Last blog we talked about basic chords. We explored four chords and started playing our first songs. Now it’s time to go a bit further. We’re gonna learn new chords, new chord progressions and at the end, we will be making music together.
About Learning Guitar Chords
The thing about learning guitar chords is that the more you learn, the easier it will get to learn the next one. Your fingers will get stronger and your brain will be able to make the connections easier. As a guitar player you never really stop learning guitar chords, because there are hundreds of combinations and positions. Although the process is faster when you get better, it’s still the same process.
One, Three, Five
A chord exists of three or more notes. We discussed that in my previous chord blog. There are seven notes in a scale (eg. C, D, E, F, G, A, B). So if three notes are the minimum if we’re to build a chord, which notes are we talking about? In this blog, I’m talking about the scale and the notes in a scale. The next part will be easier to understand having read that blog.
ONE. One of these notes is the root. The root is the first note of the scale. It’s the most fundamental note of the chord. It’s so important that the chord will even take its name. The root note of a C major chord will be a C. (C, D, E, F, G, A, B)
THREE. This one is called a third. This is the note that will decide if a chord is major or minor. In the example I gave you the third is the E (C, D, E, F, G, A, B). I will explain what makes one third major and another one minor in another blog.
FIVE. The fifth note in our example is the G (C, D, E, F, G, A, B).
When a root, a third and a fifth get played together, we call that combination a triad. This is the most basic form of a chord.
Building Major and Minor Chords
But the chords we learned in our previous blog often had five or even six notes. How’s that possible?
Because there are multiple octaves on a guitar. It’s actually like this: (…C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B..) and it’s perfectly possible to have 2 C’s, 2 E’s and a G in a chord. That’s five notes, so it’s not a triad anymore (a triad only has three notes), so we’re just talking about basic minor and major chords.
If learning guitar chords were to be compared with building a house, major and minor would be like building the first floor. They’re fundamental, and in theory, it’s perfectly possible to make music for the rest of your life with just these chords.
There are many floors to be explored. Jazz musicians like to live in skyscrapers. But if that first floor isn’t there, the whole thing collapses. That’s why it’s important not to rush learning these chords.
This is a very common chord. The reason I didn’t learn it to you in the previous blog, is because I wanted to focus on the Em – C – G – D chord progression in there. It takes some practice to get the three fingers in position without being in each other’s way.
Don’t use the index finger. The next chord is a great example why it’s a great advantage to not use that finger.
Coming from the A major, just lift your little finger and place your index finger in position. Notice the change in tone? These chords are not that often played together, but it’s a great way to hear the difference between major and minor.
Remember the E minor? And remember why I advised you not to use that index finger? This is why. Take an E minor chord, place your index finger on the first fret of the G string, and you’re playing an E major chord. Lift that index finger and you’re back to the E minor.
We talked about the D in the last blog. I personally think the D minor is slightly easier than the D because that one always felt really unnatural to me.
Changing between the D and the D minor is going to be more difficult than it was with the A and E because it’s not just moving one finger. Don’t bother practicing this transition, because it’s very uncommonly played together anyway.
So far we’ve learned the A, Am, C, D, Dm, E, Em, and the G. You’ll notice some chords are missing. Those are called barre chords, and we’ll focus on those down the road. With the eight chords, we’ve learned over the last two blogs a lot of new songs can be played.
Play, Play, Play!
I recorded some backing tracks that focus on the chords we’ve been talking about today. They’re completely free for you to use. I tried to keep the rhythms as simple as possible. All the counts are down, all the &’s are up. Remember to keep your hand moving, even when they’re not touching the strings. More information about strumming can be found here.
Audio 1 will be the backing track without the guitar. In audio 2 I am playing along, so you can hear how it’s supposed to sound. You can play along to whichever one you prefer.
C – Am (2x)
G – Am – G – G
The strumming pattern:
Em – A (2x)
G – A (2x)
E – D – A – E
That’s all for today. The first floor of your house has been built. Don’t underestimate what you can do with these eight chords.
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