Frustrated--Changing chords at right time


usa4cc
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usa4cc
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12/07/2020 9:41 pm

So recently I tried playing the chords for a song with a few friends. Even though I can keep up a consistent strumming pattern and change chords easily, I wasn't changing chords at the right time during the song. Apparently sometimes it was too slow, other times too fast--I can easily change chords even in the middle of a strumming pattern.

Someone I know has practiced for so many less hours for me and doesn't know any strumming patterns really, but can play just fine, whereas I wasn't able to.

So I'm really frustrated. Has anyone experienced this before?


# 1
mjgodin
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mjgodin
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12/07/2020 11:26 pm

Sounds like maybe a timing or counting issue. When playing with others it's even more important that you keep proper count with the time signature otherwise you'll miss your mark. Perhaps the other person is better at that than you or has heard the song many more times so they're more familiar with the changes. It's nothing to beat yourself up over. Everyone learns at different pace. Try playing the song on your own for a while at the proper time signature before playing with your friends. See if that helps.

Good Luck,

Moe


# 2
faith83
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12/07/2020 11:41 pm

It sounds to me like nerves. Keep playing out (safely and social distanced, of course), let yourself get used to it so it's not such a big deal, and I bet your fingers will settle into doing what you already know they can do.

I'm the same way, BTW -- I can play the songs I write just fine, right up till I have to play the song all the way through without major mistakes for a scratch track prior to recording and then I'm all thumbs. Sigh...


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 3
Herman10
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Herman10
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12/07/2020 11:42 pm

It might be nerves to? or always practicing with sheet music in front of you and loosing the groove without it, I know many players like that.

Herman


# 4
moosehockey18
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moosehockey18
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12/08/2020 12:08 am
Originally Posted by: usa4cc

So recently I tried playing the chords for a song with a few friends. Even though I can keep up a consistent strumming pattern and change chords easily, I wasn't changing chords at the right time during the song. Apparently sometimes it was too slow, other times too fast--I can easily change chords even in the middle of a strumming pattern.

Someone I know has practiced for so many less hours for me and doesn't know any strumming patterns really, but can play just fine, whereas I wasn't able to.

So I'm really frustrated. Has anyone experienced this before?

Just wondering: The friends you played with ; had they played this song together before ? If so, they may have gotten used to playing with each other and gotten their timing down before you joined them. Maybe their tempo was different than what you had been practicing and that threw you off. The other suggestions that were given are all good. What I like to do sometimes is to play along with the original recording to work out the timing and chord change issues. If you`re new at this then nerves could be a factor but that will get better with time.

Good luck.


# 5
William MG
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William MG
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12/08/2020 12:19 am

I agree with everything that has been said above. It sounds like you have a "Mike". When I was 17 and bought my 1st guitar, my best friend at the time (Mike) had a much easier time of learning the instrument than I did. And man it did not sit well. My guitar and he can play it better than me. So, I let frustration get to me... 38 years later I learned to play it!

As it has been said (Moe I think), try not to compare yourself to others. And if it is nerves, embrace it and jump back in. Sounds easy I know, but its honest.


This year the diet is definitely gonna stick!

# 6
JeffS65
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12/08/2020 3:57 pm
Originally Posted by: usa4cc

So recently I tried playing the chords for a song with a few friends. Even though I can keep up a consistent strumming pattern and change chords easily, I wasn't changing chords at the right time during the song. Apparently sometimes it was too slow, other times too fast--I can easily change chords even in the middle of a strumming pattern.

Someone I know has practiced for so many less hours for me and doesn't know any strumming patterns really, but can play just fine, whereas I wasn't able to.

So I'm really frustrated. Has anyone experienced this before?

I'm going to give you the least technical advice regarding this issue. Stop thinking about when the change happens and feel when it happens. I can tell you that you're thinking about when to change and not going naturally when the change occurs.

Two examples of this.

The first:

In my old church's band, I was the utility guy and played guitar or bass or drums. I've been a musican for a few decades (mostly guitar) but have played other instruents throughout. Easy enough for me to jump in and know the 'feel' of something to know how the groove or vibe of the song goes. There is a natural pace across western society songs.

However, being that the church is very small, others that participated in the church band were not as experienced.

One guy played saxaphone and would make changes exactly where it was noted on the tablature (tab). The pastor would provide the songs lyrics and chords from Ultimate Guitar and their format basically shows a chord above a lyrical word. The saxaphonist literally changed exactly at that word and even down to the syllable. The problem was, he did not listen to anyone else playing much less fall in to the groove the rest the band played. I called him a musical literalist.

To make matters worse, he would only play the root note chord and and he sounded like a ship's blowhorn. He was constatly out of key and it was misarable.

Another person joined the band as a singer. We were lucky that this church had a few pretty skilled musicians and really blessed with singers (my wife included...love her voice). One of the congregants wanted to sing too (though nervous) having sung in a choir...though I question that. Her approach to singing is to just power through the words. No breaks between verse or chrous sections. So while everyone was waiting for the groove between sections, she would just sing. Not aware or not caring that others weren't singing. In a way, I think she thought she was right.

In both of these instances, these folks were not paying attention to the feel or the groove of the song. They were mechanical. Sure, guitar playing has mechanics but it is also about the feel and once you get the mechanics down, your next step is to get the feel. Hear where those changes are. What appears on a sheet of paper and what is played aren't always an exact match. That was the issue for my above examples.

Example two:

Though my wife and I moved very far away from our church, in the COVID world, we still attend virtually. The church recently took on making educational videos for the handful of kids at the church. My wife and I decided that we would make one too. The current batch of videos were on the old Testament so we did one on the word shalom. We ended the video with a workup of the song Shalom Chaverim (pronounced shalom 'have-er-im').

I'm newer to church stuff and never heard the song. So I grabbed the song sheet from Ultimate Guitar.

A few things I needed to do in short order; transpose to a better key than Ultimate Guitar as the key was so low that Barry White would struggle. I also needed to 'correct' some incorrect chords in the version Ultimate Guitar had. It was clearly wrong in some sections. After these 'fixes', we had to practice. Honestly, we practiced the song about five or six times and rolled with it.

You might be saying 'Great, you've been playing a long time. It sounds all so easy'. You're right. I was able to start from nothing and be ready in all of about an hour with all the lookup, printing pages for my wife and the stuff above.

That's not the point. The point is the skills I drew from to get there. Mostly using my ear and listening for the vibe.

As it applies to you, here's what I did that's helpful:

When I'm playing through an acoustic song for the first time and need to get it down quick, I don't strum my way through practice at first. I only do the chord change at those key moments where the chord changes should occur. Strum the chord and hold it until the next change. It helps my head establish the groove and changes. It's easy to hear when you should change when you aren't concentrating on getting all correct at the same time. I've been playing for decades and I still do this and it still works for me. Once I have the changes down, then I apply the strumming pattern.

The other thing I did was listen not to what the sheet told me to do. I listened then to what my wife was singing and it was evident that there was a spare chord floating around in Ultimate Guitar's transcription. Also that my wife just couldn't have sung that low (thanks to my new and pretty Thalia capo, that was an easy fix).

I should note that we just recorded it as a live video then I pulled it in to Garageband and recorded overlayed guitar tracks and my wife vocalized with herself quite nicely too.

The point here is not that you're ready to transcribe or fix things but that you need to use your ear as much as your hands and your other tools.

So, as you continue to play, spend less time worrying about getting every note and chord perfectly. Focus first on the big things. Know where the chord change should be and focus on that. Once you've got that down, build your strumming pattern and all that after.

This is how I'd do it.


# 7
faith83
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12/08/2020 6:18 pm

I second what Jeff says. If you allow yourself to feel the music, you will, I think, begin to sense when it's time for a chord change because what you're singing (or what the singer is singing or the notes that perhaps the lead guitar is playing) won't sound right without a chord change.

What's more, with more experience, you will likely be able to sense not just when to change, but which chord to change to, even if you haven't heard the song before.

It will happen. This also relates to the nerves suggestion that several of us posted above. Nerves keep us from being in touch with our intuition and the groove of the song.

Hope that helps!


"I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk."

# 8
usa4cc
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usa4cc
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12/08/2020 10:59 pm

Thanks! That helps.

So I had never heard of this song before and my idea was that I could play the chords while they could sing it. So I went on Ultimate Guitar, and typed the song in and tried to play the chords while they sang. The song is below.

So maybe that is part of my problem, then?

Also, is it a good idea to make chord changes in the middle of a strumming pattern, or only when absolutely necessary. It's super easy for me to do that, but is it better to just do the last downstrum or upstrum (depending on the pattern) on the open strings and then switch at the end of a strumming pattern whenever possible?


# 9
usa4cc
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usa4cc
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12/08/2020 11:02 pm
Originally Posted by: JeffS65

I'm going to give you the least technical advice regarding this issue. Stop thinking about when the change happens and feel when it happens. I can tell you that you're thinking about when to change and not going naturally when the change occurs.

So even if it is in the middle of a strumming pattern, in other words?


# 10
usa4cc
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usa4cc
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12/08/2020 11:20 pm
Originally Posted by: JeffS65

One guy played saxaphone and would make changes exactly where it was noted on the tablature (tab). The pastor would provide the songs lyrics and chords from Ultimate Guitar and their format basically shows a chord above a lyrical word. The saxaphonist literally changed exactly at that word and even down to the syllable. The problem was, he did not listen to anyone else playing much less fall in to the groove the rest the band played. I called him a musical literalist.

To make matters worse, he would only play the root note chord and and he sounded like a ship's blowhorn. He was constatly out of key and it was misarable.

Another person joined the band as a singer. We were lucky that this church had a few pretty skilled musicians and really blessed with singers (my wife included...love her voice). One of the congregants wanted to sing too (though nervous) having sung in a choir...though I question that. Her approach to singing is to just power through the words. No breaks between verse or chrous sections. So while everyone was waiting for the groove between sections, she would just sing. Not aware or not caring that others weren't singing. In a way, I think she thought she was right.

In both of these instances, these folks were not paying attention to the feel or the groove of the song. They were mechanical. Sure, guitar playing has mechanics but it is also about the feel and once you get the mechanics down, your next step is to get the feel. Hear where those changes are. What appears on a sheet of paper and what is played aren't always an exact match. That was the issue for my above examples.

[/quote]

So if you look at the song that I provided--it's actually a church song too--what my friend was saying afterwards was that I have to make the change at the exact time where the change is on guitar tab--so in the first line, on "know" right as it begins and the same with "baby". And then "someday" and then "water."

But he does have a much better ear--whereas my ear is not very good. I think the issue basically is that I was strumming and changing chords kind of just around where the mark was but my friends were singing it exactly based on the mark--and to make matters worse I didn't even know the melody, never heard of the song before. Also, he said that my strumming pattern which was the classic D-DU-UDU, was too much for this song and maybe that was part of the problem. He strums by just doing four downstrokes and occasionally an upstroke. Does that make sense?

[quote=JeffS65]

Example two:

A few things I needed to do in short order; transpose to a better key than Ultimate Guitar as the key was so low that Barry White would struggle. I also needed to 'correct' some incorrect chords in the version Ultimate Guitar had. It was clearly wrong in some sections. After these 'fixes', we had to practice. Honestly, we practiced the song about five or six times and rolled with it.

That definitely makes sense; I've been told that Ultimate Guitar is wrong a lot--but how do you tell which key is the right key?--I really don't have a very good ear, so it's mainly based on the notes I want. Like if I put my capo on the second fret and play the 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 chord, it sounds a lot different than with no capo. But is it not supposed to be so arbitrary--like for example should the capo be based more on the vocal range if that is the only instrument?

Also, thank you so much for taking your time to answer my question!


# 11
usa4cc
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usa4cc
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12/08/2020 11:35 pm
Originally Posted by: moosehockey18

Just wondering: The friends you played with ; had they played this song together before ? If so, they may have gotten used to playing with each other and gotten their timing down before you joined them. Maybe their tempo was different than what you had been practicing and that threw you off. The other suggestions that were given are all good. What I like to do sometimes is to play along with the original recording to work out the timing and chord change issues. If you`re new at this then nerves could be a factor but that will get better with time.

Good luck.

Yeah, that might have been part of the problem. Because this was the first time I had heard of the song, and their tempo I think was kind of slow.


# 12
simmonssarah.work
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simmonssarah.work
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12/09/2020 4:12 am

I was told that sometimes the chords might be written not right above word, where it is changed but a bit earlier/later. It is a common issue for many popular guitar chords/tabs websites.

I struggled for the first time, but when I started to listen to the rhythm of the song and not just to change a chord on a certain word


# 13
JeffS65
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JeffS65
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12/09/2020 8:38 pm
Originally Posted by: usa4cc[br]So if you look at the song that I provided--it's actually a church song too--what my friend was saying afterwards was that I have to make the change at the exact time where the change is on guitar tab--so in the first line, on "know" right as it begins and the same with "baby". And then "someday" and then "water."
[/quote]

Pointedly, your friend is wrong overall but to the song you posted, was pretty much right. Characters on paper do not dictate a groove. I don't bag on Ultimate Guitar as it can be a very useful tool to figure something out quickly. I used it for Shalom Chaverim. Just take it for what it is.

To your friends point and why I disagree; Ultimate Guitar is useful in giving you a general idea about when a chord change occurs but it is not exact. It's only as good as the person that entered it. Ultimate Guitar is like a Wiki of songs. People are entering this stuff in themsleves. Even back in the 80's when guitar tab came in the form of books or in magazines, even professionals who did this stuff got it wrong.

Make the chord change when it sounds right. My pastor used Ultimate Guitar almost exclusively and myself and/or the other guitar player would then play it through. He had a good sense if timing so we were always on the same page.

Originally Posted by: usa4cc

But he does have a much better ear--whereas my ear is not very good. I think the issue basically is that I was strumming and changing chords kind of just around where the mark was but my friends were singing it exactly based on the mark--and to make matters worse I didn't even know the melody, never heard of the song before. Also, he said that my strumming pattern which was the classic D-DU-UDU, was too much for this song and maybe that was part of the problem. He strums by just doing four downstrokes and occasionally an upstroke. Does that make sense?

'Mary Did You Know' is both an interesting example but also a hard one for strum timing and pattern. Some songs are dictated by the strum pattern and some songs are driven by the vocal melody. Whereas a more classic acoustic rock song like George Harrison's 'My Sweet Lord' is driven by a persistent strummed pattern, 'Mary Did You Know' is very much by the vocal melody.

I do think the Ultimate Guitar timing was pretty close. I've played that before and it looks right. For this song, your friend was right to tell you for this song, stick to the page. Further, the observation that you were strumming a more standard D-DU-UDU; your friend was spot on too. This is not a song that should stick to a standard pattern. Though I wasn't there to watch you play, it sounds like you may have been trying to strum a pattern to this song.

This does bring me back to 'thinking and playing'. You're thinking of a strum pattern. Listen to the cadence and the melody of the song. Because the rhythm is driven by the vocal melody and patttern, you should be playing to that.

My version is like this pattern:

(D) (U) (D) (D) (D) the last downstroke righs out

Ma - ry did you know

I won't go thrpough the whole song but this is an example of a line where it's not 'standard' strumming.

But, this brings me back to my previous advice; only strum out one chord at the chord change when you're learning the song. At first, don't do a pattern. Just get the change timing down. Then start working the strum groove once you're good with the chord change timing.

[quote=usa4cc]

I really don't have a very good ear, so it's mainly based on the notes I want. Like if I put my capo on the second fret and play the 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 chord, it sounds a lot different than with no capo. But is it not supposed to be so arbitrary--like for example should the capo be based more on the vocal range if that is the only instrument?

It's not arbitrary but to your point of it being based on the vocal melody, you're correct. Sort of......This is all about transposing. It also depends on the song too.

I mean, Stairway to Heaven is in A minor. If you were to play Stairway to Heaven, pretty much always play it in A minor. Other songs are more prone to transposition. A lot of older church hymn songs get transposed all the time.

[br]That was the excercise I went through was to tranpose the key for Shalom Chaverim from Ultimate Guitar to better fit my wife's voice. So your instinct on using the vocals as a key, that's correct.

When we transposed for my wife, we knew that the key of (open) E was way to low. I'm lucky that my wife, having never played an instrument (though she did just pick up guitar this year...) has a wonderful sense of pitch. So I had her sing the vocal melody accapella.

Something to keep in mind, those same cowboy chords you learned are often a great reference point in transposing a key. You find a lot of stuff in E, G or A.

So while my wife sang the song/melody, I went looking for the key. If it wasn't good in the key of E, my next guess was that she would be more comfortable in G. I mean, many, many songs are in the key of G so vocalists usually have a comfort zone in that key. I had her sing and just struck the single string G to see if that matches her pitch. It did.

So, I moved the capo to the 3rd fret so that even though I was playing the same shapes as Ultimate Guitar versaion in E, I was playing them in the key of G. The capo is like moving the nut up so you can play the same chords but at a higher pitch.

The rest is really listening. In this case, Ultimate Guitar had the chords as Em7, C, D and G. These were the shapes I was playing but with a capo, these shapes were actually different notes.

-The open Em7 shape (which is an E minor but not fretting/removing your finger from the D string) sounded terrible so I just went with a standard E minor shape. Transposed, it was actually a G minor playing open chord style with a capo.

-The C chord shape was clearly not correct. It was the wrong note/interval. The 'open' shape I ended up playing was based on a B minor (with a flat 6th). With a capo, it was: D minor (with a flat 6th).

...and so on. Don't let all the transposition notes above explode your head. I did little more than just play familiar chords and shapes I knew, with a capo, and listened to what sounded right. We did a couple of run throughs and had the right notes.

You said that you don't have a good ear. Unless you start as a pre-schooler associating a pitch with a note designation, you'll never have perfect pitch. I surely don't. I was terrible at figuring out songs for a long time. Still not my strong suit.

You can learn better pitch. Start with a simple excersize when your guitar is tuned: E A D G B E. Sing out the letter as you strike the open string. Learn to find the note vocally for each string (also handly when you don't have a tuner). Do the same with a 5th string C note and a 6th string G note. You'll start hearing the notes by ear.

This will help a lot in finding notes and transposing when needed.

So, another 10 cent worth of mt 2 cents ;)


# 14
usa4cc
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usa4cc
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12/11/2020 2:48 pm

Very, very helpful!

Thank you very much, Jeff!


# 15

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