Cliffs of Dover (composition)

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"Cliffs of Dover"
Single by Eric Johnson
from the album Ah Via Musicom
Released February 1990
Recorded March 1988 to June 1989 at Austin's Riverside Sound,
Saucer One Studio,
Arlyn Studios,
Studio Seven
Genre Instrumental rock (hard rock, heavy metal, progressive rock)
Length 4:10
Label Capitol Records
Writer(s) Eric Johnson
Producer(s) Eric Johnson
Music sample

"Cliffs of Dover" is an instrumental composition by guitarist Eric Johnson which appeared on his 1990 Ah Via Musicom album. The album version of the song is composed in the key of G major, the song was played with a Gibson ES-335 (as well as a Fender Stratocaster) through a B.K. Butler Tube Driver[1] and an Echoplex plugged into a 100-watt Marshall amplifier.[2][3] The song takes its name from the White Cliffs of Dover along the British shoreline. It is also featured on the video game Guitar Hero III and is available as DLC for the game Rocksmith.

Song structure[edit]

"Cliffs of Dover" begins with an ad-libbed electric guitar solo, using techniques such as string skipping and hybrid picking. In the solo intro, Johnson does not adhere to any distinct time signature. Drums are then added as the song settles into a 4/4 rhythmic shuffle verse accompanied by a very accessible set of melodies that, throughout the song intro, feature variations (octavations for example) on the main chorus. In the Solo section beginning around 2:51 in the studio version, Eric Johnson stated himself that he switches from his stop-tail Gibson ES-335 (either a 1963 or 1964) to one of his Fender Stratocasters (Most likely a 1957 or possibly Virginia his 1954) at around 3:03 when the tone has a noticeable change. The outro or coda then recalls the freestyle mood and timing of the ad-libbed intro.[4]

While he did indeed compose "Cliffs of Dover", Johnson does not take full credit, saying "I don't even know if I can take credit for writing 'Cliffs of Dover' ... it was just there for me one day ... literally wrote in five minutes ... kind of a gift from a higher place that all of us are eligible for. We just have to listen for it and be available to receive it."[5]

Accolades for Cliffs of Dover[edit]

Guitar World[edit]

"Cliffs of Dover" was voted number 17 in Guitar World magazine's list of 100 Greatest Guitar Solos, placing it between 16, "Heartbreaker" (by Led Zeppelin) and 18 "Little Wing" (by The Jimi Hendrix Experience).

Grammy Award[edit]

In 1992, "Cliffs of Dover" won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, beating the Allman Brothers Band ("Kind of Bird"), Danny Gatton ("Elmira Street Boogie"), Rush ("Where's My Thing?"), and Yes ("Masquerade").

Guitar Hero III[edit]

"Cliffs of Dover" is featured as a playable track in the music video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (released October 28, 2007) on the final tier (solo).


"Cliffs of Dover" is available as a downloadable content (DLC) - playable track for the music video game Rocksmith.


  1. ^ in the album recording."BK Butler Tube Driver". Butler Audio. Retrieved 2009-06-08. 
  2. ^ Blackett, Matt (October 2004). "The 50 Greatest Tones of All Time". Guitar Player. pp. 44–66. 
  3. ^ One other source says it was recorded on a Gibson ES-335, "Guitar Attack, "Tone is the thing…"". 
  4. ^ Ah Via Musicom, Full score. ISBN 0-7935-9259-3
  5. ^ GuitarWorld Staff Member (October 21, 2008). "100 Greatest Guitar Solos: 17) "Cliffs of Dover" (Eric Johnson)". Guitar World. Retrieved 2011-10-22.