Easy Tips to Learning Guitar Chord Progressions
With the advent of platforms such as YouTube, there is an endless resource of information on how to approach beginning to play guitar. So many claim to have a method that is tried and true. I will not be making such a claim today, but I will be helping you get started the way I did, and I think I turned out ok.
Today, I will go over a few beginner tips for learning and playing chord progressions. Most players would agree that some of the first things you learn on the instrument are open position chords. These are chords that use frets 1-3 and the open strings. These are the easiest to grab early on and can get you started right away.
I often recommend that players head over to www.MusicTheory.net
, and get some of the basic theory under their belts while they get started on this. It really is a wonderful website with great, thorough content. Too many guitar players go years before learning any of the reasons why things work the way they do in music. Get started on this early! This article also assumes that you are able to read chord diagrams. For time’s sake, read up on this before getting started. It’s easy!!
Today, I will mostly be covering chords in the keys of C and G. I will also discuss why you should learn lots of songs and how this can help you write your own music. If you have got a capo available to you, these chords are moveable to other keys. To get you started, I will go over some of the first chords I learned. These also happen to be some of the easier ones to grab:
It is of the utmost importance to practice getting a good sound out of every note in each chord. There really is no shortcut around this other than simply putting in the work. Your grip should look as if you are holding some sort of ball where you are using the meat of your fingertips to fret the notes. Additionally, try to avoid bending your fingertip joints - otherwise known as your distal interphalangeal joints - as you won’t be doing anything like that at this stage in the game. Lastly, be sure to avoid palming the neck too much with your fretting hand as this can lead to muted notes and uncomfortable positioning. As with most things, this will take time. Be patient with yourself!!
Try practicing all four chords in a progression. It might be a good idea to take a metronome and try playing each chord for four beats before moving on to the next one. It’s important to do this in time, so do it very slowly if you must. Let’s go ahead and add a few more chords:
You might have noticed that F major doesn’t really use any open strings. If you did, good observation! We still list it here, however, as it is close enough to the open strings that it’s easy to access.
Remember the link to the website I provided at the top of this article? Well, make sure to use it. Explaining why these chords move and work the way they do would require a separate post, but if you are curious, www.MusicTheory.net
really does a great job of explaining the basics. Let’s go ahead and add some chord progressions with the information we already have available to us.
1) C Am Dm G
2) G Em Am D
3) C G Am F
4) G D Em C
These progressions are extremely common and there are literally thousands of songs written using little more than this. You have definitely heard them all before unless you’ve been living under a rock your whole life. It’s funny the way music works, isn’t it? So many songs have the same progressions, and yet, we are still intrigued in a new way by them each time. This is often the result of clever melodies, arrangements, and orchestration. I encourage you to learn as many song as you can in as many different styles as possible.
I will not say it is the only way, but the best way to learn, in my opinion, is by building from what better players have done before. This is true for any artform really, but I find that it is especially true in music. All too often we are worried about being “copycats”, but there are no musicians that didn’t build from what already existed, at least none of which I am aware.
Again, make sure you practice these using a metronome and go slowly! I cannot stress this point enough. Slow and accurate is more important than fast and sloppy, especially in the early stages. Learn chord progressions two chords at a time. For example, in the last progression provided, practice from G to D until you are comfortable, then D to Em, and finally Em to C. Then you can try to piece it all together. It is very important to learn how you learn things, and be methodical about your approach whenever possible.
As you grow more comfortable with these, I would recommend that you begin your own exploration. Come up with your own progressions using the given chords. See what sounds good to your ear. Perhaps you even learned some new shapes in some of the new music you have discovered. Be bold. See how you might be able to apply these in your own writing. This is really the best part of music, if you ask me!!
Marc-Andre Seguin - MU Educator
Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on www.JazzGuitarLessons.net
, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar. He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.
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