Dashboard Confessional - Hands Down

"Hands Down" is a song by American emo band Dashboard Confessional. It first appeared as an acoustic track on the 2001 EP "So Impossible." An electric version appeared on the album "A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar," released in 2003.


Story behind the song

The song describes a very memorable and passionate date. Dashboard Confessional frontman Chris Carrabba, who wrote this song, often announces it during the band's live performances as the song about the best date he ever had. [1]

This song got known after it was used in the pilot episode of the TV series One Tree Hill in 2003. The next season, "Hands Down" appeared in the episode "Lifetime Piling Up."

Music videos

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The acoustic version from the EP "So Impossible."

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Electric version from the album "A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar"

Official music video

The video, which shows stylized footage of the band performing the song, was directed by Nzingha Stewart.

Live version

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Live at MTV Unplugged in 2003.

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Live performance on US TV talk-show on November 21, 2003.

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Live performance in Madison Square Garden, New York.

Notable covers

Vitamin String Quartet made a cover of the song in 2009.

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On July 2017, Dashboard Confessional and The All-American Rejects covered a trademark song of each other, celebrating the joint tour. Dashboard Confessional covered "Move Along" and The All-American Rejects covered "Hands Down." [2]

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Gear and settings


Chris Carrabba

Chris Carrabba mostly used Gibson Les Paul Standard in red finish with white pickguard for the live shows.

John Lefler

John Lefler is mostly seen playing Fender American Telecaster during these years.

Scott Schoenbeck

Scott Schoenbeck used Fender 70s Jazz Bass.

Amps and effects

Chris Carrabba

Chris Carrabba used Vox AC15 Guitar Combo Amp as his main amp, and 80-watt Bogner Shiva loaded with EL34s with Marshall 4x12 cab as a backup.

Vox AC15 Guitar Combo Amp

Bogner Shiva

He also used the following pedals:

John Lefler

John Lefler used Vox AC30 Head with Marshall 4x12 cab.

Scott Schoenbeck

Scott Schoenbeck most often used Ampeg SVT-VR head with an 8x10 bass cab. But he also performed using Ampeg SVT Classic head.

Ampeg SVT-VR head transparent

Ampeg SVT-VR head

Amp settings

  • Gain - 3
  • Treble - 8
  • Mids - 6
  • Bass - 3


Guitars: half step down tuning (Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb).

Bass: half step down tuning (Eb Ab Db Gb).

Song key

The song is written in the key of E flat major.


As the song was initially written on the acoustic guitar, it's mostly based on chord strumming and arpeggios. However, palm muting is used quite often.

Song breakdown

The song has the following structure:

Intro - Verse 1 - Chorus 1 - Verse 2 - Chorus 2 - Outro

The intro consists of several arpeggios with few slides.

During verses both guitars mostly play palm-muted power chords, though some parts are played with full chords by Chris Carrabba.

In choruses, both guitarists strum chords, but John Lefler also plays an arpeggio, which appears in the middle of the chorus.

John Lefler plays single-note riff during the whole second verse, while Chris continues to play palm-muted power chords for the first half of this verse and performs single-note lick for the second half.

The outro of the song is rather long, as it structurally resembles the bridge, but it doesn't resolve into the final chorus and lasts until the end of the song. Chris Carrabba strums chords for the whole outro, switching two progressions several times, while John Lefler performs several distinguishing parts, including sections with arpeggios, full chords, power chords, double stops, and octave chords.

Acoustic guitar lesson

Demonstration time of song parts:

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  1. SongFacts.com "Hands Down by Dashboard Confessional"
  2. consequenceofsound.net "Dashboard Confessional and The All-American Rejects cover each other to celebrate joint tour: Stream"