Today we’ll cover the cornerstone of learning how to play the guitar for beginners – chords in general, and changing chords in particular.
Changing chords is something you’ll need to do a great deal as you learn to play the guitar. Beginners may think that they will never become proficient at changing chords, especially when they find it really hard to change over even between ‘simple’ chords.
Don’t be dismayed. So-called simple chords are not called that because they are simple to play.
While changing chords smoothly requires a great deal of practice, there are some things you can do to facilitate the movement considerably. One of the most important things is to relax.
Many guitarists tense their shoulder and arm muscles when playing chords with the effort of finding the right notes in a hurry.
The tension in the shoulder and arm translates down into the fingers and causes them to grip so tightly that it is almost impossible to change at all, let alone do it fast.
This makes it difficult for each finger to move and find its string independently of the others. Tension also causes the hand to grip too tightly so that there is no space between the hand and the guitar.
You cannot move your hand up and down the neck of the guitar swiftly and smoothly if you are grasping it for dear life. Worse still, a tight hand is a sweaty hand, which also hinders that smooth slide you need.
The fingers should be held in a relaxed curl, separate from each other and space kept between hand and guitar especially as it turns from a G to a C chord, which is one of the most challenging movements.
Another good idea is to avoid leading with your strong index finger. For the C chord, place your 2nd finger on the fourth string first. Keeping your hand out, put the 3rd finger next and finally the index finger on the 2nd string, first fret.
Keep enough space between the index finger and guitar to stick a pencil through. When practicing chords, start off slowly and work up to speed gradually. The world won’t
come to an end if you are not perfect in two days. Learning to relax for chord changes is the most important thing to do.
7th Chord and 9th Chords
There are many different kinds of chords in music, and all are important since they are used so frequently. Open chords mean that none of the notes are sharps or flats. They are usually played as the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of a scale. There are also many different kinds of 7th Chords; G7, D7 and C7 are just three of them.
To play the G7 chord:
- Find the third fret of the sixth string with your third finger.
- Next, you find the 2nd fret of the fifth string with your 2nd finger.
- And then the first fret of first string with the first finger.
The other strings are played in open position. If your fingers are nicely curled, you won’t find it too hard to keep them on these notes. Strum the chord. G 7 chord has only one note different to G major chord.
The C7 chord has only one note different to the C major chord.
To play C7, you need first to form the C major chord:
- Third finger, third fret, fifth string.
- Second finger, second fret, fourth string.
- First finger, first fret, second string.
Then you add:
- Fourth finger, third fret, third string. Strum the five bottom strings.
To play a D7 Chord (similar to D major):
- Second finger, second fret, third string.
- First finger, first fret, second string.
- Third finger, second fret, first string.
- Strum bottom four strings.
In the chord charts for these chords, those strings that are not played (strummed) will be shown with an x above them.
Practice playing these chords, moving from chord to chord. As you do so, say the name of each chord, so you’ll get used to its pattern and name. 9th Chords are exactly like 7th chords but with a 9th added to it, that is, a 9th is an octave higher than the tonic (starting note), then you add a second (2frets).
The ninth chord formula is:
The major 7th minor 9th chord formula is:
The minor 7th minor 9th chord formula is:
The major 9th chords are:
- A = A-C#-E-G#-B
- B = B-D#-F#-A#-C#
- C = C-E-G-B-D
- D = D-F#-A-C#-E
- E = E-G#-B-D#-F#
- F = F-A-C-E-G
- G = G-B-D-F#-A
Basic Guitar Chords
One thing that is played a great deal by many musicians and all guitarists are chords. When several notes are played together, that is a chord.
Open, or folk, chords are what many beginners start with not because they are easy, but because they are one of the most popular types of chords.
If you think of playing chords on a piano, you will realize that several keys are pressed at the same time so that they all play together and produce a harmonious sound.
When playing chords on a guitar, you have to hold down several strings and strum across them all in a fluid movement to get the same effect.
They are played a lot in country and folk music. When fingering chords on the guitar, it is important not to touch the adjacent strings – otherwise, you will not get the true sound.
Chords can be in a minor key, and dominant key or a major key. The letter ‘m’ after a chord will tell you it is in a minor key, while the letter 7 tells you it is dominant. If there is no letter ‘m’ or 7, then the chord is in a major key.
However, with plenty of practice, you’ll soon get the hang of it.
You can get free downloadable chord charts from the Internet with pictures to show you the finger positions. A guitar chord diagram will look a bit like a grid with dots in it.
The letter on the top right of the grid represents the name of the chord. If it’s a C, then that will be a C chord. The white dots somewhere near the letter represent those strings that are played open, (not fretted).
The six horizontal lines are the frets on your guitar, with the topmost line being the nut of your guitar. The nut is like the very first fret, only it’s a lot thicker than all the others, and you don’t use it as a fret. It just holds the strings up off the wood.
The line on the left is your low E string (the thickest). If there is no dot on a string and no white dot above it, then it is not played at all.
To play a C chord you will play A-string on the third fret, D-sting at the second fret, G-string open and B-string on the first fret. High E-string is open, so you play all but the low E-string.
If you see a number 5 at the left of the grid, it means that fret played is the fifth fret. When learning which fingers to use, it is helpful to know that the thumb is P and the fingers are numbered 1 through to 4 starting with the index finger.
Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about playing the guitar chords faster – it’s nothing complicated once you’ve learned the fundamentals.
Remember – practice makes perfect.
Here is a video tutorial – to make things a little easier for visual learners!
There are tons of tutorials on Blue Buzz Music that should make every reader happy – make sure to check other posts about guitars and musical intruments as well – you’ll learn a ton!