I'm so confused! What's the bar? How do I fit the strum into it?

Hi Henry,

The trick is to find the rhythm/beats in the song. If you haven’t recently reviewed Justin’s Strumming on the Beat lesson, you might find it helpful to do so. Start by strumming down only on the down beats - this will help you internalize when to change chords. When you get good at that, learn the strumming pattern with muted strings. Once you’ve got that down, start changing chords using the strumming patterns.

You don’t say if you’re following Justin’s lessons…if not, I’d recommend doing that. He introduces all these concepts much better than I can!

Rogier, don’t let us stop you! Worst case is you confirm what’s already been said…best case (and usual with you) is that you’ll add something valuable. :blush: :wink:

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Hi Judi, What you write makes sense.
I’ve watched that lesson but I’m still trying to derive from the printed page when that cord change occurs on the song line. I think its working like this (again using the Love Me Do as it seems easy). Is this correct? (D over ‘o’ in Do first line, and over ‘u’ in You second line.)

Love, Love me do

You know I love you

Isn’t the bar a place we may play guitar if we are good enough? Or drink our frustration away if we are not?

The bar as also a measure of music notation.

A barre is a finger acting like a guitar nut, but not nuts like my fingers go when I try to play.

Barré, as in Gullian Barré syndrome is a post viral autoimmune nerve disease.

Any more guitar related definitions? I apparently ran out.

@BaldEagle1 , could you please, please take a picture of the book page that is confusing you, and post it here?

That way, we can all be looking at what you are looking at, and the problem will probably become obvious.

So I’m a Grade 2 beginner, which means two conflicting things: first - I’m familiar with (and currently working on, in general) your struggles, and second - I’m no expert! With those caveats, here’s what I understand:

  • In general, Justin discourages looking at the placement of chords with respect on the page to lyrics to guide playing. Many printed sources do not get this correct. Instead, use your ears! Listen to the song several times, without trying to play. Maybe the third time through, imagine playing. I’ve been amazed how many times I thought I knew as song well but couldn’t get the rhythm down…this really helps.

  • That said, I understand that in his books, he does try to place the chords approximately where the changes go.

  • A few things to try that should help with all songs: play along with the song. Slowly - even painfully so - at first!!! If you have Justin’s app, this is a great way to do that - you can slow things down in the app. Otherwise you can find a YouTube video and use the speed controls that YT provides.

  • Another option: listening to the song, identify the word on which the chord changes occur. As you observe: Love…Do…Know…You…Al(ways)…True. In this section, each chord lasts one bar. In each bar, you complete the D-DU-D-D pattern. So, after you’ve internalized the strumming pattern using muted strings, and then playing the just chords (no words), just say (or sing) the words on the 1 beat. (In more complex songs, there may be changes on different beats of course, but we’re not there yet!) That should help you get lined up. You could even mark those words in a printed copy of the lyrics if that helps you (though in this case, I think it will closely match Justin’s book!).

Hope that helps…keep us posted on your progress! Oh, and do be sure consider other advice you receive from this wonderful community. :smiling_face:

Hi Judi,
I saw you and Rick (I think he got the idea here of going to a bar now :grin:) typing and thought I don’t have to listen to this song and try to explaining things that takes me longer to tap than the lesson is long :laughing:…and not really one of my favorites … :blush:

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Absolutely true. I would say most online sources are only approximately right.

More experienced musicians compensate for this without even thinking about it. But for beginners, it can be massively confusing.

…which is why I want to see what the OP is looking at…there’s an 80% chance something is wrong with it.


I’m looking at page 22 of Justin’s Beginner Song Book. This site doesn’t allow .jpeg files, sorry.

Take a picture with your mobile phone & post the picture here…


PS @Jamolay - Justin is the most amazing guitar instructor, BAR none!!! :rofl:

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Have you read the explanation on Page 6 about Stage 1 songs ? This explains that you should be strumming 4 beats per bar and that each chord for the song represent one bar.

So the intro (see these as one strum) is


The Verse

The 0000 represent the No Chord section in the tab so count 1 2 3 4.

Learn to play this first and get the rhythm down. When you’ve done that add the lyrics.

“Love” on first beat of first bar A “do” on first beat of first bar of D
“know” on first beat of second bar of A “you” on first beat second bar of D

wash rinse repeat, each chord in the tab is 4 beats/4strums, as explained at the begin of the chapter.

Hope that helps.



No - please don’t do that because it is copyrighted.


I don’t know the song book, so generally spoken:
Here Justin explains the bar.

Bars & Strumming

A bar is just like a small unit of the song which specify the rhythm or the beats given by time signature. A song consists of many of those units. In each bar you play e.g. your mentioned strumming pattern D_DUD_D for a 4/4 beat.
So a bar is like a basic framework, that guides through the song.
The chords bring in the melody/sound. It’s possible that every chord change is placed at the beginning of a new bar but there also could be few chord changes in one bar. That’s up to the composer.

Judi, Many many thanks for your reply. I’m a bit discouraged, I can play many of the songs and I feel pretty good about them. But, as soon as I try to sing (or in my case, mumble) along it all goes out the window. I’ll go back to one bar at a time. I’m doing something wrong and just not sure what it is. It just sounds like I’m banging cords and changing them once in a while, it doesn’t feel like music.

Hi Henry ( @BaldEagle1 )

Don’t be discouraged. Combining the skills for playing and then adding singing is hard to do. The very briefest of recommendation is to get competent at playing , then singing, then combine them. Again, this is not simple, so failure is nothing to be discouraged about - you will need to work on practice for both.

There are many others here that can give you their personal experience. Me, I just haven’t tried since my voice is quite terrible.

There are a lot of things to read if you use the forum search:

a couple that may be useful out of the big list:

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Getting the strumming right is the most important thing in the first place. Most students I encounter are a bit over-confident about the quality of their strumming.

  • Can you strum and do changes without looking at your guitar?
  • Can you strum an a patter, do timely changes and in the meantime whatch the footage taken in the cockpit of a train? (example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0vrhCqFUFE )
  • Have you tried 16th note strumming and are your changes still solid without losing track of the drum beat or metronome?

yes? Than you can be confident you’re ready to start singing.
If the things above make you stutter, miss chords or lose timing too much, you need to reinforce those fundaments a little more

To help you with that, this post could help you as well; it’s about getting that rhythm playing to solid automatism so you have more “processor power” to allocate to the singing part.

Hello Henry.
Welcome to JustinGuitar and the Community.

Most songs you learn to start are in 4/4 time.
Four beats per bar.
Four Downs.
Four corresponding Ups.

Love Me Do
First two lines: (A over 1st Love, D over “do”)
Love, Love me do,
I’ll always be true,
Where are the bars? The recommended strum pattern in the beginner book is:

Four Down strums in the pattern so it is counted as:
1 2 & 3 4
Down strums are on the beta, on the numbered count. Up strums are &.

See if this helps.

You need to pay more attention to the drum, the bass, the instruments and less attention to the singing. Singers have the freedom to sing their melodies across the start and end of bars, to begin singing before the 1, the finish singing after the 4.
The foundation of the music is the solid rhythm keeping regular time and the singer does not hold the clues you need to be listening for.

I only wish someone had told me exactly this before I started playing guitar, especially the last sentence.

try to train your ear to listen only to the instruments , forget the singer
with a bit of training you can hear the instruments separetly

you can do that on every song you listen to ( try songs played by a band with drums and bass etc )