Learn Ohm, by Yo La Tengo, on Guitar
This blog post is an easy guitar lesson for all beginners on how to play Ohm by Yo La Tengo on guitar.
Ohm Gets a 0/10 Difficulty Rating
Yo La Tengo is basically playing one chord throughout this entire song: The D chord. We'll just say that the chord system is D-G-A. It sounds coolest if you play it on electric guitar, though if you only had an acoustic guitar that'd work just fine. This tutorial is a pretty close arrangement of the song; In other words, what you'll learn in this tutorial will sound super close to the real thing..
What skills are required?
Though this tutorial is appropriate for you if you have little to no experience with guitar, you do need to know how to tune your guitar to successfully play it.
What are the benefits to learning Ohm?
There are three benefits: Learning the D chord, guitar strumming patterns, and dropped D tuning.
Practicing this song will help you become more familiar with both the D chord as well as guitar strumming patterns in general. The D chord is one of the big seven guitar chords (the guitar chords that can give you access to millions of songs, no joke). Guitar strumming patterns are widely used in popular rhythm guitar songs. Additionally, if you learn how to tune your guitar to the dropped D tuning like I show you in this tutorial, you'll have another skill that is super useful for electric guitar, as it is used in quite a few songs.
Recommended: Download the song
This tutorial is based off of the recorded version of Ohm. I strongly recommend downloading a MP3 copy of this song for yourself.
Getting familiar with the song
I am constantly surprised how much faster both my students as well as myself learn songs when we are truly, super in-the-know about them. The more familiar we are with the tune, the faster we learn.
One thing I have done a lot of in the past is simply listen to the song at the same time as I've looked at the sheet music. If this interests you, I've made a beautiful tab for this song.
Count on it: The more familiar you are with a song before you jump in, the faster you'll learn it. Try listening to the song a bunch of times before doing the rest of this tutorial. It'll help, I promise!
Learn the guitar part
Guitar part overview
As I mentioned, this arrangement of the song has only one chord and one strumming pattern. As long as you can play this one chord and can strum this one strumming pattern, you're set to play this song. Easy!
For those Yo La Tengo purists out there, I would also like to note that what I'm going to show you how to play is an arrangement. Arrangements are not note-for-note. That being said, what you'll learn will sound excellent if you play along to the recording.
How to play the chord and the strumming Pattern
For your convenience, I've left the times in the video when I show you the chord and the strumming pattern:
- Learning the chord: 2:26
- Learning the strumming pattern: 4:19
Drop D Tuning
Learn Standard Tuning First
To tune your guitar to Drop D tuning, you must first be able to tune your guitar to standard tuning. My suggestion is to watch this video first:
Learn Drop D Tuning Next
After you feel comfortable with standard tuning, tuning to Drop D is a breeze. Once again, go to 7:32 in the tutorial video, and I explain drop D tuning for you:
Put it all together
If you can play the strumming pattern and the chord along with the song, you've got it! Congratulations!
"Do you have any POV photos of the D chord? I'd like a closer look."
"My D chord sounds terrible!!!"
Okay, the D chord is... a little challenging for a lot of beginners. This happens, it's common, and it's okay. That being said, here are some technical suggestions to help you play this chord better:
- Play on your fingertips, only. Imagine you're playing with a claw. Conversely, try not to be on the pads of your fingers.
- Cut your fingernails.
- Try to be as close to the frets as you can. This will help you get a clearer sound.
- The thinnest string, the string closest to the floor, might not sound great right now. Be good to yourself and allow that string to remain muted until you become more familiar with it.
- If you can get three strings of this chord sounding good, that's good enough. Be good to yourself and relax if the chord doesn't sound all that great right now. If you enjoy playing guitar enough and stick with it, this problem will solve itself over time.
"The strumming is hard and I can't play along with the song."
Play the strumming pattern at three tempos. Playing at slower and faster tempos gets you ready for playing the real thing. One workflow that might be incredibly helpful for you is the Capo 10 workflow.
"I can't hear the song!"
Turn the volume of the song up slightly louder than your guitar and use headphones. The most decrepit pair of headphones is far better than most computer speakers. By the way, if you're an audiophile, my recommendation would be the Audio-Technica ATH-M40.
"I can't hear just the guitar when I play along to the song."
I've made an audio loop pack of Ohm that has a two minute loop of just the guitar part. If you want more than just a loop, you can get an entire learning pack of this song which includes a high resolution photo of a D chord at two different angles, a beautiful chord sheet, and the audio loop pack for cheaper than if you bought them all separately.
"When is it time for me to move onto a new song?"
Here's a thought for you: When you can play along with the recorded version of this song from start to finish without a single thought entering your mind, you're ready for a new song.