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When do you change chords?

Another recent email:

When you’re playing a song, how do you know how many times you need to strike the chord before you change?

Like, when you read the music, it’ll say just one note, for example “D#,” over one word, and in a few words, it’ll say another note. My question is regarding how many times you play the note.

This is the song I want to play: Tous les garcons et les filles. Here is the song if you haven’t heard it before.

I’m fairly new to this game, but I’d like to try it. To prevent a lot of screw-ups, I already covered a few basics on guitars.

Help appreciated!! So is any other advice regarding performing this song successfully.


Hello and thanks for writing.

Chord changes in songs are always a matter of timing. Each chord is given a certain number of beats and if that specific number (which may be different for each chord) isn’t written out for you, then you have to be able to count it out yourself. So when you’re using what most people call a “chord sheet” (a page of lyrics with chords written out on top of each line of lyrics), you really can’t just go by where the chord appears over the lyric. And it’s almost always a chord, not usually a single note that is played. You have to be careful of that because if you see “A,” for instance (the first chord of the first line of the song in question), you play an A major chord and not just the single A note.

By the bye, I’ve not heard this song in ages, so it was cool to listen to it again. Thanks!

Tous les garcons et les filles has a strong 6/8 feel to it. You can hear it in the drums and in the accompanying chords. And, conveniently enough, if you count a quick six beats to yourself while listening to it, you’ll find that the chords, for the most part, change every six beats.

There are a few exceptions, of course. In the eighth line (“oui mais moi je vais seule car personne ne m’aime”) the Bm and E each get three beats instead of six.

In the bridge (the part that starts “mes jours comme mes nuits”) the D and Dm get six beats each while the A at the end of that line gets twelve beats. In the second line of the bridge, the first D gets twelve beats and then the following four chords each get three beats (by the way, you can just play an E chord there for all twelve beats and use the notes E, D, C# and B as a descending bass line). The third line of the bridge is the same as the first (D for six, Dm for six and A for twelve) and the last line of this section has D for twelve, Bm for six and E for six).

The rest of the song simply repeats the first section or the bridge section. No new timing changes.

I hope this helps you out. Remember to get into the habit of counting the beats / timing of any given song. Not only will it help you figure out where the chords changes are, doing so will also make your life as a guitarist (or any type of music instrument) a lot easier.


If you’ve got any questions, we at Guitar Noise are always happy to answer them. Just send any of your questions to David at [email protected] He (or another Guitar Noise contributor) may not answer immediately but he will definitely answer!

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