In this segment of our exclusive Acoustic Nation Play It Now video series, hit singer songwriter Matt Nathanson teaches me, and YOU, how to play his latest single, “Mission Bells.” The track appears on his new album, The Last of the Great Pretenders. Nathanson, and his guitar player Aaron Tap, run through the riff, verse and chorus arrangements for what is basically a fun to play three-chord song.
A song containing a few as one or two chords can be just as well-crafted as a far more intricate composition. Of course, the world is full of guitarists who play a D-to-G strum pattern ad infinitum, rhyme “fire” with “desire” and declare that they’ve written a song. You goal as a songwriter is to not be that person.
The full-chord strum is only one way to skin the rhythm cat. A subtler but no less effective approach is playing broken chords, which involves successively picking the individual notes of a chord in a following pattern. An arpeggiated, or “broken,” chord simultaneously outlines the harmony, meter and rhythm.