I. Finding a Good Key

Creedence recorded this song in the key of D, which really hit John Fogerty’s sweet spot, but I changed the key of the song to the key of A for this course, so that the chords were a little easier, and so that the guys could more easily sing the high notes. Let’s check out where the low and high notes are in the song to see if you can hit them comfortably.

The lowest note is an “E3”, which is found on the 4th string, 2nd fret of the guitar. You sing it on the word “ring” in the line, “Hear the workbell ring.” Women, most of you are not going to be able to hit this, I’m afraid. But try singing it with me.

The highest note is an “C#4”, found on the 2nd string, 2nd fret. It’s the first note you sing in the song, you sing it on the words “Well, you wake” in the first line: “Well you wake up in the mornin’. Guys, you may need to need to put a little oomph into it to hit this one. Try it with me.

Singing Higher, Option 1: Go Up an Octave

Pretty much everyone should be able to hit that high note, but women, a lot of you are not going to be able to hit the C#4. But there’s potentially an easy solution if you like to sing up high, which is to jump up a whole octave. You’ll be up a bit higher than Fogerty. It sounds like this--apologies, this is right at the top of my range.

This would put your low note at E4, which is the open first string. And your high note is now a C#5 on the 1st string, 9th fret--Fellas, you may have to shrink your pants a couple sizes to hit that, but some women are comfortable hitting that note.

Singing Higher, Option 2: Capo Up

So what if you’re in the middle--the E3 is too low, but the C#5 is too high. In that case, slap the capo on. FYI, this will mean that you can’t play along with my backing tracks--so you may want to just do your best singing in the original key until you don’t need the backing tracks any longer. But once you’re ready to play on your own, you should really find a good key for your voice.

Here’s how you use the capo to do that. Start at Capo 1, and try playing those original low and high notes, but now relative to the capo instead of the nut. So find the low note again by playing the 4th string 2nd fret (which is actually the 3rd fret now, but it’s 2 frets up from the capo) and try singing that, and your high note again is on the 2nd string, 2nd fret (which is technically the 3rd fret but it’s two up from the capo). Keep doing this, moving up fret by fret, until you find notes you can hit comfortably.

II. Learn the Vocal Part Well

Your next step is to learn the vocal part well by listening to the Jam Track several times, and once you’ve got it in your ear, try singing along. It’s often hard to know when to come in, but the best way to learn all this stuff by listening to the song a ton--maybe 5 or 10 times, if you can stand listening to me sing that long. Listening to the original recording helps too, except, like I said, Fogerty’s in a different key, so my version is a little better for that reason.

III. One Strum Per Measure, Slowly

OK, now we’ll practice strumming just on Beat 1, called the Downbeat, while we sing. The downbeat is like landmark or milemarker that helps you navigate the rhythm of the singing. If you don’t know where that beat falls in relation to the singing, you’re lost. So we’re going to practice finding them, while eliminating pretty much everything else--We’re going to play slowly, and no busy strumming--just a single downstrum on the downbeat.

You’ll see I’ve put red arrows on the chord chart where the downbeats fall. When there’s a chord change, the chord is actually located right over the lyrics where the downbeat falls, so instead of putting a arrow right over the chord name, I kept things more legible by angling them in from the side. There’s a link to the chart below, so print it out if you like.

I’m going to play through the whole song. Follow along with me.

Did you notice that all the vocal lines started before the chord change, and most of them ended right before a downbeat too? This is one of the big challenges of learning to strum and sing--vocal rhythms tend to be avoid landing on the beats, especially the downbeat. They avoid the downbeat. If they did that, things would sound too marchy, too stiff.

Feel to rewind and sing along with me some more. Up next, we’ll strum once per beat instead of once per measure.

[Pause Screen]

IV. One Strum Per Beat, Slowly

Now we’re going to add some difficulty--you’re going to be strumming downstrums once per beat instead of once per measure. This is gonna clarify the rhythm of the vocal line at a finer resolution--you’re going to see where every beat falls in relation to the singing. But we’ll keep a slow tempo, which will hopefully make those chord changes more manageable. Here we go.

V. Full strum pattern, Slowly

Now let’s bring in the full strum pattern. You remember this thing.

Strum: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +


VI. Full strum pattern to tempo

Keep working on that until you’re ready to play at full tempo. When you are, you can just use one of the jam tracks provided. There are several jam track options, depending on whether you want to play and sing along with me, which is easier, or do it yourself, which is harder but probably more fun once you’re up for it. Have fun!

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