If you’re studying music, learning guitar is a great place to start. It’s the perfect instrument on which to learn how to play your favorite pieces of music.
As soon as you know the basics of the instrument – guitar tablature, the odd chord, and a bit of the fretboard – you can begin composing and jamming straightaway.
Whilst the building blocks of music theory are the different notes, scales – from the major scale to the variations on the minor scale – and the ability to read music, for beginner guitar the methodology conventionally works a little differently. Particularly if you are playing rock guitar or folk guitar.
Here, the most fundamental thing will be chords – power chords, open chords, barre chords, major chords, and minor chords – and chord progressions, the way that we string different chords together. These will provide the basis of your favorite songs, and are an essential part of the repertoire of all guitar players.
If you want to learn how to play guitar, you need to get to grips with the guitar chord in all its variations. It’s impossible to avoid and it’s important to learn the proper finger positions for the chords so that you can learn how to play a whole series smoothly and quickly.
Once you can do that, you can really say that you’re a guitar player.
For most beginners, learning guitar can be a rocky journey – the strings hurt your fingers when you fret them, your right hand seems completely disconnected from your left, and there are tons of chords to learn which all seem impossible. The virtuosic flights of jazz guitar, or the guitar music of Hendrix, seem a long way off.
For anyone who’s trying to learn guitar, we’d recommend starting with the basic chords. By these we mean the ‘open chord’, the chord shapes that really on notes from strings that you don’t fret (‘open’ strings). In most pop songs you’ll see and hear these being played – from the C major to the E major or D major chord. These are opposed to the ‘barre chord’, which requires all of the strings to be fretted.
You will find that your index finger, middle finger, and ring finger will all hurt a little as you learn these shapes. You are pressing your fingers against metal wires after all.
But, if you keep going, the next step is learning to play them in a series, hitting the right notes, and creating a bit of fluidity… and of course, for your fingers to stop hurting when you play.
You can find tab sets in specialist magazines and on the internet – series of chords to play together and reproduce a piece of music. Many many many songs, you will find, follow the same chord progression – and these usually involve the open position chords. And, honestly, once you have nailed these basic guitar chords, you’ll be able to play really a lot of guitar songs. If you don’t believe us, check out this video here.
But how do you put two chords together without losing your rhythm? How do you keep adding on chords until you’re actually playing a whole piece of music?
Here are a few tips.
When you are first starting out and you have to stare at a different chord chart every time you search for different guitar tabs, chords can all look overwhelmingly different. However, they aren’t.
Because the secret of effective rhythm guitar is actually efficiency – by which we mean specifically the efficiency of your movements. From a major chord to a minor chord there is usually only the difference of one note – and the best guitar players around know how to make these movements incredibly efficiently.
The secret here is knowing your fret board – and knowing where the notes are in a chord.
To really achieve fluidity in your playing and begin putting chords together, you need to start by recognizing the common factors.
A chord chart is going to be one of the things most helpful to get you to learn to play chords.
If you look closely at the different chords you’re trying to play, you can benefit from the points in common. Finding these points can help to reduce your movements and improve the fluidity of your playing.
By finding the commonalities between easy guitar chords, you’ll improve your fluidity in hand with your efficiency.
If some of your fingers stay the same between chords, try to keep them perfectly still while you’re moving the rest of your hand.
If you’re just picking up and moving your hand along without changing finger positions, make sure you aren’t moving your fingers as you move your hand. Even in the air your fingers should still stay in position.
By practicing these tips your hand will begin to anticipate the movement of your fingers and your playing will improve.
With any new guitar technique, there will be exercises to help you to develop your dexterity. Practising moving your hand in different positions across the guitar neck will help you massively.
If two chords contain open notes, it’s an opportunity to play notes that are already there without actually having to put your fingers down. The open string is really a bit of a gift to guitar players to improve the efficiency of the movement.
Learn how to dissect the positions. Check to see if you can play the note without having to add any extra fingers. Studying the chord diagrams and finding ways to play that are most comfortable for you will help.
You’ll save time, and playing a series of chords together will become second nature.
Putting two chords together is composed of up to six small steps that you can adjust based on your level.
First, learn all of your chords by heart, and then work on changing from one chord to another.
Be very clear where you need to place your fingers.
It’s impossible to learn how to change chords and put them together all in one go, even in a guitar lesson.
In summary, here’s how to do it:
Listen well – if you want to be able to play guitar like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, or even Ben Harper, the most important thing that you can do is to practice regularly.
What do we mean by that? How often do you need to practice guitar to begin playing well? Professional guitarists advise students to practice daily, or every other day, for 10 to 15 minutes so that the movements begin to become automatic and second nature. Then your muscle memory can take over when you’re moving your fingers between chords.
If you aren’t motivated to practice on your own, or you’re having trouble mastering the chords, ask a professional for help. They can guide you through the process in private lessons and give you advice on how to improve.
They will show you if you’re sitting badly or picking up bad habits, and correct you where need be.
Find a teacher who can help you improve your chords.
Having a teacher will help generate immediate feedback on how you’re doing – they can mirror you, and your learning will be considerably enriched.
So start looking for guitar lessons London to find the perfect teacher!
Keeping a consistent rhythm is a crucial part of playing guitar, and you need to keep the beat when you change chords.
Don’t slow down to change chords and learn how to play with a metronome. This way, you won’t need to think too hard about the beat. Instead you’ll learn to keep a steady, even rhythm and play your chords.
Once you’ve mastered the two chords and your movements are smooth and easy, get a stopwatch to time yourself as you move up and down the neck of the guitar.
Always give preference to quality over quantity – it’s always better to make five clean chord changes in one minute, than to try and get 15 chord changes in, but the sound is all wrong.
We’re not talking about your physical breathing, but about the small pauses between chords when you let the strings vibrate and you move on to the next position.
This pause should always happen between chord changes, and especially on the last note of a measure.
If you want to get technical when you’re using a pick and changing between two chords, instead of playing both with your pick, leave the last note of the measure empty and use the time to get your left hand ready.
Learn to visualize changing chords.
Close your eyes and picture your fingers in the correct position, and then picture them changing to the next chord.
Focus on that mental image; it will help get your brain ready for the movement, and make the actual action smoother and easier.
If possible, use the fingers that aren’t holding strings as a ‘pivot’ to change positions between chords.
And don’t forget to stay motivated and enjoy playing the guitar!