Getting Used To Chords

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Learning the positions of each finger on the fret board for every chord is already an impressive feat. However, changing the position of the fingers quickly to produce the next chord can prove even more difficult for beginners. Here are some tips that might help you.

Learning to play guitar can be compared to learning to write on a keyboard. At the beginning we are unable to do it without looking at the keys. It is a slow and frustrating activity, as we want to write faster, without making mistakes, but sometimes cannot find the letters and our fingers do not seem to obey.

As we get used to chat or text our friends, we get increasingly faster, and with time we do not even have to look at the keyboard to write complete sentences. Playing the guitar is pretty much the same thing. With practice, you will soon be able to move your fingers across the fret board without even looking at it.

The first thing one should do is pick a song you like and are familiar with. Try to choose an easy song that has distinguishable verses and chorus, and only three or four chords. Don´t worry, you´ll get to the complex ones when you´re ready.

Check out this video about the A Major chord – it’s a great beginners video and Mark is a great teacher:

Memorize all the chords used in the song. Practice each of them, and play them slowly. When you strum your chord, all the strings should have a clear sound. So listen for strings that are muted or buzzy and reposition your fingers if you hear any.

After you make sure you got the perfect chord, go to the next one and repeat. You can try playing one chord, release the fret board and do the same chord again. This helps you memorize each chord better. Do this until you feel you get a perfect sound on almost every try, and then go to the next chord.

Now you want to learn to do smooth transitions between chords. A simple trick is to find fingers that do not have to significantly change their position or move at all when going from one chord to the next. You use them as starting points or pivots, while the rest of the fingers find their places.

This keeps all your fingers as close to the fret board as possible which is also essential to switch chords smoothly. An example of this would be changing between two barred chords. Here, the index finger would only have to slide down or up, and you only have to position the other three.

When you´re ready to start playing a whole song, count the beats each chord should be played. Then anticipate your next chord, visualizing where your fingers should land when it is time to go to the next chord. Playing the song slowly will give you enough time for changing the fingers while keeping the tempo, but if it still proves too difficult, you could use the last beat of each measure to position your fingers for the next chord on time.

Whatever you do, never stop strumming. If you keep moving your strumming hand, the fretting hand will try to keep up and place the fingers on time. Do not worry if your fingers are not yet in place when the downbeat comes, you´ll start doing it right in no time. Increase the speed of the song as you gain confidence.

Just keep these simple tricks in mind when you´re ready to play your next song, and they will surely help you build up the skills to become a great guitar player in no time.

The ¾ Beat Technique

Strumming is one of the most important parts of learning the instrument. For this entry, we will try to explain one more technique that will help you master the strumming. We already showed how to strum following a 4/4 beat in the previous post. However, that is not the only beat you will find in popular music. The 3/4 or waltz beat is a bit trickier but is not hard at all.

What The Numbers Mean?

First, we must explain what the numbers mean. Time signatures are shown like fraction numbers at the beginning of a music or tablature. It indicates how many beats there are in a measure and what these beats represent.

The upper number tells us the number of beats per measure, the lower number indicates the kind of note you must play every beat. In this case, we know that there are only three beats per measure and every beat is a quarter note. We do not need to worry about the kind of notes at this moment.

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When playing the 4/4 beat, we had to count from 1 to 4 and then change the chord. For the 3/4 beat strumming, we only need to count to 3. We recommend using the D-A7-G chord progression.

Again, these chords are easy to do and would allow you to concentrate on the strumming hand. As before, practice the finger positions for every chord, then practice changing the chords.

This is definitely something you want to get down in your practice, as it will help you to do other things more easily later. Making progress in playing guitar takes dedication and good practice. You can join one of the online learning sites to get access to several different teachers from a wide variety of styles, and there are a few top ones that have become really popular and have a good reputation. Some of the best online guitar lesson sites include JamPlay, GuitarTricks, and Jamorama. I saw a really thorough comparison table recently on the GuitarBrief website, that showed exactly what you get with each membership, and there were also some great discount coupon codes there. It may be useful to help you decide what is the best online guitar lessons learning system for your particular nature and how you learn best.

When you´re ready, you can start strumming.

Start by doing the Downward/Upward stroke pattern, counting every time you go downward. When you reach three, change the chord and start again.

It should be something like this:

1 2 3
D/U/D/U/D/U

Notice that this beat feels like a classic Waltz. It is because waltzes were often written using this nice rhythm in mind, but there are many nice pop and rock songs written in a 3/4 beat. After you get the feel of the 3/4 beat, you can start practicing with some popular songs that use this time signature.

There are classic songs like “Journey´s Open Arms”, or metal ballads like “Nothing Else Matters” that use this time signature and very easy chords to follow. Just ignore the arpeggios and play the chords concentrating on your strumming. We promise you will later learn how to play more complicated patterns and techniques.

Here’s a great video I found explaining more about the 3/4 beat, or Waltz beat. The guy in the video is Mark from the Jamorama training site, so the video is clear and easy to follow. It’ll give you everything you need to know to get the 3/4 beat down nicely and make it work for you.

Here’s what’s covered in the video:

0:00 – Demonstration
0:15 – The “3/4 Strum or Waltz Pattern”
1:20 – Adding a bass note
2:15 – Example over some chords
3:08 – Swinging it

The video is only 4 minutes, but there are some great tips in there. He really knows his stuff and loves to teach:

Learning Basic 4/4 Rhythm Strumming

If you wish to play the guitar, it’s important to be familiar with the techniques and concepts before you start practicing.

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An essential technique is the basic 4/4 strumming system. One of the first steps for beginner guitar players is mastering this method, as it helps them improve their skills and they can really start feeling the instrument.

But first, we must know two things:

What’s a stroke?
How do I know where to place my fingers?

Well, guitar strumming is generally made of two movements: the downward stroke and the upward stroke. The downward stroke is a sweeping movement made with the hand that goes from the topmost string to the other side of the string lane. Equally, the upward stroke is made from the bottommost string. When you combine them in a Down/Up movement, you are strumming the guitar.

While playing, your strumming hand should never stop doing this Down/Up movement. As a beginner you need to start keeping up the rhythm. Sometimes you might find that your fret hand is getting behind, and you will feel the need to stop strumming to give your fingers time to find their positions. Don´t do it. Keeping the tempo with your strumming hand will force your fingers to become faster and will teach you how to make adjustments on the fly like most guitar players do.

Now that you know how to strum, let’s talk about placing your fingers. Guitar manuals and tablatures often assign numbers from 1 to 4 to each finger. The index is number 1, the middle finger is number 2, the ring finger is number 3, and the pinky is number 4. Thus you will always know where fingers go when building chords. The tablature is a very important tool for beginners as they show how to form chords by placing these numbers on a fret board.

Make sure that you place your fingers right behind the fret wire when making a chord. If you place them too far from it, it will cause you to hear buzzing sounds. One other thing, do not press the strings too hard as this will cause your chord to sound out of tune, and your fingers will start hurting very soon.

Now, let’s talk about the 4/4 beat. This is the most common time signature in modern music, and the most used by musicians. Each number has a very specific meaning. This signature tells you about the number of beats there are in a time measure. The top number tells you that there are 4 beats in a measure, and the bottom number tells you the kind of note you should play in each beat. In general, you should count to 4 for every measure, and then start over in the next one.

Now that you know a few chords yourself, it is time to start playing using a rhythm. You must play a chord using a strumming pattern counting up to 4, then change the chord and count again. Every time you stroke down, you count. Every measure should be something like this:

1 2 3 4
D/U/D/U/D/U/D/U

Try this pattern using the D-A-G-A chord progression. These are simple chords that are easy to remember and do not require complicated movements. Just check out a music manual that tells you how to place your fingers for each one of these chords, practice them and start playing.

After a while, you might want to change your strumming rhythm. Try this pattern instead so you can start getting familiar with popular rhythms:

1 2 3 4
Pattern 1: D-D/U-U/D/U

Notice that the third beat should be counted between the two upward strokes. Actually, you would be counting an imaginary downward stroke.

After you master the D-A-G-A chord progression, try with another one. The C-Em-F-G is a good choice. Practice the finger positions, and changes. Then start counting using the 4/4 beat and the strumming patterns you now know.

Remember that learning how to play the guitar is something that takes a while. The first few weeks are the most difficult ones, but if you´re really passionate about it, you will surely see the results in no time.