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Making it (the song) less boring

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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 47
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This is my first post in this sub-forum.. honestly ive been lurking on GN for a long time and havent posted in a while.

Anyways. I set the guitar down for a bit while some big stuff happened (moved 2000 miles, bought my first home, changed jobs, yadda yadda you know the drill). Just picking it back up these past few weeks. ive been working on chords and honestly just switching between chords (following Justin Sandercoe's lessons) is not super exciting in itself so im kind of strumming along and trying to find pleasant combinations of the chords im learning.

So im playing some chords and have a combination / progression that i like, id like to write my first "song". Problem is i need to spice it up somehow... you dont hear many songs that are just 4 chords strum strum strum strum chord change type songs (im sure somebody will prove me wrong =P).

Anyone have any tips for how to spruce this up a bit? Im looking around posts here and a lot of them seem to be more tailored towards the lyrics side, which I havent even gotten to yet.

It would be cool to be able to add in some single notes etc into the song instead of just the chords, I guess I just dont even know what to try beyond hitting the notes of the chord one by one... I will keep experimenting to see what "sounds good" but wondered if anybody had any advice,

Thanks either way, have a good one!


"I just curse the sun so I can howl at the moon" ~QOTSA

David Hodge
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 4472

Hi Jonathan

There are actually thousands of songs that are, as you put it, "just 4 chords strum strum strum strum chord change type songs." Not that that's a bad thing.

What you're discussing here could be considered more of the arrangement of the song, rather than just the song itself, but there are also a lot of songs that are built around single note guitar riffs as well as other things such as bass lines and even just different chord voicings.

For instance, you could have a song that's just G, Am, D and back to G. Sounds simple enough and it's easy enough to just strum, strum, strum, but you could make it sound a lot different, even though strumming the chords the same, by chaning the voicing of the chords. Playing Am with the (x 0 10 9 10 0) fingering or using Am7 (x05555) for the "normal" open position Am and playing D as (xx0775) or even going with Dadd9 (xx0550).

One of the best ways to learn how to go about this is to hear it in other songs and to find what they've done to change up the expectation. You can find a whole lot of examples like this on our song lessons here on Guitar Noise. Even without the tablatures you will get detailed explanations of how different chord voicings are used. There's also a good article called "Multiple Personality Disorder" that goes into this topic as well.

As far as strumming differently, may I be so bold as to suggest giving a listen to some of our Guitar Noise Podcasts (just click on the Podcast icon at the top of any page). The whole purpose of these podcasts is to demonstrate the very thing you're looking for - coming up with interesting ways to spice up your strumming, which will in turn make your songs (whether your own originals or covers) less boring.

A big thing to remember is that as you grow and improve as a guitarist, that is, as you learn new techniques and gain confidence in your abilities to play them, you will be constantly adding these new dimensions to your songwriting. That's part of the natural evolution of a guitar player who also writes songs. Don't worry about making everything different to start with. Songs have to have good melodies and strong chord progressions first and then the fancy stuff can be added as you feel comfortable doing so. Most songwriters are constantly rewriting and rearranging their earlier material in accordance to their new and ever-growing skillset.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to email me or PM me directly if I can be of help. And I'm sure you'll be getting lots of other good advice as well!

Looking forward to seeing you around on the boards.



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Joined: 14 years ago
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Topic starter  

Thanks for the reply David,

I have not had the pleasure of checking out the podcasts on the site yet so I will definitely do that. I have been trying some different things, strumming faster, slower, reaally slower where all the individual strings kind of ring out a bit more, etc. Some structure to the experimentation would not go amiss, so I will see what I can find!

One trap that I find myself falling into is that I am trying to do everything very symmetrical... Like with your example of G, Am, D, G, why do I have to do 4 strums each? Why cant I just do 2 of G and Am, but 4 of D and 8 of G, or whatever? I just automatically do the 4 (probably due to the training material ive been reading.). Its just funny that I have to fight my brain on that.

I havent tried anything with the voicings yet, I guess everything I am learning so far is just up towards the first fret. I know you can make the same chord tons of different ways on the guitar, I guess I just haven't gotten that far. I will look for the multiple personality disorder article.

Ill keep hacking away at it, I appreciate your help!

P.S. I knew when I made the comment about the '4 chord song' that it was wrong, I guess I didnt really get what I meant across very well.

Thanks again.


"I just curse the sun so I can howl at the moon" ~QOTSA

Vic Lewis VL
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 10264

Jonathan, there are lots of ways to spice up a song with the simple open chords as well....

Four simple chords....G, Em, C and D. Thousands of songs use these four chords....put a capo on at the first fret and play the same chords, you've got Ab, Fm, Db and Eb. Second fret, you've got A, F#m, D and E.....etc, etc.

Now try something slightly different....

Put your pinky on the third fret of the top E string, and put your ring finger on the third fret of the third fret of the B string. Now try these chords.....

Dsus4...200233 (thumb for the F# note on the bottom E, or x00233 - technically a Dsus4/A chord, but the A note is needed anyway in a D or Dsus4 chord.)

these are pretty easy to add without moving that pinky and ring finger....

A7sus4..xo2233 (this and the above four chords are all you need to play Wonderwall by Oasis - with a capo on the 2nd fret to get you in the right key to play along with the CD.)
Fadd9..103233 (thumb for the bass note again....)

Now try taking your pinky off, but leaving the ring finger on the B string, 3rd fret....


easy again to make a couple of extra chords....


Try mixing them around....already you've got an extra 13 chords to play around with, and very little effort to change between them. With a capo, the possibilities are limitless!

:D :D :D


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