I HOPE YOU managed to get the basic shapes I used in last month's article sorted out. Before going any further, it would obviously be useful to have a few shapes tucked away, so that you can use these basic ideas on any songs you come across. Long term, we need to be working out the chords and their structures, but we can survive for a while with a few basic chords, and have a lot of fun on the way.
So here are some fundamental chords (Diagram B), grouped as you'll see into chord types - major, major sevenths, minor, minor sevenths, and dominant sevenths. This distribution into chord types will cope with the enormous amount of material. Rather than learn them all at once, I suggest you relate them to the progressions indicated afterwards. Just to remind you of the way to translate the chord boxes, here is a dummy box with clear indications of what the various numbers and signs mean (Diagram A).
Now here are some common progressions (play them all using a four-beat pulse to the bar - Diagram C, examples 1-10).
You may have noticed while playing these progressions that they are linked - each pair is the same musical idea, produced at a different pitch (in a different key, if you like.) More of this in a later article. For the moment, see if you can think of any tunes that use these progressions. If you can, then pat yourself hard on the back, because this shows your ear is working towards sorting out sound aurally - and of all the skills associated with playing music, that is the one to prize above all others.
Just to give you a start, 1/2 could be the opening for 'Dream', 'Blue Moon', the chorus of 'Girl' by the Beatles and thousands of others. 3/4 is the opening of 'Here There and Everywhere'.
If you can't spot any at all, don't panic. As you become familiar with song material, you begin to store similarities of chord progression between different sorts of material. Eventually, it's possible to recognise whole styles as much by the chosen harmony as anything else. This will all become clear as the articles progress.
At the moment, your principal concern is with the physical - play those chords! Don't forget that if you're finding the notes are muffled and unclear, you're probably damping a string with the back of the left hand finger. If the notes are buzzing, then you're either fretting the note too far away from the fret wire, or simply not applying enough of the right sort of pressure.
You may well have difficulty with the "bar" chords like F and Bm, where you're expected to produce notes on different strings with the first finger flattened across the fret. Try and place a flat finger down the line of the fret wire as you finger the chords, and eventually - after a lot of effort, sweat and bad language - you should achieve a clear-sounding chord and be able to change to the next chord in the progression.
Although the bar chords seem difficult to start with, the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that they have one great asset - move Bm as a shape one fret up the neck and it becomes Cm, up again to C#m, up again to Dm, and so on. Similarly, F moved up in one-fret steps becomes F#, G, G#, A, and so on. So for now, make use of this physical convenience as it really does solve the workload problems - and anything that does that has to be worthwhile.
It's all too easy to get depressed with the physical problems of the guitar at this stage - it is painfully difficult to make a decent sound, so don't despair or give up, we all suffered that process in the early stages. Just keep trying the changes and they will actually come together.
You should also try and work on "real" material as much as possible. There are loads of collections of songs which show the melody line, lyrics and chord symbols. These come in two forms: either general collections of varied material think of them as "buskers' bibles"); or specific published albums of a particular artist often relating to a particular disc. The latter are usually much more expensive, but obviously will give you lots of favourite material. General collections are always a hotch-potch - some you will like, some you won't - but at least they give you plenty of material to work on. Certainly, the series '101 Hits for Buskers' now up to its tenth volume, provides a wide variety of very fine material as cheaply as you can manage it. Long term, it is musically essential that you are able to work out songs from records, but it's always nice to have the original material in front of you, especially at this sage.
To finish this month, here are the chords for that old favourite 'House of the Rising Sun', shown in block form, and with the lyrics and chords for one verse (Diagram D). Notice that the song works to a pulse of six beats in a bar (shown by the 6/8 time signature at the head of the piece, which means six eighth-notes per bar).
Strum or fingerpick the correct number of strings, and see if you get anywhere singing the song and trying to put an accompaniment together. Next time, we'll try and sort out the problems of texture in accompaniment.
Do It Yourself
Feature by Peter Driver
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