Who does not know it? You play your 200,000th (two hundred thousandth) song, but it sounds exactly like the other 199,999 songs before it .. Sure, there is a very high probability that you will play the same chords for 99% of the songs. But that’s not the problem at all. The main problem lies with the Rhythms .

We’ll come straight to one of the greatest mysteries of guitar beginners and look at the first line of „Happy Birthday“ (if it’s someone’s birthday: Congratulations! The song is for you: P).

Here we have two pieces of information (actually more, but we’re only interested in these two to begin with).

  1. We see the melody (those black dots on the lines)
  2. And we see the chords (D and A)

To the melody

The melody in this song would be played/sung mainly by singers. But there are also other options, for example. various wind instruments (flutes, saxophones, clarinets) but these ’notes‘ can also be played with the piano and guitar.

I am now simply assuming that this melody is now being played by a (programmed) guitar. Then it sounds something like this:

Nothing wrong with it. It actually sounds a lot like Happy Birthday. This is because these black dots provide information such as ‚pitch‘ and ‚lenghth‘. If the note is played just as high / low and with the right rhythm at the right time, the melody sounds exactly as we know it. Just as a very small example: I leave the pitch exactly as it is right, but make a completely different rhythm. Do you still recognize the song?

These were now exactly the same notes, just played in different lengths. Probably no one would have found out if you hadn’t known that the same thing was going to happen again, right? =)

Anyway. To repeat once more: The melody contains everything you need so that a melody / song sounds exactly as you know it.

About the chords

In contrast to the melody, there is no rhythm at all in the chords. The only thing you know about the song shown above is; there is a D major and an A major chord.

Sure, for those who already know it, there is still the information that we 
have a 3/4 time. This limits the selection of rhythms a bit.

Since guitarists cannot read notes anyway (of course only prejudices!: P) and have no rhythm information for the chords, we are actually standing in front of an almost empty sheet of music as an instrument which is supposed to play chords.

However, this can be avoided very easily.

Version 1:

Play the chord once per measure. You count the rest of the bar. What you need for this is the time signature (is it 4/4, or 3/4, or 6/8?). On a 4/4, play on first stroke. So 1 (play), 2 (count), 3 (count), 3 (count). With a 3/4 (as in our Happy Birthday example) simply adjust to the beat: 1 (play), 2 (count), 3 (count), 1 (play), 2 (count), 3 (count), etc. .. By counting I mean counting out loud. Don’t just think about it or say any number. It makes sense to count the whole thing out loud. But don’t worry, you don’t always have to do it that way. =)

Now you have a boring but solid accompaniment. You don’t mess up the beat, you don’t miscount and end up somewhere at the end of a song, even though the rest of the band is only in the middle.

Variant 2:

As with variant 1, you play the first stroke each time, but this time also with the other 2 strokes. So you play a chord on every beat. Now is not the absolute most elegant solution to accompany a song. But still better than our no-go variant!

The no-go variant!

Under no circumstances should you play the rhythm of the melody in your accompaniment. I’ve had it several times that students were of the opinion that they now absolutely have to play the exact same rhythm with the chords that the dear singer is also singing. Remember: this is not the case. Plays a rhythm that is totally independent of the melody.

Strumming Patterns on the guitar

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Tries to play 2-3 different rhythms using random chords. Take for example. Am, C, G, D. Now try to change the chord every measure. The rhythmic pattern, however, always remains the same.

When you are done and have found your 2-3 favorites, play these rhythms over songs.

Fingerpicking Patterns on the guitar

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Here you should definitely refer to the right hand to be checked out!

The bass strings (E, A and D) are always played with the thumb (right hand). The index finger plays the G string, the middle finger the H string and the ring finger the high e string. The reason for this is that you learn to stop looking at your right hand and always know where your fingers are.

Do the same with the fingerpicking patterns. Start with any chords you like. Then switch to songs and try to play these fingerpicking patterns over songs.

How do I read the patterns?

We have ‚rows‘ and ‚columns‘. (Rows are left to right and columns are top to bottom).
A ‚row‘ always has the same pattern, it is only adapted to the chord from column to column. But the sound always stays the same.
If you are not sure how tabs are read, please have a look at Read tabs and Read chord diagrams to.

In this example we see three bars, this is because we have 3 bass strings on the guitar.
The first measure is for Chords that have the E string as a bass (not the tone E but just the string E).
For chords with an E string as the bass note, please see below.
The second bar is exactly the same pattern as the first bar, but the bass has been adjusted here. So here you don’t play the E string at all, but simply shifted the bass to the A string because this measure is for chords with an A string as the bass.
Same with the last bar, just referring to the D string.

Chords with E string as bass

I am referring to here Common guitar chords for beginners . Chords with an E bass, i.e. column 1 must be chosen, are; EG Em E7 G7

Chords with A string as bass

I am referring to here Common guitar chords for beginners . Chords with an A bass, i.e. column 2 must be chosen, are; AC Am A7 C7 H7

Chords with D string as bass

I am referring to here Common guitar chords for beginners . Chords with a D bass, i.e. column 3 must be chosen, are; DF Dm Gm D7 HBC # m Fm