

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 on April 10th, 2009

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

nmoundnmound replied on April 10th, 2009

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

gone workingone workin replied on April 10th, 2009

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 on April 9th, 2009

Mark is that a new Martin guitar?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on April 9th, 2009

Yep...check out scene 3.

flyrerflyrer replied on April 9th, 2009

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.

Lesson 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
Lesson 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
Lesson 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
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Lesson 18

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Lesson 19

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Length: 72:55 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 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
Lesson 21

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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

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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