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Thread: Reading Chord Sheets

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2017

    Default Reading Chord Sheets

    I have a quick newbie question about chord sheets such as the ones below. A lot of the beginner songs I can find look like this. I know that I have to listen/know the song to try and determine a good strumming pattern. Do I have to do the same thing to determine how many strums/beats I should incorporate before changing chords?

    At first, I thought I needed to complete a 4/4 before each chord change but that seems to not be right. I assume I need to be consistent so, for example, the first line can be divided between the F/C section and the G/Am section.

    Apologies in advance as I know I may be using the wrong terminology.


    Had your [F] arm around her [C] shoulder, a [G] regimental [Am]soldier
    An’ [F] mamma starts pushing that [C] wedding gown [G]
    Yeah you [F] wanna do right but [C] not right now [G]

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    MN metro area


    Don't do the counting thing because it's only going to throw you off. I'd recommend just doing a down stroke for each syllable of the lyrics and change the chords as they are noted. This will give you a feel of where the changes go. You should be familiar with the melody so you can sing along as you do it. Once you've done that a few times you'll naturally be able to work in up and down strokes and it will help you find or determine a strumming pattern. It will probably require a little bit of a feel for the music.
    Money can't buy happiness but it can buy a uke which is basically the same thing.

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2015
    Nor Cal USA


    I generally try to find a you tube of the song to hear it and get the timing. Then I have a clue about songs I've never heard before.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Cornwall UK



    The chord changes don't always come on the first beat of each measure (although they often do). You may find this online article helpful

    I'm not sure if your example is just an example or if it's actually the song you are trying to play. Just to note that the chord changes should, more accurately, look like this:

    Had your [F] arm around her [C] shoulder, a [G] regimental [Am]soldier
    An’ [F] mamma starts pushing that [C] wedding [G] gown
    Yeah you [F] wanna do right but [C] not right [G] now

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Twin Cities Area, Minnesota


    Your assessment is correct: you have to know thw song or be able to hear it and pick it up quickly to either play and/or sing along. There is one derivative of tab that shows rhythm, but the only way to effectively communicate a song without a recording is traditional notation.

    As a music teacher, music literacy is very important to me. My students can attest that we spend 6-12 minutes every day on sight reading skills. And while I do my best, like in all things--unless you want to learn it, you don't, really.

    The problem is that music literacy isn't a skill you need for life, until you need it. And in many cases, that occurs years after any formal education in music.

    I am so grateful for Jim Beloff's books which offer traditional notation (not such a fan of the songs with multiple verses listed outside of the first verse)--but I am also fully aware that the majority of players (just like most choral singers) are probably learning music by rote and looking at the words.

    There is nothing wrong with an oral tradition in music--but it is a slower process and you need access to some existing audio (even if it is just your memory) to make a list of words into music.

    And it isn't just ukulele--it is happening everywhere, including churches--even on worship teams!
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Seattle, WA


    being able to figure out how many beats there are in each measure really helps
    with figuring out strumming styles and patterns.

    like mikelz suggests, focus on downbeats initially until you get comfortable with
    the flow of the song. You'll be noticing when the chord changes make the most
    sense according to the melody. From there, you can increase tempo and work
    on your strumming patterns

    you might want to work on familiar songs like Take Me out to the Ballgame (America's
    favorite waltz!), or Happy Birthday (also a waltz) well, 3/4 time in any case.

    Paul Anka's Diana, or the camp fire song/round I Love the Mountains, the Everly Bros'
    (All I have to do is) Dream, as examples of 4/4 timing. etc.

    Of course, basic familiarity with the actual song you want to learn/play really helps,
    otherwise, it is difficult with songs one doesn't really know

    keep uke'in',
    Uncle Rod Higuchi
    ( )

    Ukulele Boot Camp, FREE Songbook, Holiday, Hawaiian & More:
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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2017


    Thanks for the all the replies - it is much appreciated

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Port Hope, Ontario, Canada


    I assume that you know how the song you are asking about goes. I don't know how advanced you are, but playing down strokes for each beat will work. I wouldn't advise playing down strokes on each syllable (playing the rhythm). It's better to stroke the beat of the song than the rhythm. In some cases these will be the same, but in a song like I've Been Working On The Railroad for instance, playing the rhythm will not be a good accompaniment. Just play the beat, sing the rhythm, and change where the chords indicate a change. If the chart is accurate, this should work, but if the chart is written incorrectly as Jollyboy suggested, you may have trouble.

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