Chord changes when chords are written "over" lyrics?

Hey everyone - hopefully this is the right section to ask this question.

I’m a late beginner looking to learn the acoustic version of Arctic Monkeys “Do I wanna know?” which can be seen here:

I found this written overview of the chords along with the lyrics: DO I WANNA KNOW ACOUSTIC CHORDS by Arctic Monkeys @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com

Seems the Strum Pattern is:

1-2-&-3-4-& or D D UD DU

But my question is for this song, but also all songs, if they’re written out in such a way where the chords are just detailed above the lyrics… how do you figure out when to change chords?!

Is there a way of telling if it’s a full/half/quarter measure of notes? Some lines have 3 notes, some lines of the same length have 1, some have the same note twice?!

I’m a total beginner at reading this stuff so any help would be appreciated :slight_smile:

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For me it’s a case of trial and error with chord sheets like that. I’m not familiar with that song so I can’t comment on that specific case. If you can play along to the tune on youtube that helps a lot. When I was first learning I found it difficult to play along with the recorded song until I got the basic groove on the song worked out myself.

Typically you play a particular chord for 1 or 2 measures, then change. So start with that. Some songs a chord is only played for 1/2 a measure (2 beats) etc. Experiment and don’t feel bad if it doesn’t work, keep trying.

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Hey Shaun!
I think the “tried-n-true” method for me is to listen to the song and follow along with the tab - not playing, just listening at first. This should help you to feel the groove & the chord progression/song structure… when you feel you have a basic understanding of the rhythm, start to play along but with one down strum per beat. Before long, you’ll be able to look at the song & know where the changes are supposed to be!
Good luck!!!


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Shaun @Shaun0708

When you step outside the space space of Justin’s lessons or tabs you are going to come across this all the time. As Tony @tony says you just have to work it out, easy to say but I know as a beginner I still struggle to work it out.


Ultimate Guitar is not the most reliable source of chords and tabs but these seem fine for the version and they have made it so no barre chords are needed by placing a capo at fret 3 and using only open chord shapes. That’s a bonus for many people.

Let’s work with what is shown there.
First the rhythm count as depicted in the diagram. The count is following a sixteenth pattern (yellow highlight) and there is an accented beat on the 1 and 3 (orange highlight).

The easiest route into playing this is to simply play four Down strums, one on every beat.

The chords sometimes change on the 1 and sometimes on the 3.

If you’re familiar with the riff of the intro it starts in what is called a pickup bar (not a place to meet people for casual relations) but a bar of music before the main sections begin. Then you have (shapes)

| Em | C Am | Am | Em |

This same progression is played through the verses.

Then the pre-chorus is

| C | Am | Em | Em |

The chorus is the same as the intro and verses.

Both progressions are based on a four-bar loop.

I hope that helps.

Cheers :smiley:

| Richard | JustinGuitar Approved Teacher, Official Guide & Moderator


Terrific explanation as always Richard. We are fortunate to have someone like yourself in the Community who puts in such time and effort.


I’m so grateful for this break down and the explanation of it. Much appreciated.

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Listen to the song. Close your eyes and tap out the 4/4 in it. You’ ll hear exactly when the chords are changing at the beats if they are. They typically give out the BPMs, so you can even get yourself familiar with what you are going to encounter when you do listen by tapping that out before. No matter what the strumming pattern is you can always just play along at first by strumming once on beat 1. There’s no bad strumming pattern as long as changes happen when they have to.


Same here. :+1:

Richard, a follow up question if I may. This syntax:

was explained by you already earlier in the forum and I have used it since to write down chord shapes as a first step to memorize a song. Which helped me immensely. Question, what software have you used in order to create the other table, the one with the bars/beats/chords? It looks so clearly arranged, in a logical order.

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Franz … re this question …

To create vertical lines to separate bars I used the keyboard. Shift + the key immediately to its right.


To create this I used plain and simple Excel.


Ah, Excel. Thanks very much Richard :+1:

I’ve done something similar to that on MS Excel (or Google Sheets) when studying a song, as having the main chord progressions laid out like that seemed more useful for me than having them written over the lyrics - especially because I’m not yet at a point where I can sing and play, so I usually play along to a backing track or recording.

This is one example, in this case each “cell” is a whole bar (four beats) - the (PM) is a palm mute after beat 1, by lack of knowing any better notation.


How useful! And you use colours to easier differentiate the chords? That’s a good idea as well.
So far I’ve only used simple text files. Using Google Sheets or similar (for me nextcloud/libreoffice) would have the additional advantage of online availability.

Ok, I’ll put that into practice. Thank you Claudio! :+1:

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All this presentation is very good but does it address the point.
If you are only playing chords and no vocals, then that is fine, however if not then you still have to relate the chord changes to lyrics if you are singing or playing along with original, which is why you need both.


Not an original idea, I stole that from Justin’s Guitar App, even the color-to-chord is similar to what the app does, and it helps lots in differentiating them quickly :slight_smile:

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The usecase for me is memorizing the song, and visualisation/analysis is one step towards it.

Same as Claudio I’m not yet at a point where I can sing and play. That will need to come further down the road :smiley:


This is an interesting discussion. When I play a song (which is rarely- sorry Richard!), I use the words of the song as my cue to change chords. That’s whether I’m singing along or not. I think if I was relying on counting the beats for chord changes I would get lost very quickly. Obviously I must be counting beats during the intro, but once the lyrics start I’m pretty sure I switch to words for cues. Anyone else do this?

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Chris @jacksprat

Actually I have done the same when playing in a group at the guitar club concert, bearing in mind I am only a Grade 2 beginner. We are often working from chord sheets which only show the chord changes not the the number of bars for each each chord. As I was singing as well there is no way I could count the beats in my head and so adopted a strumming pattern that is easy to change based on the lyrics and you can keep to the beat determined by others and after you have practiced it a few times you get the feeling when the, change is coming. The only exception to this was a twelve bar blues song where the instrumental was twelve bars and I counted, for each line 1234 2234 3234 4234 which I have seen Justin do.

When I play a song by myself I do know how many bars of each chord to match the lyrics. Perhaps the exception is when I am learning a song like Margaritiville with chords changing very infrequently and a DUDUDUDU pattern the lyrics dictate when I change chords.If I was sitting an exam I am sure I would probably get marked down but I am not I am just trying to make music and if it sounds ok then it is ok.

Just my thoughts.