Thursday, June 19, 2014

Lesson 3 - Chords & Rhythm Playing

What you learnt last lesson was fun but it seems lacking something isn’t it? Well, patience and determination shall pay off, because this lesson I will go into Chords and Rhythm Playing.

If Notes are like alphabets, then Chords are like words you speak in terms of playing guitar!

By definition from Wikipedia,

a CHORD in music is any set of harmonically-related notes that is heard as if sounding simultaneously.

The most common chords are the major and minor triads and then the augmented and diminished triads. The descriptions "major", "minor", "augmented" and "diminished" are sometimes referred to collectively as chordal "quality".

Triads are so called because they consist of three distinct notes: further notes may be added to give extended chords and added tone chords. Chords are also commonly classed by their root note so, for instance, the chord C Major may be described as a three-note chord of major quality built upon the note C….

Now, I shall not go into further complicated theories. If you are interested, you can go to Wikipedia here: to know more. And you can simply Google for CHORDS, and you will have pages of resources for you to study them.

Instead, just remember that a CHORD is simply any set of harmonically-related NOTES which are the NOTES you learn from Lesson 2!

In this lesson, I will teach you:
  • How to read CHORD diagrams
  • 6 Basic Chords in the Key of C
  • A simple Strumming method to test them out! 

Let’s begin!

How to Read a Chord Diagram?

The above is to teach you how to read chord diagrams. Let’s look at the C Major Chord (or simply C Chord) one more time:

Look at the NOTES in RED that I have labelled beside each string on the right that is part of the C Major Chord. If you can make it out, the common notes here are C, E and G.

In terms of C Major Scale or the C Key, these 3 notes: C, E, G are harmonically-related.

So we can say that the C Major chord is made up of 3 harmonically-related-notes: C, E, G.

Though not compulsory for you to remember by heart, it is VERY HELPFUL if you know what are the harmonically-related notes  of each of the Chord you pressed.

In terms of C MAJOR SCALE or the C Key, We know the notes are: C->D->E->F->G->A->B->C

If we mapped the above notes to numbers, we will have:


So, for the C Major Chord, and in fact for ALL MAJOR chords, the pattern is always 1-3-5.

1 will always be the 1st or the ROOT NOTE of the Chord in that Scale.
For C MAJOR Chord (or C Chord), 1 will be C Note.
For D MAJOR Chord (or D Chord), 1 will be D Note.
For G# MAJOR CHORD (or G# Chord), 1 will be G# Note.

3 and 5 will always be the 3rd and 5th NOTES of the MAJOR SCALE of that ROOT NOTE.
For C MAJOR CHORD (or C Chord), it will be E and G.
For G MAJOR CHORD (or G Chord), it will be B and D. WHY? Look at your G Major Scale below and you will understand:


Lets now look at the C MAJOR CHORD again:

Always remember that in a CHORD, you always have a BASS NOTE and many TREBLE NOTES you can play.

By a simple rule of thumb, to play a chord on a guitar properly, you need to play the Bass Note and at least one of the Treble Notes simultaneously or seperately (no matter strumming or plucking).

Question is how do you know which Notes are your Bass Notes for that Chord ? Simple, just see the alphabet of your Chord.
If it is a C Chord, your bass is a C NOTE.
If it is a D Chord, your bass is a D NOTE.
If it is a C# chord, the bass bass is a C# NOTE.
if it is a Gm Chord, your bass is a G NOTE.
If it is a C7 Chord, your bass is a C NOTE.

So far so good? Then how do you know where the Bass Notes are on your guitar fret board?
  1. First you press your Chord formation.
  2. Next, you find out what is the BASS NOTE from the alphabet of your Chord by the rule I teach above.
  3. Next, look at the guitar fret board diagram in Lesson 2, and see which is the lowest Bass NOTE which matches the Bass Note you derived in step 2. It should be found from String 4 to 6 and it could be an Open String OR a String that you are pressing on.

Playing Your C MAJOR CHORD

Now that you have some simple theories behind your Chord, lets try to play it. You will simply use your right hand fingers (with or without pick) and do a simple downstroke strum from 5th String to the 1st String for C Major Chord.

The goal you are going to achieve is: each of the Strings/ Notes you strum must sound out clean and clear with no buzzing or dampening.

If it sounds crappy and have lots of buzzing, the reasons could be:

Reason 1: Your Left Hand’s Fingers are not pressing hard enough at the Strings and/ or your Thumb behind the fretboard is not countering back enough strength or is at the wrong position.
Solution:  Apply enough Strength for each fingers. Position Your Thumb properly so that there is enough strength to counter back the force from your fingers.

Reason 2: Your Left Hand’s Finger Nails are NOT CUT and they will dampen the pressure of the fingers on the strings.
Solution: I already advised in Lesson 1 that you should not have any long finger nails at all at the LEFT HAND.

Reason 3: Your Left Hand’s Fingers maybe in contact with any other neighbouring strings which will caused them to buzz.
Solution: Make slight adjustment to those Fingers so that they will not touch those affected strings.

No matter how crappy your chord sounds, remember to keep PRACTISING because PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT!

If you are still unable to play the chord properly, do not be discouraged. For the next few sections in this Lesson, I will give you more chords and some progression exercises which will help you out!

6 Common Chords of the C MAJOR KEY

Now that we have went through 6 common chords in C Major Key, lets go through some strumming and plucking exercises to try them out.

Chord Progression Exercise 1

In the above exercise,
  • Take note of the position of each chords above the tabs.
  • Each chord will be played for 1 bar of 4beats. Take note of the Counting.
  • Take note of the Strokes too. “D” means DOWNSTROKE and “U” means UPSTROKE. Some Tabs will use “^” to represent DOWNSTROKE and “v” to represent UPSTROKE.
  • If you notice, you just need to press each chord’s default formation and strum them 4 times each.
  • Repeat the above exercise until your timing and all chords sound out clear and distinct with no buzzing.

Goals you will achieve from this Exercise:
  1. You will learn a very basic STRUMMING technique.
  2. You will get familiarise with 4 of the 6 common chords learnt.
  3. You will be better in changing from one chord to another while playing.

One Tip for changing chords faster here: Always lay the lower (bass) string fingering first when you change to the next chord as they are the strings you will first sound out when strumming downstrokes.

Chord Progression Exercise 2

Goals you will achieve from this Exercise:
  1. You will practised on all 6 common chords you learnt.
  2. You will play the FULL BARRED F Chord for the first time and master it through repeated practise.
  3. You will get an idea of how it is like when there are TWO CHORDS in ONE BAR (F to G).

Notice that I did not include HALF F in this exercise. That’s because I want you to learn F chord the hard way (full barring) so when you encounter more BARRED Chords in future , you will have less difficulty mastering them.

Chord Progression Exercise 3

Now we have one final exercise to conclude this chapter. You are going to play the accompaniment and Somewhere Over The Rainbow from the previous Lesson!

In this exercise on the next page, since you will try singing this song while you play the chords, I have added the lyrics below each of the Tab Bars.

Notice that I place various words of the lyrics at the exact points or time signature when you will strum the chords out.
This is to tell you it is IMPORTANT to know where to begin singing and also when to start playing any of the chords. 

No comments: