Mike Moxcey ©2005

Reading Chords Off Sheet Music

Most sheet music has the chord names listed above the music. This makes it very easy to figure out a chord progression to a song.
  1. Look at the time signature to see how many beats there are per measure (that’s the top number). You’ll need to translate this into strums on your instrument.
  2. Strum the chord indicated the correct number of times for each measure. Don’t change chords unless there is a new chord indicated (just like on a chord chart).
  3. If there is a chord change in the middle of a measure, then you’ll need to figure out how many beats of the old chord were in the measure and finish it with the correct number of beats for the new chord. Do this by looking at the timing of the notes. Chances are the basic note will be the quarter note (the bottom number of the time signature). Add up the eighths and sixteenths and divide the half notes to get a feel for how many quarter notes (or basic notes) there are in the measure and that will tell you when to change chords.
Of course, you also must take into account your strum pattern. If there are two strums per measure and the time signature is 4 quarter notes per measure, then a strum pattern is equal to two quarter notes.

Let’s try the song This Old Man in the key of C

Just strum it and sing and see if you can play the chord progression. If you don’t like the “C” chords, then write out the chord chart in your preferred key.




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