Movable Chords (Guitar Lesson)

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Jim Deeming

Movable Chords

This lesson is all about movable chords. Learn the importance of barre chords and other movable shapes.

Taught by Jim Deeming in Basic Guitar with Jim seriesLength: 40:00Difficulty: 2.5 of 5
Chapter 1: (08:49) Chords that Move In previous Phase 1 lessons, Jim taught you a few chord shapes that can be transposed to other areas of the neck. For example, both versions of the F chord that he has presented can be moved anywhere on the fretboard to form other major chords. First, take a look at the F chord voicing that features a full or grand barre across all six strings. This particular chord's root note is found on the low E string. As a result, the chord is named by the note that is fretted by the first finger on the sixth string. If this entire chord shape is moved up a half step, the resulting chord is F# major. If it moves up another half step, the resulting chord is a G major barre chord.

In this lesson, Jim will demonstrate how to play other chord shapes that can be moved to different areas of the neck. Some of these shapes involve playing a barre, and others do not. It is very important that you master every chord taught in this lesson at some point in time. However, if you are currently experiencing difficulties playing barre chords, learn and practice the chord shapes that do not involve a barre first.

Why Learn So Many Chords?

There are so many reasons for building an extensive chord vocabulary that it is impossible to list them all in this lesson. However, here are a few primary reasons why it is important to build an extensive vocabulary of chords.

1. Various vocings, or different ways of playing the same chord, have an overall different sound. The sound of one voicing may be pleasing in the context of a certain situation and may not be in another context.
2. Various chord shapes allow you to play different melody notes in conjunction with them.
3. Learning a wide variety of ways to play the same chord greatly enhances your overall knowledge of the fretboard.
4. Barre chords allow you to add left hand muting to your rhythm playing. This enables you to apply percussive sounds to a rhythm pattern.

Learning Note Names and Locations

Most of the chords presented in this lesson feature a root note on either the fifth or sixth string. In order to recognize the proper name of a moveable chord shape played anywhere on the neck, you must know the note name of every fret location across these two strings. It's not that important that you memorize every note / fret location at this point in your musical development. However, it is very important for you to possess the ability to figure this information out using a logical music theory process.

In a previous lesson, Jim demonstrated how the keys on a piano are laid out. You learned that in the musical alphabet there is either a whole step or a half step between two notes. On the guitar, one fret to the next represents a half step. Two frets represent a whole step.

Now, let's apply these ideas to the musical alphabet. The musical alphabet is spelled as follows: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. You must memorize that half steps exist between the notes B and C and between E and F. If you know this piece of information and the name of the open strings, you can figure out the note name of any fret / string location on the guitar.

Let's use the low sixth string as an example. When this string is played open, it produces the pitch E. We know that F is a half step up from E. Therefore, the note name of the first fret must be F. Then, we know that G is located a whole step or two frets up from F. As a result, the note G is found at the third fret. By the same principle, A is found two frets up from G. Hopefully, you are beginning to see how these patterns apply to the location of notes on the fretboard.

This information is also used to name chords. For example, if you slide the F barre chord that you already know up two frets, it becomes a G barre chord.

Note: If you are having a hard time figuring out the name of a specific note on the fretboard, a chart with all the note names / fret locations is available in the "Supplemental Content" section. However, you do not want to rely on this chart.
Chapter 2: (10:24) Different Barre Chords Using the A Chord Shape As a Barre Chord

Jim demonstrates how the fingering for a basic "open" A major chord can be translated into a moveable barre chord. Closely observe the fingering that Jim uses to fret the open A chord. This chord shape contains two open strings, A and E. When this shape is used in barre chord form, these open strings must be fretted by the first finger. The first finger must perform a barre across five strings to fret both of these notes. It is not necessary that you barre the sixth string. However, Jim prefers to barre all six strings. He feels that this gives him more leverage when fretting a barre chord. It also allows him to play an alternating bass line within the context of this chord shape.

When the A chord shape is converted into a barre chord, the root note is still located on the fifth string. Therefore, the note fretted by your first finger will name the chord. Jim plays the natural notes available on the fifth string. It is important that you learn the appropriate note names across this string since the root of the major barre chord is found on it.

Playing a B Barre Chord

Now, apply the shape of the A chord to a barre chord played in second position. Since your first finger is fretting the note B, a B major barre chord is formed.

Playing this particular barre chord shape requires a great deal of finger independence. If you find that you are struggling with this chord, practice some basic finger exercises and scales. When you return to the barre chord, you may find it a little more manageable. Most students have problems with muting the high E string. If this is the case, don't worry! Keep practicing, and you'll get it eventually. Your fingers simply need to get used to performing a large stretch that seems very unnatural at first.

Jim demonstrates how this barre chord shape can be played up the length of the entire fretboard. First, he utilizes this barre chord shape to play a C major chord. Jim plays a melody in conjunction with this chord to illustrate how this barre shape can potentially provide you with different musical possibilities. The pinky finger can be lifted out of position to play an entire C major scale. The barre shape also gives you the ability to play chordal rhythms with a muted, staccato feel.

Playing a Double Barre with the Third Finger

Instead of cramming three fingers into the space of one fret, the third finger can be used to barre the D, G, and B strings. This frees up your middle and pinky fingers. Most players find this fingering for this barre chord to be much easier than the version discussed earlier. However, this fingering does not allow you to keep the first string ringing without great difficulty. For this reason, many players choose to omit the note on the high E string when fretting this chord.

Using the C Chord Shape As a Barre Chord

Similar to the open A major chord shape, the shape of an open C chord can also be utilized in the context of a moveable barre chord. Once again, the root of the chord is found on the fifth string. Unlike the A shape, playing a C shaped barre chord requires that you alter your fingering. This is due to the fact that the first finger now must fret the notes that were once open strings. A chord diagram of the fingering for this barre chord can be found within the lesson video and in the "Supplemental Content" section.
Chapter 3: (05:58) More on Moving Barre Chords Jim kicks off this scene with a quick review of the major barre chord shapes that he has discussed thus far. You have learned that the shapes of the E, A, and C chords can be converted into moveable barre chords. Learning to play these chords up and down the fretboard will multiply the chord possibilities available to you exponentially.

In this scene, Jim takes a look at some minor chord shapes that easily translate into moveable barre chords.

Using the Em Chord Shape As a Barre Chord

Begin by fretting the basic open Em chord. When this shape is converted into a moveable barre chord, the notes on the A and D strings must be fretted by the third and pinky fingers respectively. Once again, this fingering adjustment is due to the fact that the first finger must perform a barre. In the case of this minor chord option, the first finger must barre all six strings. When playing this chord, many players find it helpful to use the second finger as a clamp in order to help the first finger barre all six strings. Regardless of the fingering adjustments, the root of this chord is still found on the sixth string.

Using the Am Chord Shape As a Barre Chord

The shape you learned for the basic Am chord can also be converted into a moveable barre chord. Most guitarists consider this the easiest barre chord to play. If you are having problems with the other barre chords presented in this lesson, focus your time on mastering this chord.

Similar to the other shapes, this barre chord requires some fingering adjustments. Also, you have the option of barring all six strings or just five. Barring all six strings may seem a little more difficult. However, this technique will allow you to play a low alternating bass line within the context of the chord shape.

Problems with Barre Chords

There is no getting around the fact that barre chords are very difficult to play correctly. They require a certain level of finger dexterity that most people do not inherently possess. This dexterity only comes with time, patience, and practice. However, there are some things you can do to ensure yourself a fighting chance. For instance, make sure that your thumb is perpendicular to the back of the middle of the neck whenever you play a barre chord. Also, you need to determine how much pressure you must apply to the neck in order to keep each string ringing. Squeezing the neck with unnecessary pressure will only result in fatigue. Finally, remember the basic fretting principles discussed in earlier lessons. Try to keep your fingers as close to the frets as possible at all times.
Chapter 4: (14:14) Other Moveable Shapes In this scene, Jim presents some moveable chord shapes that do not require a barre. The open C7 chord shape is a prime example.

Playing the C7 Chord Shape

Start off by fretting a regular open C major chord. Then, use your pinky finger to fret the note Bb at the 3rd fret of the G string. This forms a C7 chord. When playing this chord, every string is typically strummed with the exception of the low E string. However, if the high E string is also omitted from the chord, this chord shape can be used as a moveable dominant seventh voicing anywhere on the fretboard. The root of this chord is found on the fifth string.

For example, if you move this entire shape up two frets, a D7 chord is formed. You can also use this shape to play E7 with the root on the 7th fret. When playing this particular chord, you can include the open E strings since they are contained within the spelling of the chord.

Additional Moveable Chords

Jim demonstrates some additional options for major chords. He presents a brand new option for playing a D chord in fifth position. This particular chord only involves the three treble strings. The root is fretted by the third finger at the 7th fret of the G string. The fourth finger frets F# at the 7th fret of the B string. Finally, the first finger frets A at the 5th fret of the high E string.

The shape for the open D chord can also be converted into a moveable shape if the open D string is omitted from the chord. This leaves you with a moveable major chord shape with the root note fretted by the third finger on the B string. Jim demonstrates a G chord in seventh position that utilizes this fingering.

Applying These New Chord Shapes

Once you can successfully play all of the new chords presented in this lesson, it is time to apply them to some basic I IV V progressions in major and minor keys. Make sure that you are using multiple chord shapes within each key. For now, stick to the keys of C, G, D, A, and E major as well as A, E, and B minor. Some exercises will be posted in the "Supplemental Content" section to help get you started with this process.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

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

RCBassmanRCBassman replied

good lesson this will be a nice practice. I struggle with the transisions but getting better.

cclark1065cclark1065 replied


JohnMosesJohnMoses replied

Great teacher very thorough admire your dry sense of humor. I'm no beginner but wanted to cover all bases before I went to Fingerstyle. Thanks Jim.

Dinger73Dinger73 replied

Im totally agreeing with others, I followed Jim from the beginning now I'm lost the barre chords i just can not do even though ive practiced and practiced, my fingers just wont stay in the positions. I may have to concede.

ScSmithScSmith replied

I need an angioplasty for my brain to put all this information in.

PQeddiePQeddie replied

Frustrated! This entire Movable Chord segment was lost on me. I thought I had been progressing fairly well, but this was impossible for me. I'm moving on. Maybe my fingers aren't shaped for this. Certainly not your fault, Jim.

balmoralbalmoral replied

Not sure if you still follow this thread or not Jim, but if so could you please tell me why B flat and why not A# or Bb? Thanks.

davidaddavidad replied

I've found that your approach to teaching, esp. theory, is so refreshing and comfortable. For example I knew something about chord building before but I now realize I spent way too much time messing around on paper ! How much more useful to get the fingers on the fingerboard and physically get it into you that way. And so much easier to retain ! Thanks so much. No need to apologize so much about bringing in theory when you make it so easy to digest.

darcylanedarcylane replied

Jim explains things really well and he seems like a nice guy which makes learning from him less stressful, best instructor ive tried

caddy_1caddy_1 replied

At 81 yrs I can't count the courses I've purchased or the hours I have studied trying to play the way Jim teaches. I have learned more in fifteen lessons than i learned in thirty years! Thanks Jim, I will follow you until I drop dead.

ermchanermchan replied

wow! I think i need watch this many many times before I grasp this..

ajgregoryajgregory replied

Hi Jim, I'm about halfway through your phase 1 lessons everything going well until I seen how far you can stretch your pinky when barring and picking out melodies. I can not even get my pinky into these positions never mind whilst trying to play. I would say my hands and fingers are normal size, is there any stretching exercises I should be doing. Cheers for great lessons so far

icergbicergb replied

Steve Eulberg in his first lesson set has a really good way of looking at patterns/scales using steps; where b and e have half steps; because I would never have remembered the notes at this time, but it made this lessen much easier.

okcpickerokcpicker replied

Really starting to understand the fretboard above the first position. Jim has a great way of logically making sense of this region.

vishwaasmvishwaasm replied

wow just amazing. i never thought getting hold of all the chords down the fret board could be so easy to understand and simple. thanks a lot jim. Loved the concepts u taught.

furrytoonfurrytoon replied

I just can!! thankyou...

warzywarzy replied

In Scene 4 at 14:14 - shouldn't it say E7 Chord - 7th fret? (not 6th fret)

hilaryhilary replied

I'm on chord overload. I'll be old and senile before I can remember all of this! :)

john cjohn c replied

Relax. don't worry, follow Jim.

offdg3offdg3 replied

Thank you Jim. This has been the best and best explained lesson U've seen ever.

dwarrick54dwarrick54 replied

wow for that barred D in the C chord shape I find it easier to cheat a little and only bar the 1st 3 strings.

chard99chard99 replied

This should be a 4 for difficulty, with a 5 for importance as I think it is a cornerstone for further developement.

chard99chard99 replied

Holy cow does my thumb hurt after this lesson. Therefor I must practice.

fuzzy32086fuzzy32086 replied

Hi Jim. Uh i wanna make a suggestion for anyone who needs to develop more hand strength and flexibility. I used an exercise called the spider climb (thats what the instuctor called it anyways). Its a very simple exercise. If anyone needs it then send me a msg or an email at [email protected]

jujumujujumu replied

I am really confused with the tablature for the exercises in the supplemental content. For example, with the D, how do you include the 5th fret, fifth string with all of the others, which appear to be nowhere near this, or am I reading it incorrectly? Is there a place in the lesson where he plays this exercise?

rumble dollrumble doll replied

Hi Jim. I found this a very interesting & useful lesson. For the most part I have been avoiding barre chords because they just feel too difficult but I think this lesson has inspired me to not be frightened of them & instead start to give a little time to them. This lesson also got me moving up & down the neck which I haven't done too much of yet. I practised moving up & down with the D chord (not barre) & found myself able to make some quite good sounds with that one chord shape in different positions! This has been good for me as I have a tendency to get stuck in a rut of what I know I can do & not moving on. I have to comment on the movement of the 'little finger' in the first part of the lesson the hell dow you get your little finger to be so flexible!!! Lol. My little finger currently seems to have some sort of love affair with the index finger & isn't too happy to move far away from it! At the moment, I can't ever see my little finger being as flexible as that. It's also quite weak too in the sense that it often misses or slips off a string whereas my other fingers don't have this problem. I am trying to strengthen it up though. Thanks again, great lesson. Jennifer

jboothjbooth replied

Yeah, I have the same thing, I don't understand how some people can get so much flexibility out of their ring finger. Mine is literally always completely straight and has basically no bend to it at all. I think this is a fairly common thing so unfortunately those of us who have that problem have to find a different way to finger the A based barre chords! Stupid genetics!

rumble dollrumble doll replied

That was meant to be 'ring' finger...NOT index finger (that my little finger is so attached to)! Lol.

malcmalc replied

Good lesson Jim i need to work on those movable shape that are not barre chords thanks

vincent coadyvincent coady replied

Hi When I signed up with you I states that I was a guitar player for a lot of years and that I hoped to learn a new approach to my playing. I was interested i the flat picking styles and blues. There are no country flat picking styles to choose from and also the basic blues are strictly for beginners. What I am looking for is more advanced material that I can work on not material I learned 15 years ago. I know the instructors are of a high caliber so why can I not have access to the type of material I need. Your site was highly recommended to me now I feel I have been let down very badly.

jboothjbooth replied

Look at Jim Deeming's Fingerstyle Phase 2 series. Also Brad Henecke's series. There are a *LOT* more blues lessons from Hawkeye coming as well, I believe we have roughly 40 filmed.

cpieper107cpieper107 replied

Test text enter

kevinacekevinace replied

Test test test!

Basic Guitar with Jim

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Fingerstyle master Jim Deeming teaches you the basics of guitar playing. With over 30 years of experience teaching and playing, Jim will definitely start you in the right direction. This is a great series for beginners and guitarists looking to refresh their knowledge.

Introduction LessonLesson 1

Introduction Lesson

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Choosing a GuitarLesson 2

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Jim gives his thoughts on purchasing your first guitar.

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Jim Deeming walks you through the process of changing your strings. He gives some excellent tips on this important process.

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Meet Your New Guitar

Jim introduces proper playing technique. Then, he explains how to play your first chord.

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Learning More ChordsLesson 6

Learning More Chords

Jim teaches you the 3 primary chords in G major. He also explains how chords relate to specific keys. A great lesson!

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Right Hand RevisitedLesson 7

Right Hand Revisited

Jim discusses a plethora of right hand techniques that are essential to guitar playing.

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New Chords and KeysLesson 8

New Chords and Keys

This lesson provides additional information about chords and keys.

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Let's Play

This lesson is all about playing. Jim will start you off playing a song. You will have the opportunity to play along with him.

Length: 20:10 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Alternating Bass and ChordsLesson 10

Alternating Bass and Chords

Jim teaches you a few more commonly used chords. Then, he discusses a technique known as the alternating bass line.

Length: 40:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
A Shape ChordsLesson 11

A Shape Chords

Jim covers all possible fingering options pertaining to the basic open A chord shape.

Length: 17:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Basic Guitar CheckupLesson 12

Basic Guitar Checkup

Jim talks about the future of his Phase 1 guitar series and where to go from here.

Length: 4:18 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Notes, Scales and TheoryLesson 13

Notes, Scales and Theory

Jim delves into basic music theory. He starts from square one in this lesson.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Chord FiestaLesson 14

Chord Fiesta

Jim Deeming invites you to a veritable chord fiesta. He demonstrates common dominant and minor chord shapes.

Length: 43:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Movable ChordsLesson 15

Movable Chords

This lesson is all about movable chords. Learn the importance of barre chords and other movable shapes.

Length: 40:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Proper PracticingLesson 16

Proper Practicing

Jim Deeming explains how to create a productive practice routine. Make sure you aren't wasting needless time!

Length: 30:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Pinky AnchorLesson 17

The Pinky Anchor

Many guitarists use their pinky as an anchor. Jim explains the pros and cons of this technique.

Length: 9:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Palm MutingLesson 18

Palm Muting

Jim discusses an important technique--palm muting. He explains how palm muting is used by flatpickers and fingerstyle players.

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Reading TablatureLesson 19

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Jim Deeming covers the basics of reading guitar tablature. Knowledge of tablature will help with JamPlay lessons as well as learning your favorite songs.

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Tuning ExtravaganzaLesson 20

Tuning Extravaganza

Jim explains various tuning methods. He provides useful tips and tricks that will ensure that your guitar is sounding its best.

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Let's Play: "Red River Valley"

Jim is back with another "let's play" style lesson. He teaches the classic song "Red River Valley" and encourages you to play along.

Length: 52:38 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Drop D TuningLesson 22

Drop D Tuning

Jim Deeming introduces drop D tuning. Drop D is a popular alternate tuning used in many styles of music including rock, fingerstyle and blues.

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Let's Play: Lesson 23

Let's Play: "Wayfaring Stranger"

Jim Deeming breaks down the song sections to the classic tune "Wayfaring Stranger".

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More On Drop DLesson 24

More On Drop D

Jim Deeming takes another, more focused look at drop D tuning.

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Your Friend, the MetronomeLesson 25

Your Friend, the Metronome

Jim Deeming discusses how to use a metronome for practice, skill building, and speed building.

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Jim Deeming

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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HD Video - Sometimes
Multiple Camera Angles Sometimes - Sometimes
Accurate Tabs Maybe Maybe
Scale/Chord Libraries
Custom JamTracks
Interactive Games
Learn in Sweatpants Socially Unacceptable
Gasoline Needed $0.00 $0.00 ~$4 / gallon! $0.00
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Mike H.

"I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar!"

I am 66 years young and I still got it! I would have never known this if it had not been for Jamplay! I feel like a 12 year old kid with a new guitar! Ha! I cannot express enough how great you're website is! It is for beginners and advanced pickers! I am an advanced picker and thought I had lost it but thanks to you all, I found it again! Even though I only play by ear, I have been a member a whopping whole two weeks now and have already got Brent's country shuffle and country blues down and of course with embellishments. Thank you all for your wonderful program!

Greg J.

"With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace"

I'm a fifty eight year old newbie who owns a guitar which has been sitting untouched in a corner for about seven years now. Last weekend I got inspired to pick it up and finally learn how to play after watching an amazing Spanish guitarist on TV. So, here I am. I'm starting at the beginning with Steve Eulberg and I couldn't be happier (except for the sore fingers :) Some day I'm going to play like Steve! I'm self employed with a hectic schedule. With Jamplay I can fit in a random session when I have time and I can go at my own pace, rewinding and replaying the videos until I get it. This is a very enjoyable diversion from my work yet I still feel like I'm accomplishing something worthwhile. Thanks a lot, Greg


"I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students."

I am commenting here to tell you and everyone at JamPlay that I believe this is the absolute best site for guitar students. I truly enjoy learning to play the guitar on Yes, I said the words, ""enjoy learning."" It is by far the best deal for the money.

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