Murphy HenryFirst: Christmas Gift! As we say down in Georgia. (Since I said it first, that means you each owe me a gift!) Also, Happy Hanukkah, a joyful Solstice, and hope you’re having the best holidays ever, no matter how you are celebrating. (And I know my friends in Portland are celebrating with snow and ice! Thinking of you, Patty and Claire!)christmas tree 2008

Now, just a quickie, so I can get on with unwrapping my presents!

Today I want to revisit the gargantuan task of learning to hear chord changes and the pitfalls of COUNTING the number of beats of G, C, or D. (Instead of learning to hear the changes by ear.)

The unnamed culprit, he of the pointy picks (which I am happy to say he has abandoned!), came in yesterday and played a bee-yoo-ti-ful, flawless version of “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” So, since there wasn’t any further work to do on the break, we moved to the vamping.

The first two times we played it through, the vamping was perfect. But as we continued to play, the vamping completely fell apart. At first I couldn’t figure out what in the world was wrong. How can a person go from precision vamping, with all the changes in the right places, to staying in the G chord too long and changing to C at the wrong time?

Then, like a lightening bolt, this thought occurred. “Are you COUNTING?”

Sheepish grin. “Yeah.”

“BUSTED! You lost the count, didn’t you?”


“That’s why counting doesn’t work. If you lose count, you are....well, you’re in a pickle!

So, we went back over the song with him not counting, and honestly, it wasn’t that hard. I mean, you’ve only got three chords and he had vamped to other songs before. If you get lost, you just go back to G and stay there. Everything always comes back to G!

As he and I discussed later, you can’t possibly memorize the chord changes to all the songs you’re gonna be playing. You just have to learn to do it by ear. One song at a time. I can pretty much promise that this works. And I can almost guarantee that counting doesn’t! So, if you’re a counter, make that leap of faith, go back to the two-chord songs, and start learning to do it by ear. In the long run, it’s so much easier!

One thought on “Busted!

  1. Patty S

    The good news is, I sent your Christmas gift last week, in between major snow storms! The bad news is, it went by pony express. With any luck, you’ll get it by Ground Hogs Day. We’re on day 13 with lots of snow on the ground. This much snow in Portland is about as normal as a blizzard in Tahiti. Been tough on the local jam scene although I am ready to engineer a way to haul my banjo in a sled and ski to those willing to host! Is it ever going to rain again??!!

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