Chord Exercises (Guitar Lesson)

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David MacKenzie

Chord Exercises

This arpeggio exercise is very enjoyable to play. It has a dark and mysterious tonal quality. This exercise is great practice for both hands.

Taught by David MacKenzie in Basic Electric Guitar seriesLength: 9:12Difficulty: 1.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (00:45) Introduction In the previous lesson, Dave focused on essential components of picking hand technique. In this lesson, he continues his discussion of basic right hand mechanics. Dave applies specific right hand techniques to a set of chordal exercises. Get tuned up and ready to rock!
Chapter 2: (08:29) Chord Exercise Chord Exercise

A. Emadd9

This exercise begins with an Emadd9 chord. Open the "Supplemental Content" tab for a detailed fretboard diagram of this chord. Emadd9 has a very dark and mysterious tonal quality. This is due to the F# note on the D string rubbing against the open G string. Combining two notes that are one half step apart within a chord creates a dark, haunting quality.

Note: Dave mistakenly refers to this chord as an "E sustain" chord.

Most beginning players face one specific problem when learning this chord. Due to poor left-hand technique, the G string is often muted. This is due to a few specific errors. Many beginners fail to keep their knuckle joints sufficiently arched and bent. Also, make sure that you arch your left wrist outwards. This will provide enough clearance between your third finger and the G string, ensuring that the string rings clearly. Lastly, make sure that you keep your thumb planted against the middle of the neck. Do not move it up and over the top of the neck.

There are two possible fingerings for this chord. Dave demonstrates both versions in this lesson. You can either fret the 4th fret of the D string with your third finger or pinky finger. Most likely, you will find it easier to use your pinky finger. In the long run however, it is best that you play this particular chord voicing using the third finger. Frequently, other notes such as D, the seventh of the chord, are added to the overall structure. When these notes are added, the chord becomes nearly impossible to play if the pinky is fretting the fourth string. Make sure that you master this chord before you try to insert it into the exercise.

B. C/G

If you have been following along with the rest of Dave's Phase 1 series, you already know the basic C major chord. Frequently, this chord is played in an inversion. A chord is "inverted" when a chord tone other than the root is played as the lowest bass note. In this case, the fifth of the C chord, G is played as the lowest bass note. A "/" written in the spelling of a chord indicates that the chord is inverted. The letter to the left of the slash indicates the actual triad name. The note written to the right of the slash is the note that occurs in the bass. C/G is a very common chord inversion. This chord can be found in the verse portion of Nirvana's cover of "The Man Who Sold the World." Some other very common examples of inverted chords used in rock and roll are G/B and A/C#.

When fretting this chord, it is necessary that you make some adjustments to the basic C chord. When playing C/G fret C on the 3rd fret of the 5th string with your pinky finger. Then, fret the low bass note with the third finger. Be careful that you do not mute the open strings in this chord!

Note: Open the "Supplemental Content" tab for a fretboard diagram of this chord.

C. D/Aadd9,11

If you move the C/G chord shape up two frets and continue to allow the open strings to ring, a strange new chord is formed. The name of this chord is D/Aadd9,11. This means that the chord is a basic D triad with the fifth, A, in the bass. In relation to the D triad, the open G string is the 11th of the chord. The high E string is the 9th. This is why the suffix add9,11 is added to the chord. An arpeggiation of this chord opens the popular Phish song "If I Could." Sliding an open chord shape up the neck to form strange sounding new chords is a very common trick in the rock genre.

Note: Check out lesson 15 of Brad Henecke's Classic Rock lessons for more information regarding this concept.

Playing the Exercise

Before you begin to practice the exercise as it is actually written, take some time isolating each of the chord changes. Set your metronome to a moderately slow tempo. Then, strum the first chord and hold it for a full measure (4 beats). On the downbeat of the next measure, strum the next chord in the progression. Isolating individual components within an exercise makes it more manageable and easier to learn.

Once you can switch from chord to chord in perfect metronomic time, begin to arpeggiate each chord as indicated in the exercise tablature.

Note: Open the "Supplemental Content" tab for tablature to this exercise.

The time signature for this exercise is 11/8. This means that each measure contains 11 eighth notes. The eighth note is counted as the primary unit of the beat. Each picked note within the exercise is counted as an eighth note. Set your metronome to click each time you pick a string.

Dave ascends each arpeggio pattern using a downstroke for each note. When descending the arpeggio, he uses all upstrokes. However, it is highly recommended that you play this exercise with strict alternate picking. This will give the exercise a smoother and more musically pleasing sound.

Right Hand Technique

When picking arpeggio patterns similar to the pattern that comprises this exercise, you must make some adjustments to your right hand technique. Do not rest your wrist on the bridge of the guitar like you normally would. Instead, anchor the forearm to the upper body of the guitar. Your wrist should now be floating freely. This provides you with the widest range of motion. This is absolutely necessary when picking arpeggio patterns. Never anchor the pinky finger to the guitar under any circumstance! This greatly limits your range of movement as well as your overall level of control when picking. This fact is greatly accentuated when picking arpeggio patterns that involve all six strings.

Notes on Performance

Contrary to popular belief, it is acceptable to look down at your guitar during a performance. However, you do not want to have your head buried in your guitar throughout the entire course of a performance. You wouldn't give a speech without acknowledging your audience. Why would you play guitar that way? It should be noted that playing the guitar without looking at it places higher emphasis on the tactile sense. Practicing in this way is the best way to improve the overall muscle memory in your hands in fingers.

If you need any help with this lesson, feel free to contact the Jamplay staff. Thanks for watching!

Video Subtitles / Captions

Supplemental Learning Material


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

guloguloguyguloguloguy replied on January 17th, 2018

It's like what they emphasized in typing class: "DON'T look down at your fingers! = learn to place your fingers where they need to be, without needing to look at them!" [Thanks, Dave!!]

ReedTReedT replied on November 28th, 2014

thank u I'm a big guitar fan

DAZAROCKSDAZAROCKS replied on September 24th, 2012

what's best way to count 11/8 Please.and top lesson Dude :)

johnnyrockitjohnnyrockit replied on June 15th, 2012

You da' MAN! Dmac!

fire dragonfire dragon replied on March 2nd, 2012

Frickin as-some My Friend !! Love your style and your teaching ability !! You got me excited again about playing !! That's a great quality for our soul !! Thankyou so so much , Aloha David bad ass MacKenzie

fire dragonfire dragon replied on March 2nd, 2012

Enter your comment here.

trintrintrintrin replied on January 21st, 2012

i dont get this at all!

kmattkmatt replied on September 5th, 2010


raoelraoel replied on April 18th, 2010

wait on the part where he slides with the c/g up 2 frets ,is the name changed or something?and what is that usefull for?thanks

marshall laneymarshall laney replied on July 19th, 2010

It becomes a D when moved to the 5th fret ( the root is 5th string a ' D' ) it can be used in the same way as David has shown as an appreggio to give some color & a different voicing than a usual open can be heard i think through Dave's playing into's , bridges & fills can be made from this type of chord structure in a song.

YucatanEdYucatanEd replied on April 6th, 2010

Hey Dave, having some trouble with alternate picking on this exercise. But I'm doing it over and over. I'm strumming the three chords, so that my hand gets used to the positioning. Then I'm arpeggiating them alternating the stroke for each string as i go up and down at least three times. Then back to strum pattern the back to arpeggio. Hopefully this will help me slay that alternate picking dragon! Thanks!

rush21122rush21122 replied on November 22nd, 2009

Spent this past week with this exercise. Painful on the fingers at first but alas they are finally starting to to toughen up. I will continue with this exercise as I feel its been a tremendous help. Thanks Dave!

tammy7689tammy7689 replied on November 3rd, 2009

i find it easier to use my 4th finger on the 6th string and my third finger on the it ok to do this or should i stick to the fingering it shows me to do?

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on November 3rd, 2009

thats probably personal preference for you tammy. if it works for you, go for it!

ibanez420ibanez420 replied on January 28th, 2008

is it just me or is the chord diagrams different by a fret then Dave's finger position on the video?...

pmarzitellipmarzitelli replied on September 11th, 2009

I think the chord diagrams ARE different than the tab. for D. I use the the finger according to tab, but I agree with you. It isn't just you.

pattydpattyd replied on September 8th, 2009

Hi Dave, Can you clarify the use of the pinky finger? The supplemental says never use it, but you recommend it. What do you think?

jboothjbooth replied on September 8th, 2009

That's personal preference, the writeups are actually done by Matt and not Dave so he often puts his take on things as well, so take both pieces of advice to mind and play what works the best for you.

pneumapilotpneumapilot replied on July 25th, 2009

Somebody mentioned Emadd9. Is that the name of the first chord here? Was it said somewhere in the video and I missed it?

darkhanddarkhand replied on August 11th, 2009

It is the first chord in the progression. Check the supplemental content for finger and the C/G chords.

ge08ge08 replied on July 8th, 2009

Really good lesson. It has a nice melody to it, I like that mystery melody.

kas83kas83 replied on May 26th, 2009

I only have one problem, I have small weak hands so on the C/G, I am having to press so hard with my ring and pinky finger, it's hard to get the first and middle finger to make the strings ring out! I guess I just need to work on it.

jotero8951jotero8951 replied on March 1st, 2009

This lesson was really good because I was able to incorporate this chord structure with chords I learned. the melody is nice. Thanks David.

hansenhansen replied on January 23rd, 2009

I think the chord chart is different in the video than what dave is fingering

jboothjbooth replied on January 23rd, 2009

This should have been fixed! Let me look into this, thank you.

millaTKmillaTK replied on October 19th, 2008

wow... I'm amazed. I was strummin the chords trying the left-hand changes... and I was wondering how come it didn't look unfamiliar... till I realised... hey!!! These are just the chords for one of my favorite songs!!! just use a Em7 instead of Emadd9 and you get Rosemary by suzanne vega!!! same chords and same position... just fingerpick it!!! This is wonderful, because I had the tabs but I had never figured how to name the last chord! besides, great lessons Dave,I'm going a bit back to the basics just to review my technique, and you're always worth listening to!!!!

rj surfsrj surfs replied on August 3rd, 2008

Wow... tough getting each string to ring true on these chords. I guess I just didn't care before and that is why I built a lot of bad habits (time to get rid of those). I feel like I'm wound around my guitar neck trying to get these chords right without any dampening... looks like I'll be on this lesson awhile!

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on August 3rd, 2008

hang in there! you'll get it!!!

felipefelipe replied on July 12th, 2008

David, on the video in the chord diagram you are using four frets and different position of your left hand on the guitar

frugalfrugal replied on February 22nd, 2008

Great lesson Dave, I'm really enjoying playing with these new chords. One question though, regarding using the right hand pinky. In the video you suggest resting it against the guitar body to help with positioning, and this is what I have always done as I find it helps me get just the right depth of pick against the string. But the supplemental content says you should never anchor your pinky this way as it can be restrictive. What are your thoughts on this?

mike76255mike76255 replied on February 1st, 2008

thanks for the lesson, but i was wondering is there other exercises that will help me , I have short fat fingers and having trouble getting the correct position for some of the chords,,,,

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on February 7th, 2008

it is interesting that you say that, i think i have short reach and dexterity as well. i do get frustrated too! case in point: joe satriani's "tears in the rain". the first chord is a killer with a fret in between each finger(3 finger chord). kinda of a huge C chord shape. i really have to work at it. try moving your fretting hand elbow in and outwards. it helps extend reach with chords sometimes. but warm up high on the neck first then work your way down. your ligaments and tendons/muscles need to warm up! let me know how that goes.

david.mackenziedavid.mackenzie replied on September 4th, 2007

thank you for looking at the lesson. hope it helps you progress!

aleshaalesha replied on September 3rd, 2007

Thanks for the lesson - the chords sound really good! :jamfest:

Basic Electric Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In his Phase 1 series, David MacKenzie will walk you through the basics of rock guitar.

Lesson 1

About the Guitar

David discusses the parts of the guitar. He also gives you some basic techniques to get you started.

Length: 31:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Power Chords

In this lesson, David introduces basic power chords. Great fun for beginners!

Length: 10:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Basic Chord Progressions

David introduces some basic chords and chord progressions.

Length: 14:15 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Notes, Chords and Arpeggios

David provides a brief explanation of what notes, chords, power chords, and arpeggios are.

Length: 8:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Speed and Coordination

This lesson is all about increasing your speed and coordination. David demonstrates basic picking exercises.

Length: 14:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Chord Exercises

David MacKenzie presents a mysterious sounding chord exercise. This exerices is designed to improve right hand technique.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Practice and Discipline

In this short lesson David talks about practice, discipline, and how you should apply yourself when learning and mastering the guitar.

Length: 6:00 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

Double Stops

Double stops can bring new life to your rhythm and lead playing. David provides a short tutorial on what double stops are and how they can be used.

Length: 7:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

The Major Chords

David covers the basic major chord shapes. Every guitarist must learn these basic chords.

Length: 18:29 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

The Minor Chords

David MacKenzie walks you through the basic minor chords. Expand your knowledge of chords with this fun-filled lesson.

Length: 8:15 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Major Scales

Major scales are an essential component of all styles of music. They can also be used as a great way to orient yourself with the fretboard.

Length: 32:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Major Scale Jam

David MacKenzie explains how to practice the major scales along with a fun backing track.

Length: 11:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

The Minor Scales

David MacKenzie proceeds to an in-depth discussion of the minor scales.

Length: 15:36 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 14

Minor Scale Jam

David MacKenzie shows you how to play the natural minor scale over a rockin' JamTrack.

Length: 6:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

One String Exercise

David demonstrates an excellent one-string exercise in this lesson. This exercise will improve your dexterity and knowledge of the fretboard.

Length: 16:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are techniques that enable you to play with a smooth, legato feel.

Length: 8:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Basic Bends

David MacKenzie gives a crash course on bending in this lesson. Bends can add a lot of soul to your playing.

Length: 16:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

Cool Rock Licks

David MacKenzie teaches two rock licks inspired by Yngwie Malmsteen and Kirk Hammett of Metallica.

Length: 12:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

Hammer-On Exercise

David returns to the world of hammer-ons with a fun new exercise. This lesson includes a JamTrack.

Length: 13:56 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 20

Return to Pull-Offs

David returns to the world of pull-offs with a new exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

Length: 12:50 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

Practicing Bends

David MacKenzie returns to bending technique in this lesson. This lesson features a backing track that is designed for bending practice.

Length: 12:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 22

Basic Vibrato

Integrating vibrato into your guitar playing is a great way to add emotion and soul. David MacKenzie explains the basics of vibrato in this lesson.

Length: 9:12 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 23

Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the pentatonic scale.

Length: 5:48 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie introduces the minor pentatonic scale in this lesson.

Length: 4:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Full Major Scale

David MacKenzie explains a two octave pattern of the major scale.

Length: 11:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Full Minor Scale

David MacKenzie introduces a two octave natural minor scale pattern.

Length: 12:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 27

Full Major Pentatonic Scale

David teaches a two octave pattern of the major pentatonic scale.

Length: 6:30 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Full Minor Pentatonic Scale

David MacKenzie teaches a two octave version of the minor pentatonic scale.

Length: 9:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 29

Cool Lick

David MacKenzie teaches several licks based on common arpeggio patterns. This lesson also includes a backing track to jam with.

Length: 20:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 30

Rhythm Basics

David MacKenzie introduces some important rhythm basics in this lesson. This lesson also includes a backing track exercise.

Length: 14:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 31

Power Chord Variations

David MacKenzie explains various power chord voicings. By simply moving a finger or two, new power chords can be formed.

Length: 18:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 32

Cool Lick Exercise

David MacKenzie introduces some new amazing licks.

Length: 29:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 33

Tapping Exercise

David MacKenzie introduces the tapping technique and teaches a fun exercise. This lesson includes a backing track.

Length: 22:44 Difficulty: 2.5 FREE
Lesson 34

Tapping Exercise #2

David MacKenzie teaches another amazing tapping exercise.

Length: 13:07 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 35

Tapping #3: Adding Open Strings

The third tapping lesson elaborates on the previous lesson by adding open strings.

Length: 12:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

Tapping #4: Diminished Lick

The fourth lesson in Dave's tapping series deals with a monster diminished lick.

Length: 11:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 37

Tapping #5

In lesson five of his tapping mini-series, DMac provides backing tracks that you can tap over.

Length: 8:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 38

Tremolo Technique

In lesson 38, DMac demonstrates some tremolo techniques to add to your repertoire.

Length: 13:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 39

Tapping #6

DMac returns to his tapping instruction with more advanced techniques.

Length: 19:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 40

Chord Structures

In lesson 40, DMac teaches you how to play various D chords all the way up the neck.

Length: 9:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 41


In lesson 41, David discusses the octave and its uses while playing.

Length: 17:09 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only

About David MacKenzie View Full Biography Dave MacKenzie has been playing guitar for 30 of his 45 years on this earth. Starting back when he was 14 years old, Dave picked up the guitar and started to learn from his oldest brother, who had played some guitar as well. Dave was hooked, and couldn't learn fast enough! Everything from the Beatles, Chicago, Ted Nugent, The Eagles, you name it, Dave was trying to play it.

Then as with a lot of players out there, Eddie Van Halen came along and changed the way guitar was played! Dave has been influenced by anyone he has heard play guitar, literally! Always keeping an open mind and a humbleness about him has helped him to keep learning new things on, and about the guitar.

Dave has mostly played in top 40 rock, country, and pop bands. He is most recently playing guitar and keyboards in a 80's metal band called Open Fire. They have opened for Warrant, Firehouse, Winger, and LA Guns within the 3 and a half years they have been together, and are now jumping into original music.

Dave believes you should have internal motivation, and passion to play guitar, and most definitely, it should be fun!

As with his playing, Dave will find new ways to show you how to get the most out of your time learning guitar!

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