A guitar student asked if a finger pattern for guitar that I had taught
her would work for a particular song she loves. This is what I answered:
Angel From Montgomery is a challenging song rhythmically. I’d suggest
finding John Prine playing it on YouTube, and trying to just strum and
sing along. Or if there is someone else’s version you’ve imprinted on, try to play along with that.
On this one, he’s playing in the key of G. You can watch the chords change, (note the F chord!) and even watch his picking hand go up and down. He’s just strumming. But there’s a spot where the chords change unevenly, on “child that’s grown OLD.” If you try to play along, you’ll find you get lost at that spot. It’s because he’s doing something different there. It may take you many hours, or even longer, to sort out just what he’s doing and find a way to play along.
BUT there is a control for speed now on YouTube. Click the gear for settings in the lower right. Click speed. Then try 0.75, or 0.5, or even 0.25. It’s an amazing program which will keep John singing and playing in the same key. His voice will get really slurred, but you can watch that picking hand go up and down. Count how many up and downs before he changes chords. Listen for the accented strums.
His rhythm is loose and the strums vary. The most common pattern is Boom chucka-chucka-chucka (1 2&3&4&). Except it’s a bit syncopated.
Because of the SlowDowner, it’s possible it won’t actually take you many hours. And if it does, that’s normal. You’re not dumb; it’s complicated.
And it’s worth it. You will open up new neural pathways in your brain that you never dreamed of, and that never existed before.
Also, speed him back up and sing along a ton. Get up and move, walk, dance along, and notice where, in your stride, that bump is.
All of this is necessary analysis, and will teach you more than I ever could. I haven’t done this process for that song, but have done it for lots of other songs. And I’ve noticed the bump go by and know what it means. But how many strums or fractions of strums is he skipping? Are they upstrokes or downstrokes? It’s part of the wonder of that song.
Have fun! And bang your head against the wall, and when you do, remind yourself that this is you, being a real musician!