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Joined: 10/07/08
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Registered User
Joined: 10/07/08
Posts: 1,602
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 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.