So You’ve Learned Two Chords.  Now What?


1.  Is the tune’s basic rhythm in 2s or 3s?  Chord changes will occur on the “1” beat.  To find the pulse, get up and walk, trot, march, waltz, count, wave your arms around, and above all, move!


2.  Where is the “downbeat?”  You gotta get off on the right foot!  Your thumb hits on the downbeat.

            You put your RIGHT foot in, you put your right foot out…

            Oh my DARLing, oh my darling, oh my darling Clementine…

            The EEN-sy ween-sy spider…


3.  Singing in the same key in which you are playing: Start with two-chord songs in the key of A.  Pick a song you know really, really well.  Sing the song clear through.  Stop on the last night and HOLD that note.  Now pluck the A string on your guitar (5th string) and keep holding your own note with your voice.  Slide your finger up the A string, one fret at a time, till the note you are singing matches the note you are playing.  Put the capo on at that fret.  You’re now playing and singing in the same key!  There’s no such thing as “tone-deaf” except for people who can’t talk with any inflection either.  You CAN learn to do this!  And it’s worth it!


4.  The key has the same name as the last chord of the song you are playing (as long as you’re not using a capo).  Start singing with the end of the song, and then start over.  The last note will almost always be the “home” note in its key, or if it isn’t, the whole song will have an unfinished feel to it.


5.  Starting:  Do you want to start singing first, or strumming first?  It’s like jumping rope with other people turning.  Either you stand in the middle with the rope stopped, or they get the rope going and then you run in.  If you sing first, start playing by hitting the root of the first chord with your thumb, on the downbeat.  For our purposes, use the A chord. Go to the E chord ½ way through.  End on A.


6.  Playing and singing at the same time:  It’s a separate skill which may take a while. Everything falls apart at first for most people!  Playing along with other people helps a ton, or getting a confident singer to just sing along with you..  Choose someone enthusiastic and non-judgmental.  Try  muffling the strings with your fretting hand and strumming the muffled strings with your picking hand.  Or playing your picking hand strum pattern on your leg while walking and singing.  In the key of A, you can hit the “boom” downbeat with your thumb (on the open string root of the chord) before you finish changing chords!  This gets you extra time to change.  Practice playing in rhythm even while the chords fall apart.  The right hand really doesn’t have to know what the left is doing.  Or care.  Just keep strumming.  Hit the “boom” loud and clear and fake or fumble the rest for now.


Basic Strumming


Rock your whole body forward & back from the hips, as you set up a steady rhythm, using your whole arm from the elbow & shoulder.  Your thumb should be a “piece of meat” – don’t use that chubby little muscle at the base of your thumb to power anything.  “Grate Cheese” across the strings with your picking hand.  In order to strum down, you have to raise your arm all the way back up, and vice versa.  Get a pendulum going with your elbow and keep it steady whether you’re hitting the string or not. 


Boom Chuck and Boom Chuck Chuck


Hit the “root” string with your thumb, then brush the highest-pitched 3 or 4 strings with the backs of your fingertips, keeping your wrist straight throughout.  Use Boom Chuck for songs you would walk or march to (1212 or 1234), and Boom Chuck Chuck for waltzes (123123). Again, get up and march, trot, stomp and waltz around to figure out the basic rhythm.

 Boom chuck: Skip to My Lou, Frere Jacques;   Boom chuck chuck: Clementine, Oh Christmas Tree



© 2003 Fl!p Breskin     2518 Cherry Street, Bellingham WA 98225      360-671-4511