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Reading songs by chords

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bjourne
(@bjourne)
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Joined: 14 years ago
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Topic starter  

Hello all, I have some problem with understanding how to play by chords. Take for example the two first lines of the verses in American Pie:

G Am, C Am
Did you write the book of love and do you have faith in God above?__
. Em D G D Em
If the Bible tells you so__ Now do you believe in rock and roll?

The way I'm playing it is one measure of DDUUDU for each printed chord. So for beats G, four beats Am, four beats C and so on. But the more I listen to the original, the worse my version sound. The first line can't be four measures while the second is five, can it? Either the EmDGDEm line is "compressed" in some way to four measures or the first line is longer than four.

I can't figure out which, and believe me I have really tried! Do you learn to see things like this when you become an experienced guitarist? Actually I'm not even sure what the rhythm pattern is, although I'm guessing it is 8/4 because the song is fast. :roll: It is the same with most songs I'm practicing, since each printed chord isn't equal in length, I can't play it correctly. Please help me out. There must be something I'm missing here..


   
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Wes Inman
(@wes-inman)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5582
 

Don't know if it came from pasting here, but the chord changes are not correct.


G Am C Am
Did you write the book of love and do you have faith in God above?
Em D
If the Bible tells you so

G Am C Am Em D
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

Now, here is a straight quarter note down strum. Just count one, two, three, four... So you have one measure of G, one measure of Am, one measure of C, one measure Am, one measure Em, and two measures D. The singing starts on the 2nd beat of the first measure (G chord), the second line starts on the 2nd beat of the Em chord.

Then the chord progression just repeats. This is the next line where you sing, "Do you believe in Rock and Roll?"

Start with a simple down strum like this until you get the chord changes, then you can alter the strum.

Hope that helped.

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis


   
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Vic Lewis VL
(@vic-lewis-vl)
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This is, of course, the main drawback to tablature as opposed to musical notation - no time signature. Now while I can't read music, I CAN click my fingers in time to it and count.....which makes me think the first line is correct (four beats to the bar). The second line, the Em chord should be lined up like this:
Em D G D Em
If the Bible tells you so__ Now do you believe in rock and roll?

What the tab doesn't tell you is that there is one bar of Em, TWO bars of D (there's a Dsus4 thrown in there, in the second bar) then the next bar is two beats G, two beats D before going back to Em.

For the most part, internet tabs are OK - they'll get you in the ball park. But sooner or later, your ear will develop to the point where you do recognise those subtle differences.

You can't beat listening to the record over and over again, trying to work a song out. You may be heartily sick of the song by the time you've mastered it, but you WILL learn it!

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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rparker
(@rparker)
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These chord charts are pretty handy only to a point. It tells you about when to switch and what to switch to. I listen to a song and get a feel for it, which is to say that I kind of get the rhythm in my head going and ins some mysterious way, my hands start strumming away.

There are true TAB notations out there, but they tend to be big and bulky. Besides that, as Vic mentioned, thet don't have the timing portion spelled out. My biggest gripe with them are that it takes many pages to hold a song. Once I know it to a point, I don't want to be bothered with dealing with 5-10 pages. I want it all out on one page where when I know I'm about to forget a word, phrase or chord, I can quickly look. That's the beauty of chord charts to me.

That doesn't solve your problem though. Lots of books have a combination of timing and music notation, but books are not free. Plus, you've gotta be pretty adapt at reading at least the timing portion of music.

The other solution, and this one's free, is something called Power Tab. It's an application that plays a midi sound along with the music and has a pointer to it. You can see what to play and more importantly, what it's supposed to sound like. There's another application out there that costs $60 or something like that called Guitar Pro. I have both and go to Guitar Pro first. Sounds better and has a few features. These are the ultimate tools. After it's figured out, I print off a corresponding chord chart found somewhere online, sometimes modified to suit my tastes and/or accuracy. Remember, EVERYTHING you see, including Powet Tab and Guitar Pro files are created by the user community. Hence, prone to subtle mistakes from time to time.

Well, if you've gotten this far, I'll tell you how I go about learning a song most of the time. It's quite similar if not spot on to what Wes mentioned. I get a chord sheet similar to the one you pasted and excerpt from. I'll start singing, poorly I might add. At each chord change, I'll strum the chord once. That helps me start to get the feel of the song. After a while, the rhythm sort of comes to me. I get the feel for it and before I know it, I'm playing the song. Once in a while I have to go to Guitar Pro or Power Tab when I get stuck and watch-listen to a tricky part to sort of see how it's played, but in reality, it's not that often.

On a humerous (or sorry) note, I was learning Midnight Special from the chord sheet and it was spelled out to strum only once per chord change for the first verse. I was not 1/2 way through it before I started feeling the rhythm and could not help but to start wailing on it before I was supposed to. Oh well. :oops:

Well, in closing, I really do suggest at least getting the free Power Tab application. It's free and it's a handy little tool to have in the tool-box when you need it.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


   
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Rich_Halford
(@rich_halford)
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Try the American Pie link towards the bottom of this page:

http://www.guitar.gg/demos.html

Helped me when I was learning this classic


   
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rr191
(@rr191)
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This site also has a tab that is a liitle easier to understand as it has noted where some cords are repeated for two measures and were some are only a half measure.

-- Rob

http://www.heartwoodguitar.com/Guitar%20Music%20for%20Web/McLean,%20Don%20-%20American%20Pie.htm


   
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boxboy
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There's another application out there that costs $60 or something like that called Guitar Pro. I have both and go to Guitar Pro first. Sounds better and has a few features. These are the ultimate tools. After it's figured out, I print off a corresponding chord chart found somewhere online, sometimes modified to suit my tastes and/or accuracy.

Another handy feature of Guitar Pro is you can create little chord diagrams under the song title info. If you select (right click on a PC? Not sure. On a Mac it's control click) a chord in the tab and chose 'Chord' from the pop up menu, you get a dialog box with suggestions for what the chord is. Select one and a little named diagram of it is created at the top of the first page, under the song title. Just like on professional sheet music tabs.
Do that for the progressions in the song and you get a great quick reference to remind you how the song goes.
:)

Edit. Easier to show than to tell. These:

If the tab author didn't include them, you can create them yourself.

Don


   
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rparker
(@rparker)
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Oh, that's what happens when you click "OK". I always just closed the box before. Thanks for the tip.

On a side note, do you ever get a memory leak after extensive use? If I open & close quite few, or have two or three open, my machine gets darned near frozen.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


   
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boxboy
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Joined: 16 years ago
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LOL! All this time I figured all the glitches were because the present version is the first one ported to the Mac!
It does any number of weird things on my machine. No freezes, but the program itself conks out regularly.
It performs more like shareware than a commercial app, but it's so darned handy...
:)

Don


   
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bjourne
(@bjourne)
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Posts: 37
Topic starter  

Thanks a lot for all the advice! I've been trying out tuxguitar which is kind of the linux equivalent to guitar pro. It is a really nice app but very hard to find good guitar pro tabs. There are lots of spammy sites that say they have millions of tabs and when you click around on them there are just lots of banner ads and no tabs.. Also the program uses midi so it can't accurately represent rhythms because there is no up strums. Still a nice tool.

I'd still like to be able to able to hear the chord changes by ear. The american pie tabs you posted are great and I would never have figured out the correct rhythm myself. :) For other songs I'd like to be able to figure out the correct tabs myself. Is there any way you can practice that or does it just automatically come as you get experienced?


   
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kent_eh
(@kent_eh)
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Joined: 17 years ago
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Thanks a lot for all the advice! I've been trying out tuxguitar which is kind of the linux equivalent to guitar pro. It is a really nice app but very hard to find good guitar pro tabs. There are lots of spammy sites that say they have millions of tabs and when you click around on them there are just lots of banner ads and no tabs..

Have you checked this site for GP tabs?
http://www.gprotab.net/

Tuxguitar also reads Powertab files, and there are lots of those (as well as GP tabs) at:
http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


   
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clideguitar
(@clideguitar)
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-- Rob

http://www.heartwoodguitar.com/Guitar%20Music%20for%20Web/McLean,%20Don%20-%20American%20Pie.htm

Rob Hampton?

Anyway, there are allot of good tabs on this site that includes some sort of timing or strumming patterns. Bookmark it!

As for the original poster, yes, the timing on this song is difficult! I haven't tried it in awhile but had the same problem you did. Some parts sounded great but then I ran into parts... this doesn't sound right all?

Bob Jessie


   
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rparker
(@rparker)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5480
 

It's a long song with varying degrees of tempo on top of a variety of ways you should strum the chords for different feelings for different parts of the song. I find it to be an engaging excercise in getting yourself to control your guitar and really make it work for you.

Roy
"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin


   
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bjourne
(@bjourne)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 37
Topic starter  

One more question about American Pie now that I got the correct cords. :) Is it best to practice using the correct strumming or is it ok to simplify the song? For example, I can play it almost decently if I play it using all quarter notes (all downstrums). However when I try to play it correctly (using this tab http://www.guitar.gg/americanp.htm ), it breaks down. The rhythm patterns are to hard. In general, is it better to practice material that is way to hard or should you stick to stuff that is just a little to difficult?


   
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clideguitar
(@clideguitar)
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Posts: 375
 

One more question about American Pie now that I got the correct cords. :) Is it best to practice using the correct strumming or is it ok to simplify the song? For example, I can play it almost decently if I play it using all quarter notes (all downstrums). However when I try to play it correctly (using this tab http://www.guitar.gg/americanp.htm ), it breaks down. The rhythm patterns are to hard. In general, is it better to practice material that is way to hard or should you stick to stuff that is just a little to difficult?

I say, go with what sounds right to you. If it sounds right to you it will sound right to everyone else.
Then, if you want, come back to it (sometime in the future) and try it again the way you think it should be played.

Bob Jessie


   
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