Category Archives: Teaching

How to Strum Songs Without Hesitations

Strumming songs with big pauses between chord changes is a really common problem for beginners, and it sounds really amateurish! There’s nothing worse than someone singing or playing through a song, then pausing for 5 seconds to try to make that dreaded tricky chord change! The root of the problem is usually that the muscles have not been trained to make the correct movements for the chord change easily and effortlessly.

There are a number of techniques you can use to overcome this problem:

Play through the whole song no tempo

Make sure you can do the changes slowly in order, and get a feel for which chords changes are causing problems.

Drill the problem chord changes

Start slowly (no tempo), focusing on quality rather than speed. Do not underestimate the power of this, done right! Often for me, as a more experienced player, this stage alone is all that’s needed. Then try increasing speed. Gradually! Once you can do the change slowly with accuracy, use “one minute changes” to see how many chord changes you can make in a minute. Record your score.

Drilling chord changes is really important as it builds muscle memory, so you don’t have to think about your chord changes any more (there’s a sense of your fingers just doing the chord changes themselves).

Strum Once Per Bar

Now we are starting to think about staying in time. Try playing along to the recording, just one strum per bar or chord. If you’re struggling, slow it down! Try playing along to a metronome or slowed down version of the song (e.g. using amazing slow downer). If you can’t do one strum per bar you will struggle with a full complex strum pattern! Make sure you do it at a speed you are comfortable with.

Strum twice per bar

Try increasing the number of strums to twice per bar. Again, if you’re struggling slow things down. If it’s really comfortable, sometimes you can skip this stage.

Strum once per beat

This is the crux point. You need to be able to strum every beat (4 times for most pop songs) and make the chord changes without pausing. If you can’t do this then there’s no way you can do the whole strum pattern. It’s essential that you don’t pause your strum for the chord changes! Better to slow down the song than to embed in the hesitations. If you practise hesitations, no matter how slow, you’ll get really good at… hesitating between chords!

Practice the strum independently

The strum needs to be effortless before trying to combine it with chord changes, particularly if you are new to playing, and still need to concentrate on your chord changes. You only have limited attention – choose one hand at a time until things are automatic!

Try chords with the strum pattern

This is the tricky bit – putting the chords together with the strum. Don’t pause! Slow down, and make sure you can keep your tempo/strumming really even.

If you need to, just take two chords and go back and forth to get used to changing with the strum pattern.

Go back and fix problem areas

This is crucial. Practice has to be dynamic! You need to mix up different approaches. Try playing through the song, see what holds up, what needs fixing. Work on the problem chord changes; take just two chords – try no tempo chord changes back and forth, “one minute changes”, try 4 strums on each without pausing, try with the full strum pattern (alternating between the two chords). Then try it in context (just that section of the song). Then try the whole song again and see if it holds up. If anything needs fixing, go back into more focused practise on that particular musical phrase to fix it.

Just Play
Forget all this and have fun! Come back to the detailed practice another time. Just focus on keeping the rhythm flowing – accept that there’ll be a few chord mistakes along the way!

Other tips:

Slow down!
Better to go slow with quality to start with. Speed will come with time.

Focus on ease, relaxation and effortlessness
The more tense you are the harder to make your fingers work. Notice where you’re holding tension and just let it ease.

Practice makes permanent
So don’t embed the hesitations or mistakes!

Don’t be a perfectionist
Aim for quality, but accept that there’ll be a few buzzy chords along the way – keep working on them, but don’t let the odd imperfection impinge on your steady rhythmic flow!

Keep strumming!
No matter what is going on with the chord changes, keep that rhythm going!

Break it down
Don’t just play through the whole song each time. Take small sections or musical phrases to work on. You can play through the whole thing again later.

Just play
Play through the whole song sometimes! You have to keep things dynamic and fun! Mix it up!

Go easy on yourself
Have fun! These things take time! Don’t expect the moon on stick – some things take time 🙂

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Filed under Learning, Practice Ideas, Teaching

Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman Chords

Download the full version here: Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman Chords

Download the simplified version here: Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman (Simplified)

Wichita Lineman features some fantastic chords – it’s a great workout for more advanced guitarists, with rich major 7ths and interesting slash chords. If you’re in doubt about any of them, I’ve included a full list at the bottom of the page.

Simplified Version
Beginner to intermediates can try the simplified chord chart, which still features a tricky Bb barre chord (x13331, or you could try 688766). For an easy version of Gm just bar across the 3rd fret of the thinnest three strings (xx0333), or for a fuller sound try the bar chord (355333).

The Bb/C Chord
Bb/C is not as tricky as it sounds – you just lay your finger across the 3rd fret (x33333). The C after the slash (/) means to play a C note in the bass of the chord. Technically, in order to do this you need to mute the low E string, but don’t worry too much – it still sounds quite good if you do play that string. The chord is also known as C7sus4 or C11 – I’ve gone for the slash chord “Bb/C” way of naming, as (to my ear at least) Bb makes for a better substitute chord than C. So, ukulele players can just play a Bb.


You could just play this with steady 8th note downstrums (8 per bar), or you could do something a bit like this:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

It’s best not to be too rigid with it – you can add small upstrums wherever feels right. Just be sure to keep the downs steady and consistent. Also, you can put a slight emphasis on beats 2 and 4.

Chord Reference

Looking at the live videos, Glenn Campbell tends to use the first set of chords where I’ve suggested two different options (i.e. around the 5th fret) – but he does have a full band and orchestra behind him! The second set of chords sound great for solo acoustic playing:

Fmaj7: x87555 or x33210
Bb/C: x33333
Bbmaj7: xx8765 or x13231
Fmaj7/A: xx7755 or x03210
Dm7: xx7565 or xx0211
Am7: xx5555 or x02010
G: 320003
D: x00232
Dsus4: x00233
Cadd9: x32030
G/B: x20033
Gm/B: x10033
A7sus4: x02030
Bb: x13331

All chords are listed from thickest string to thinnest.
X means mute a string (or at least try not to strum it!).

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George Ezra – Blame It On Me Chords

Download the chords here: George Ezra – Blame It On Me

Blame It On Me was another one brought to me by one of my younger guitar students. While just three chords, it is a great tune for working on strumming and feel. It is also a good one for beginners to work on their G to C changes – a difficult one when you’re first starting out!

If you are struggling with the Gsus4 (which Ezra plays on frets 320013), you can just play a regular G chord. The Fmaj7 is played as x33210, and Ezra alternates between the C and Fmaj7 to create an intro chord riff, which returns as a fill throughout the song.

Ukulele players and guitarists without capos can play along to the live versions – all the versions I’ve heard have been in the key of C.


Suggested strumming pattern for the verses:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Suggested strumming pattern for the intro:
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Notice the Verse strumming pattern is just the same pattern repeated twice (D D _UDU). I have included the “_” underscore as a reminder to leave a space there where there would be a downstrum (but keep your arm swinging downwards!)

The Intro is slightly trickier – I have marked out where the chord changes are underneath the strum pattern. Ezra hammers onto the F chord with his little finger after the downstrum on the C on Beat 3, and then returns to the C chord for the last “UDU” of the pattern. As always, listen to the recording as much as possible to get the sound of this into your ear, as it can be hard to get the nuances from the written page!

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John Newman – Cheating Chords

Download the capo free version here: John Newman – Cheating (Bm Version)

Download the bar-chord free version here: John Newman – Cheating (Easy Version)

This song was brought to me by two of my younger students, 8 year old Bodie and Louis. We looked at it with the capo on fret 2, using simplified partial chord shapes (e.g. G as xx0003, C as xx2010). Without the capo it makes a good bar chord workout for more advanced students. Ukulele players will need to play it in Bm to match the original recording key.

In a full band situation advanced players may want to try partial chord shapes up the neck, as you can see John Newman’s guitarist playing in this live band version. These are mainly chords played on the top four strings, based around the 7th fret (e.g. Bm: xx9777, A: xx7655, E: xx7775).

For the solo singer/guitarist you are better sticking to the full open chords, as in this live acoustic version. The more advanced of you can work out some of those licks too!

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Music Teacher’s Helper Review

If you want an easy way to manage your music teaching studio, Music Teacher’s Helper is a brilliant tool! The main ways in which I use it are for keeping track of income and expenses, keeping records of what students have done in lessons, sending out lesson reminders, and getting statistical reports on studio finances. It makes my life a lot easier when it comes to tax time, and in my opinion is a valuable time saver for any music teacher.


One of my favourite features of Music Teacher’s Helper (MTH) is that you can send out automatic reminders to students about upcoming lessons. It means there’s no excuse for a student to miss a lesson without letting you know. I currently send out reminders 48 hours before the lesson – it puts guitar or ukulele back in the forefront of the student or parent’s mind. There are also tools to send out invoices and receive payments, and an online lesson calendar where students can view their lesson schedule (and even sign up to lessons/workshops automatically).

Appear Professional

As well as making your life easier, MTH gives music teachers a professional air. It sets you apart from the casual part time teachers scribbling notes on odd sheets of paper (or worse, not keeping any notes at all!). It looks slick and shows students that you are well organised. For those of you without websites, you can also use MTH to create a website – a must for anybody getting serious about teaching.

Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

This is my favourite feature of MTH – your tax records become a lot easier to manage. You can print off a report for the tax year of income and expenses. As long as you spend a little time regularly to keep things updated, it can save you a massive headache at the end of the tax year.

Customer Service/Support

I have contacted the Music Teacher’s Helper team on a number of occasions and have always received prompt and helpful responses. There is a feedback system in place for teachers to suggest ideas to improve MTH, and I always get the impression that the team are continually looking to enhance and expand the system.

Promo Offer (15% off 1st Month)

As I am an avid user of Music Teacher’s Helper, I decided to become an affiliate. (I would never promote a product I don’t fully believe in, so no need to worry about that). The good news for you is that if you sign up via me you can get 15% off your first paid month. This is on top of a free 30 day trial. There are a lot of features that I haven’t fully taken advantage of yet, but even if you were only to use (for example) the financial and calendar features, I think it’s great value for any music teacher.

Click here to receive a 15% discount off your first month of Music Teacher’s Helper

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