Question about playing the songs

So I got the song book but I am a bit confused. I thought each time a chord is shown i’m supposed to strum 4 times. I see some choruses or verses that don’t show any chords. Does that mean it is silent or that I play the previous chord?

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Welcome Ian (with no name lol)!

A Chord chart (assume that’s what you are referring to) will show chords at the beginning of the bar/measure. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you strum 4 times. in a song that is in 4:4 time it will mean the chord will last 4 down beats.

I can’t be sure without looking at the song and chart you’re looking at, but I don’t think I’ve seen any chart that assumes the same chord if empty. Usually, you’ll see the chord listed twice if it lasts 2 bars.

I hope I can post this since it’s only a small excerpt:

In this example the bar with the Am chord starts a little before the “The”, then the next bar will start around the “be”, then F at “present” and finally C at around “cold”. If you are tapping your foot you’ll notice 4 foot taps before the “be” and start the count at 1 again right at the “be”.

Bottom line is to listen to the song and count the beats to know when to play the chord.

Hope that makes sense.

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If its silent the book will say N.C. as in No Chord. Some verses will show no chords if the arrangement is no different from the previous verse.

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Welcome to the forum Ian. I’m not familiar with the song books but it may be worth checking if Justin has covered the same song you’re learning on YouTube &/ or under the song tab on his website. Hearing him play could help give a feel for it?

Welcome, @ihavenoname !

Justin’s tabs are excellent in that they show the chords for each bar and if the chord changes within a bar. Unfortunately other sources are not as helpful sometimes they just show when the chord changes with no indication of how many bars it occurs for, a real challenge for a beginner like me.

By the way welcome to the community.


Thanks for the well thought out response. I guess I have to listen to the lyrics. What about for verses that don’t show chords though?

As @Socio said, usually that means that it’s the same as the previous verse.

The easiest way to know is to listen. A lot of Justin’s book will show the verse chords then when it hits verse 2 it won’t show any chords. That means they are the same.

The same will happen with the chorus. It would show the chorus chords only once cause they are the same for the rest of the chorus’s to save space.

So I have been listening, but since my musical ear is a bit new I’m still unsure how many strums per beat to play. For some reason, following along with the book/music is confusing the heck out of me.

I’ve got a related question. I am using Justin’s app to play with songs and am successful if I strum just once on beat 1 and then get ready to do any cord change if required by the next bar/beat1. I’ve also learned a couple strumming patterns which I can do fairly well with maybe a cord change every couple bars of so. But I fear trying to use a pattern when playing with the songs, because that seems like too much, trying to keep the pattern and do all the chord changes. Were we supposed to be using patterns for playing with the songs all along or starting by a particular time in the lesson plan? I feel like I may have been “cheating”.

Cheating? No. There are multiple skills at play and 2 hands trying to operate independently. It’s a matter of how best for you to work on each skill and then combining them. Since you can play with 1 strum on beat one and get the next chord change for whatever song you are using, the next step might be to make it 2 strums per bar, then 4. If you need to, slow the song down. Separately, you can work on a pattern with muted strings, i.e. no chords. As you feel comfortable with the chord changes and multiple strums on a song you can try adding the pattern. Again, you can slow the song down and increase the speed as you are able. Listen to the beat and try to let that drive your right hand, be it doing 1, 2, 4 strums per bar or a pattern.

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Thanks for the assuring reply. My question then is this - Is Jason purposely not specifying when one should start pairing the two skills because he knows everyone has their own pace of doing so?

IMO these 2 skills come along back and forth and it is dependent on the individual. There is no exact formula. Justin provides both as you move through the lessons with more focus on chords early on. You can work on both skills back and forth and apply them as you feel comfortable with them. The song app, and web-site song lessons, provide a more enjoyable way to work on these skills. The app provides a suggested a strum pattern for a song, some are difficult in the beginner stages. You should do what you are able to do at whatever speed you can with reasonable accuracy. And have fun with the song. Over time and with practice, the ability to make the chord changes without having to think about them as much comes along. This frees up the brain to think more about strumming. After a while you will be able to strum 1, 2 4 strums per bar while making chord changes, all with less thought. You now have enough available brain power to add another chord or a strum pattern and get frustrated all over again :blush:
Seriously… the journey is worth it. While there is no specific end to the journey, there are lots of great stops along the way and they just keep getting better.

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