One Chord Song (Guitar Lesson)

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Steve Eulberg

One Chord Song

Steve Eulberg launches this lesson series by teaching a one chord song. Starting with easy songs allows you to isolate your voice and guitar playing.

Taught by Steve Eulberg in Singing with Guitar seriesLength: 14:12Difficulty: 1.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:26) Lesson Introduction Welcome to the Singing and Guitar series! Steve plays through two verses of "Frere Jacque" ("Are You Sleeping?") to demonstrate how a single chord can be applied to an entire vocal melody.

The key to singing while playing guitar is linking both activities together in the brain. Developing this task is easiest if you start with a very simple guitar part (1-3 chords) and a simple melody (not a wide range, few large intervallic leaps).
Chapter 2: (12:03) One Chord Song Nursery rhymes are an ideal starting point for anyone trying to play and sing at the same time. These songs are already internalized and memorized. Also, the harmony and melody of these songs are always very simple.

One Chord Song

Harmonizing a song with one chord eliminates all fret hand movement. This cuts out 50% of what you normally have to think about when playing guitar. This allows you to focus all of your attention on strumming and singing.
Follow these steps to learn this song:
1. Find the best key for your voice. This requires some basic knowledge of your vocal range. Are you a bass, baritone, or tenor? Mezzo-Soprano or Soprano? Steve has a low bass range with some nice, thick low tones. As a result, he has chosen to sing the song in the key of C. Males and females with higher voices might want to sing this song in the key of E or F.

2. Learn the Melody. This includes identifying key features of the melody. Where are the phrases? What are the lyrics for each phrase? What is the range of the melody? Is it less than or more than a full octave? These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself when learning any melody.

Note: A transcription of the melody can be found under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

3. Apply the capo to aid in transposition. This will allow you to use the same chord shape that Steve is using anywhere on the fretboard.

Practicing the Song

1. First, learn the lyrics and melody by singing along with Steve.

French Lyrics

Frère Jacques,
Frère Jacques,
Dormez vous?
Dormez vous?
Sonnez les matines,
Sonnez les matines,
Din, din, don!
Din, din, don!

Most Common English Lyrics

Are you sleeping, Are you sleeping,
Brother John? Brother John?
Morning bells are ringing, Morning bells are ringing.
Ding, ding, dong. Ding, ding, dong.

2. Next, strum along with Steve without singing. Finally, begin to combine the voice with the guitar. If it is too difficult for you to strum on all four beats while singing, just strum the first beat in the measure and hold the chord for a whole note. This limits the number of activities that your brain must juggle. As you get more comfortable, add the quarter note rhythm back in. Then, play the appropriate chord with boom-chuck rhythm. Finally, add an alternating bass line.

Note: Check out Steve's Phase 1 lessons as well as his Phase 2 Bluegrass series for more information about the boom-chuck rhythm and alternating bass lines.


"Transposition" is the process of changing the key of a piece to another key. A capo is commonly used to transpose keys on the guitar. For example, Steve demonstrates this song using the G chord shape with the capo at the third fret. This changes the key of the song to Bb. This chord shape can be used anywhere on the fretboard when a capo is attached. Essentially, the capo changes the location of the nut.

Chapter 3: (01:34) Arpeggiating Chords Arpeggiating a chord progression is one way to add extra interest to a rhythm guitar part. Instead of strumming through each chord, pick each string in the chord individually. This will change the overall flavor of the song. The arpeggio pattern that Steve has chosen makes the song sound almost like a lullaby.

Note: Open the "Supplemental Content" tab for a transcription of the arpeggio pattern that Steve demonstrates.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Supplemental Learning Material


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

timmasontimmason replied on July 22nd, 2014

Thanks Steve. Very useful. Reminds me of when I saw Georges Moustaki in London. He slipped a line from Frère Jacques into one of his songs, and the English audience were so excited that he had to do it over and over for five minutes.

bdaniherbdaniher replied on August 10th, 2012

Thanks Steve I have done countless singing lessons with a teacher and online and have asked about finding my key without a straight answer you gave this in lesson one ! Looking forward to viewing your next lessons.

priscilla annepriscilla anne replied on September 28th, 2010

Talk about wonderful timing! This lesson set was added the same time that I started going to a weekly jam session. It is a lot of fun, but, each of us is expected to take our turn at choosing and leading a song. I was panicked until I started this lesson set. Thank you for starting out slowly and covering the basics!

djshaddjshad replied on June 12th, 2009

Always a First Class Act! Thanks Steve....

dantedante replied on March 2nd, 2009

I haven't even opened the lesson yet but am sure this is exactly what a life time player (not singer) like me needs. Don't listen to the naysayers.

bobbysunbobbysun replied on May 15th, 2008


steveeulbergsteveeulberg replied on May 17th, 2008

FYI, I love the COUNT. Steve Eulberg

jboothjbooth replied on May 15th, 2008

Huh?! This song is great for picking up the ladies!

jboothjbooth replied on May 15th, 2008

But in all seriousness, as silly as the song sounds, Steve is right in that it will be easier for you to get your bearings while singing a VERY simple song that you have known for ages.

tedted3tedted3 replied on May 17th, 2008

This lesson is just what I needed. I really want to sing and play. I have improve a lot playing but cannot sing and play. Thanks for going back to the basics.

mav67mav67 replied on May 16th, 2008

An awful lot of good information in this lesson, thanks Steve, you are a diamond.

mingofallsmingofalls replied on May 15th, 2008

Steve, you are an awsome instructor! I really like your teaching style! You have really helped me with this struggling issue of mine of how to find the best key to sing in. I enjoy singing, and I'm a beginner guitar player, acoustic and electric, and you have no idea how much this 2 lessons have helped me. We definately need many more vids in this department! I'm been trying my utmost to play and sing together. I'm a big fan of Lisa McCormick, if you know who she is, if not check her myspace page and listen to her songs and guitar playing. Thanks Steve, and keep up the great work.

jboothjbooth replied on May 15th, 2008

2 more are already done and *SHOULD* be up tomorrow if I can get the time between filming sessions :) Glad you are enjoying them!

SylviaSylvia replied on May 15th, 2008

great lesson as always, Steve... must learn to crawl before you can learn to walk.

Singing with Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Singing and playing the guitar together can add another dimension to your ability as a musician and guitarist. This skill is particularly useful for those who enjoy playing rhythm guitar.

Lesson 1

One Chord Song

Steve Eulberg launches this lesson series by teaching a one chord song. Starting with easy songs allows you to isolate your voice and guitar playing.

Length: 14:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

Two Chord Song

Steve advances to a song that features two chords. This time around you will learn "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

Length: 17:40 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Three Chord Song

Steve progresses to a three chord song - "This Land Is Your Land." This song features the primary triads in the major tonality.

Length: 14:24 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 4

Four Chord Song

Steve demonstrates how to sing and play the song "BINGO." This song can be harmonized with either four or five chords.

Length: 13:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Increasing the Difficulty

Steve Eulberg ups the ante with a more advanced sing-along lesson. He teaches you how to play and sing the song "Take It Easy" by the Eagles.

Length: 12:07 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Learning Songs

Steve talks about some of his favorite resources for learning and discovering new songs.

Length: 8:36 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Down in the Valley

Steve Eulberg teaches the classic folk song "Down in the Valley."

Length: 17:09 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Sunshine On My Shoulders

Steve Eulberg teaches the John Denver song "Sunshine On My Shoulders" in this Singing with Guitar lesson.

Length: 31:27 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Last Thing on My Mind

Steve Eulberg teaches the essentials of singing and playing the song "Last Thing on My Mind."

Length: 27:39 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 10

How Songs Behave

Steve talks about how songs and tunes behave in this lesson. This information will make basic songs easier to play along with.

Length: 13:53 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only

About Steve Eulberg View Full Biography An Award-winning multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, Steve Eulberg weaves mountain and hammered dulcimers with a variety of unusual instruments to create thought-provoking, smile-inducing, toe-tapping acoustic experiences.

He has sung and composed for religious communities, union halls, picket lines, inter-faith retreats, mountain-top youth camps, as well as the more familiar venues: clubs, coffeehouses, bookstores, festivals, charity benefits and showcase concerts.

Born and raised in the German-heritage town of Pemberville, Ohio, Steve was exposed to a variety of music in his home. Early piano lessons were followed by trumpet in school band, and he became self-taught on ukelele and guitar and harmonica. Mandolin was added at Capital University where, while majoring in History, he studied Ear Training, Voice and took Arranging lessons from the Conservatory of Music.

While at college, he first heard hammered and mountain dulcimers, building his first mountain dulcimer just before his final year. Seminary training took him the west side of Denver where he built his first hammered dulcimer. With these instruments, he was able to give voice to the Scottish, English and Irish traditions to which he is also heir.

Following marriage in 1985 to Connie Winter-Eulberg he settled in Kansas City, Missouri. There he worked cross-culturally in a church of African-Americans, Latinos and European Americans, with music being a primary organizing tool. He moved with his family in 1997 to be nestled beside the Rocky Mountains in Fort Coillins, Colorado.

Founder of Owl Mountain Music, Inc. he teaches and performs extensively in Colorado and Wyoming with tours across the US and the UK. He delights in introducing the “sweet music” of dulcimers to people in diverse settings and in addition to his own recordings, has included dulcimers in a variety of session work for other musicians.

In 2000 he was commissioned to create a choral composition featuring dulcimers for the Rainbow Chorus in Fort Collins. It was recorded in the same year (BEGINNINGS). He is currently at work on a commissioned symphony that will feature hammered dulcimer and Australian didjeridu.

Eulberg passionately believes that music crosses cultural and language barriers because music builds community. Influenced by a variety of ethnic styles, his music weaves vital lyric with rap, rock, folk, gospel and blues. Audiences of all ages respond well to his presentation and to his warm sense of humor.

Steve is a member of Local 1000 (AFM), The Folk Alliance, BMI and BWAAG (Better World Artists and Activist's Guild).

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