How To Strum And Sing

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Ah…the hard part right? Nope.

This goes back to listening to the lyrics and how the singer arranged the lyrics to go along with the song. Many times, artists will write the lyrics first -then the chords (and vice-versa.)

The absolute bottom line:

Since you are covering a given song, YOU decide the strumming. I wish I could give you more information than that, but it’s just the honest truth. You can use any of the patterns above to make ANY song sound more like your own, but you have to know how the lyrics are placed.

Placing lyrics:

Regardless of how an artist writes a song, the lyrics are ALWAYS a reference point in a song, whether a lyric is sung in between a chord or right on top of it. The key to getting this figured out is saying the words out loud before adding any strumming to it.

Let’s look at the example “All Along The Watchtower”:

“There must be some kind of way out of here…”

Is that how you actually HEAR it? No. You might hear it more like this:

“Theremusbe sumkindaway outtuhhere…”

What happens is called lyrical inflection. I actually learned about this in college during an English Language Studies Course.

It was VERY difficult because we talked about the many different types of tongue-depressing inflections (or diction and dialect).

Let’s make it easy though. Everyone has a different accent, EVEN IF you don’t hear it anymore.

I’m from the South, so I naturally have a Southern drawal, even when I try to correct it

(I was an Enlish Major in college and it still never really worked – I’m Southern – ’nuff said.)

How does this relate? Quite a bit. We took 10 words and made them into 3 by ‘slurring’ our speech above.

It’s common and it’s ok.

Now, by removing the 10 words and making them 3, we’ve created a gap in chord space. See the example below again:

“Theremusbe sumkindaway outtuhhere…”

Now, let’s apply some chords:

Am……………G………………..F……………G

“Theremusbe sumkindaway outtuhhere…”

On or around every opening word, you’ll see a chord.

That chord tells you what to play and when. The strumming pattern is COMPLETELY up to you. It does not matter how fast or slow you play the song, as long as the lyrics and chords match. Notice that the last G chord isn’t even on a word/lyric. That is your open space – or the “and.” In this case, it is a turnaround for a chord progression. It just goes fast into a strum and back to Am.

Here’s a video for “All Along The Watchtower” by Dave Matthews. You’ll see what I mean. The intro is on bass, with a little call-and-response from Dave on guitar.

Notice he is still playing the same chords.



At the beginning, Dave is actually following the chords to WHATEVER the bass player (Stefan Lessard) is playing. The bass then drops out and allows Dave to start his own tempo when singing. You may even notice that Dave SINGS before actually playing the first Am.

Note: No one is playing much at the beginning. This is because they are allowing Dave to sing the words and play the chords how HE wants to, and then they’ll come in when the song begins the
standard formula. This is precisely what I mean. It doesn’t matter how slow or fast he brings the song in – he knows that it’s gonna rock later. The key is not to draw it out too long or short. That’s why he brings in such dynamics in the band during certain ‘influential’ phrases. All he does is match the lyrics with the chords. It will sound right – guaranteed. Not only does that allow you to even goof up a little if mistakenly phrased or sang, it will allow you to bring in a more emotional concept while playing for the audience.

Remember: It doesn’t matter how easy or hard the song is. This song is only THREE chords, and though it sounds a little more constructed – it’s just the same ol’ progression! When he pauses and the lights go flashing, all he does is stop on the F and hint at the ending G chord. Then there’s the long draw that begins the actual ‘standard’ song. BING BANG BOOM – It starts rockin’ like we’re accustomed to!

LONG STORY SHORT….

  • You can make ANY song your own.
  • Follow the procedures above.
  • Place the lyrics carefully with the chords.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new as long as it is “your
    style.”
  • Don’t just play it once – play it ALOT!
  • You won’t get it on the first try. I promise.
  • Practicing strumming is JUST as important as an intricate
    solo.