Wild World – Cat Stevens
I hope you’re ready to do a bit of work today! This “Easy Songs for Beginners” lesson will pull together a lot of what we’ve done recently – some Neil Young-style strumming, a couple of bass runs and a fancy riff or two thrown in for (no pun intended) good measure. More importantly, it will give you a good workout on changing chords and I hope to show you that when you see a son.g with a lot of chords in it, it’s not necessarily as scary you might think. Ready?
These files are the author’s own work and represent his interpretation of this song. They are intended solely for private study, scholarship or research.
Wild World,our song for today, is (yet) another old song from the early seventies. It was written by Cat Stevens and I like to teach it to my students after they’ve had a little Neil Young for reasons I think you’ll discover yourself during this lesson.
Taking a quick glance at the chords, a beginner might feel a bit of anxiety. Here’s the first verse and chorus:
Now that’s a lot of changes, isn’t it? But take heart! We’ll get through this with a little bit of thought and have a lot of fun with it.
First, though, let’s take a look at the rhythm. I know I shouldn’t have to say this, but it can’t hurt to iterate that this may not be precisely the same strumming pattern that is on the recording. I don’t own the record (gasp!) and I haven’t heard the original version of this for (I think) close to twenty years.
But it’s a good pattern. As I mentioned earlier, it has the same style of many Neil Young songs, not to mention scores of other guitarists. We’re going to play this at a very deliberate pace, say 100 BPM. And remember that you can work up to that speed! Start at 80 BPM if it’s more comfortable. After all, this isn’t a competition! To make strumming matters easier, let’s start out with just the Am and not worry just yet about changing the chords. Have a listen:
At this tempo, you shouldn’t be afraid of sixteenth notes! On the first beat, we play two eighth notes. In today’s notation, I’ve used “x”s to let you have a choice on what to do. You can play the single bass note (the open A string on this example), or a partial chord (I usually do this striking the A and D strings) or even play the whole Am. This is totally up to you. As you can hear, I like to palm mute these and play them both as downstrokes. On the sixteenth notes, I alternate my strumming – down and up, down and up.
I’ve taken the liberty of throwing in a second strumming pattern (rhythm pattern #2), which is a little sparser than the first. They start out the same – with the two eighth note downstrokes on the first beat – but the second beat of this alternate pattern consists of breaking the second beat into a dotted eighth note (a downstroke) followed by a sixteenth (an upstroke). When I’m playing this song, I find myself alternating a lot between these two patterns. While the first one fills up more space, the second is a little easier to sing along with.
As in every lesson we’ve done, take your time getting comfortable with these rhythm patterns. After all, you’re going to be playing them pretty much throughout the song! I think that getting it right at this point will make your life a lot easier. Practice one, then the other and then try mixing them up a bit and see how you like it.
Alright, then, are you ready to work on the first verse? Before we start I want you to know something important about changing chords that you have probably already figured out: the less you have to move your fingers, the better! Most guitarists, regardless of experience, tend to think of chords as single entities. But music is a flowing thing and getting it into your head that chords should flow one into another will help you make smoother transitions. That’s what today is all about. I want to show you how you can actually get away with a lot when you’re changing chords. And (big surprise here!), also how knowing a little bit about theory can make things easier on you.
Let’s start with the first half of the first verse. Two things about the notation – first, the “x,” as I previously said, indicates to palm mute your choice of bass note, partial chord or full chord. Second, in order to make things slightly easier on myself, I wrote most of this out using “rhythm pattern #2,” but in the MP3 you’ll hear me playing a combination of both strumming patterns. Don’t freak out about it, okay?
You see that we’ve only four measures, and there are two chord changes in each. You’ve probably also noticed that I’ve changed a few of the chords! Is that cheating? Not really. The chords we’re using as substitutes are not very different than the originals and, as you will hear in just a bit, sound perfectly fine. My reason for using these chords, believe it or not, is to give you less to think about!
Typically, one plays the Am chord with the index finger on the first fret of the B string, the ring finger on the second fret of the G string and the middle finger on the second fret of the D string. To switch from the Am to D7, we simply scoot our ring finger to the high E (first) string and shift the middle finger to the spot where our ring finger was. The index finger stays put. Remember, the first beat of the new chord can simply be the open D string, and playing those two eighth notes that way leaves you plenty of time to get the rest of the chord set up for the sixteenth notes that follow! Devious, isn’t it?
Going from D7 to G will involve moving all three fingers, but surprisingly we aren’t going to change their shape all that much. What do I mean by “shape?” Well, if for the G chord I use my middle finger for the third fret of the low E (sixth) string and my index finger to play the second fret of the A string, they will still be in the same position, relative to each other, as they are when playing the D7. Do you see this? Even though I’m actually moving two fingers, I can trick my body into thinking it’s a single motion. Thinking about moving my fingers n this fashion makes it easier for me and less work for my hands. Having covered the fifth and sixth strings, all I have to do now is slide my ring finger up a fret so that it covers the G note at the third fret of the high E.
Next we go from G to C, which I’ve changed to a Cmaj7. The Cmaj7 is simply your standard C chord, but with an open B string. The easiest way to make this change is to move your index and middle fingers up a string. There we are using that “shape” thing again! But, looking ahead at the next chord, I’m not certain that I want to do this. Going from this fingering of Cmaj7 to Fmaj7 is going to be a chore. So instead, I totally remove my index finger from the fretboard, use my ring finger on the second fret of the D string and, since my ring finger is already on the third fret, transfer it from the first string to the A string.
I’d like to note here that when I’m changing chords, I try to plant the fingers on the lowest strings first, because I want that bass. It also makes sense to do so because, more often than not, you’re going to be playing a downstroke on the new chord.
Another reason for playing a Cmaj7 in this fashion (or playing it at all, for that matter!) is to give the chord a little flourish. That’s a fancy way of saying I’m going to use my free index finger to hammer-on the first fret of the B string, essentially making the Cmaj7 a regular C. Like this:
I know… I should make up my mind which chord to use! Seriously, with my fingers now set in the C chord, switching to the Fmaj7 is a piece of cake – just shift your ring and middle fingers up a string.
So far this has been a snap, no? Let’s tackle the last few changes then. For many people, Dm is a quirky chord. Usually I will finger it with my index finger on the first fret of the first (high E) string, my pinky on the third fret of the second string (some people use their ring finger
here, but I find using my pinky more comfortable) and my middle finger on the second fret of the third string. My middle finger is therefore already in position for the Dm when I’m playing the Fmaj7; it doesn’t have to move at all. Anything to make life easier!
The final chord change, from Dm to E, will require me to move all of my fingers. But because of my positioning, it won’t be that hard. Again, it’s all in the shape. My index finger is already on the first fret – it only has to move from the B string to the G. My middle finger, on the second fret of the G, moves down two strings to the A string. Since my ring finger is free, it simply follows the middle finger and parks itself on the second fret of the D string. My pinky goes back to being carefree and unused.
But not for long! Since the last measure is four counts of E, and because I’ve become used to playing two chords per measure, I add my pinky to the third fret of the B string. This makes the E an E7 and allows me a chance to do another little flourish, courtesy of a little pull-off:
You can simply play this last measure out as four beats of E if you so desire. But I think you’ll find these little touches will come to you pretty easily with a little practice.
The second half of the verse starts out with the same three measures. Then it adds a “half measure” of C (one measure in 2 / 4 time), followed by a full measure of G. I’ve come up with two ways to play this, one very easy and one slightly more difficult:
Example #5A is fairly straightforward, although it does use a bit of the “anticipation” technique that we’ve encountered in some of our earlier lessons. The measure of G uses the both of the strumming patterns that I showed you in Example #1.
In our second example, I’ve added a short bass line to make the transition to the chorus a little more interesting. But instead of using just the single bass notes (G, F, E and D), I use full chords in order to make things a little more powerful. We start with a single hit on the G chord and then go to a pattern of sixteenth notes for Fmaj7, C/E (a C chord with E in the bass) and G7/D. You can see that the fingering for these is not all that complex. The G7/D is one finger on the first string!
I can’t stress enough the importance of trying this slowly – painfully slowly if that’s what it takes. Since you probably won’t have a piano to hide behind when you play this, keeping it clean will be important. If you’re having problems with one particular change of chords in the verse, stop and just work on that one change. Find the way that works for you. Rest assured, once you’ve got the changes down to the point where they are comfortable for you. it won’t take all that long to get your speed up.
Okay, then, so here’s the whole verse. I’ve also, conveniently enough, tacked on the introduction (which is (also conveniently enough) the first half of the verse) as well:
Wow! Pretty cool so far, eh? Are you ready to move on to the chorus and have even more fun? As usual, there’s both good news and bad. The good news is that most of the chorus consists of our strumming pattern, which we should have down cold by now.
The bad news (“bad” meaning “fun” and “challenging”) is that we’ve got two riffs to throw in. These are played by the piano in the recording, but, as you may have already figured out, this site is called “Guitar Noise” for a reason…
Let’s take a look at the first two lines of the chorus:
Looks like more good news! Riff #1 is simply a descending C major scale! Not only that, but it comes immediately after playing an Fmaj7 chord? You might not have any idea how simple that little chord is going to make this work out. First get your fingers set on the fretboard for Fmaj7. If you’ve forgotten, your index finger is on the first fret of the B string, your middle finger is on the second fret of the G and your ring finger is on the third fret of the D. Are you ready?
And if you think I was adamant before about the importance of starting out slowly, well… The important thing about this is to get the timing down pat; it’s a nice, even string of sixteenth notes. One’s natural tendency is to see how fast you can play it, but that’s really not the point. You want this to be a natural and flowing part of the song, not a big disruption. I tell my students that they should not play the rest of the song any faster than they can play this riff. Why? Because there is really no sense to be whizzing through a song and then bring the whole thing to a screeching halt while you stumble over a single measure. That’s not how you’d perform it, after all.
Believe it or not, once you get this down you can play
around with it. On the very last chorus, I like to clip the low C that ends the run and then not play the G until the second beat of the next measure. This gives a bit of a dramatic punch, as you can hear in the MP3 coming up.
Chorus riff #2, a cool sounding run on the lower strings, uses the same rhythm of straight sixteenth notes. Because you are on a C major chord immediately before it (as well as immediately afterwards!), try to play this all with your ring finger while holding the rest of the C chord in place. Remember yet again that it will take a little practice to get it clean and up to speed, but I think you’ll find the results will be worth it.
Finally, there’s a turnaround to get us back to the verse again. This consists simply of a single beat each of Dm and E (E resolving nicely to the Am which starts the verse). I like to play these as two sixteenth notes followed by a rest equivalent to an eighth note. More dramatics…
Let’s put the whole chorus together, shall we? In fact, let’s play one full chorus and then do the final chorus, which we’ll discuss in a moment, as well
Now that we’ve got the parts of the song sorted out, we can put it together structurally. The intro, as previously mentioned, consists of the first four measures of the verse. Then play a whole verse, the chorus, another verse and another chorus. We go through the verse a final time; the first two lines (four measures) can be considered an instrumental (on the recording this is where the “la la la la la la la la la la’s” come in), while the last two lines are sung as before.
I like to play two choruses at the end, but that means using a different turnaround. Instead of the measure of C, Dm and E, I recommend playing two beats of C followed by two beats (I usually strum this all in sixteenth notes) of G. Then go through the whole chorus again but end with a single strum of C you reach it on the last line. Be sure to let it ring out.
It should all look like this:
I hope you had fun with this lesson and have fun with this song. The important thing to take away from this lesson is that you don’t have to shy away from songs that have a lot of chord changes. Take them apart to the point where you can work out the best way for you to make the changes and then practice those changes until you can get them up to speed. It won’t be long before you wonder what concerns you might have had in the first place!
As always, please feel free to write in with any questions, comments, concerns or songs (and/or riffs and solos) you’d like to see discussed in future pieces. You can either drop off a note at the Guitar Forums or email me directly at [email protected]
Until next lesson…
On February 11, 2010 we received a letter from lawyers representing the NMPA and the MPA instructing us to remove guitar tab and lyrics from this page. You can read more about their complaint here. Alternatively, you can still find this complete article with tab and lyrics archived here.