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Playing Most Songs (Guitar Lesson)

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David Isaacs

Playing Most Songs

You've probably heard it before, but most songs out there can really be played with just 3 or 4 chords. In this lesson, Dave gives you the tools to play most of the songs you know and love!

Taught by David Isaacs in Beginner Guitar With David Isaacs seriesLength: 14:04Difficulty: 2.0 of 5


This lesson should be a game-changer. To say that after this one you'll be able to play “most” songs is admittedly a little bit of hype, but you might be amazed at how useful this set of four chords really is. Not only does this pattern appear in literally hundreds of songs in almost exactly this form, you can mix up the order in several different ways – and each one will probably make you think of another set of songs. So along with the specifics of the chords and the strum pattern, you're also learning another huge musical concept: chords are building blocks, and many, many songs put those pieces together in the same way.

You've already learned the G5, C, and E minor chords in previous lessons. To complete this very powerful set of chords, we need to add one more: the D chord. Note the triangular “shape” - essentially pointing downward – when you look at the chord diagram. That visual aspect of what we might call “shapes” on the fingerboard is a very convenient way to remember the chord fingerings. Not only that, the ability to visualize these shapes even when you're not touching the strings is going to be really helpful going forward.

Some beginning students find the D chord a little bit challenging because we have three fingers very close together across three strings. If that's the case, try breaking down the chord into two-note segments and practice each pair of notes individually. As we've seen before, breaking a challenge down into smaller, bite-size pieces is a very powerful approach.

Extending this idea a little further, we can also practice connecting one chord to another in much the same way. For example, let's look at the G5-D change. You might notice that both chords share a common note, the ring finger on the 2nd string, 3rd fret. This finger can stay put when you make the chord change, essentially becoming a pivot point. Release the other two fingers from the G form, and allow the resting ring finger to help balance the hand as you place the index and middle to complete the D chord. You may find it helpful to focus on the middle finger as you transition: when you lead with the middle finger, the index will tend to follow it. So when the middle finger lands, the index finger will already be very close to where it needs to be. We might say that the middle is the “guide” finger in that it leads the way for the other to follow.

Since not every pair of chords shares a common note, this guide finger concept becomes even more important when making other chord changes. Take, for example, D to E minor. Even though the E minor is one of the simpler forms to play, with just two fingers side by side, you're likely to find that you can make the transition more accurately and consistently when you lead with the middle finger – this time, letting the ring finger follow.

As you practice other chord changes, see if you can identify a guide finger. It's often the middle finger but in some situations you'll probably find that the ring finger or even the index works better. Remember, we're taking advantage of the hand's natural construction here: our fingers are designed to work together. Even though developing finger independence is essential to playing the guitar well, we can still take advantage of this natural tendency for the fingers to move together as a unit.

To practice “Four Chords”, start off by reinforcing each individual chord. Then practice each transition individually without the track before you try to put the whole thing together. When you do add the track, start with ringing whole notes, then gradually start to fill in more rhythm as you get more comfortable. You can also try playing the sequence with different rhythms without the track. When you do, you'll start to hear all those different songs these four simple chords allow you to play.







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Member Comments about this Lesson

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


alangorkinalangorkin replied

How do i print the sheet music? its too long to take a screen shot. It says click on selected items but that doesn't work.

Bradley.ConwayBradley.Conway replied

Hi alangorkin! Printing the GIF files requires an extra step. You need to print them locally from your computer in order to get them to print. All you need to do is select the checkbox, then click "Print Selected Items". This will open the notation in a separate window. Then right-click on the notation and select "Save image as...". This will save the notation locally to your computer. From there you can right-click the saved notation and select "Print". I hope this helps :)

KENVEZINA1234KENVEZINA1234 replied

How can you get the backing track on when you practice after the lesson is over

KENVEZINA1234KENVEZINA1234 replied

Easy to understand you very good teacher

LuSantosLuSantos replied

I’m in a rut, but keep trying.

MCSparkyMCSparky replied

Yes definately a game changer. Excellent lesson David, thanks.

TravelchickTravelchick replied

Never mind. I replaced and got it.

TravelchickTravelchick replied

Good lesson. But how do I see the order of the chords being played? The lesson was almost over by the time I figured out the correct progression. Thank you

lacurvelacurve replied

this lesson like others with Dave turn off and on

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied

Disregard my last comment, not sure which track i was playing! sorry!

Don.SDon.S replied

Got up to the 120 BPM for the song, and can make the chord changes, and keep the correct timing. Now to slow down and get the chords cleaned up, then speed up again.

Don.SDon.S replied

https://youtu.be/N4LFPiWGdsk

ricolaricola replied

Good job Don. Thanks for sharing.

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied

Nice job!

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied

This backing track already has the guitar chords being played?

Don.SDon.S replied

I'm so used to playing the four fingered G it was a challenge to transition from the C to G5 then to the D chord. Then suddenly I realized I was playing Wagon Wheel. lol

Southern CashSouthern Cash replied

Some of my favs!

Beginner Guitar With David Isaacs

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Don't get stuck learning chords, scales and theory with nowhere to apply the things you work on. Take the "David Isaacs" approach and learn the guitar by using real music. You'll be playing along with simple song examples after the second lesson!



The Series IntroductionLesson 1

The Series Introduction

Don't get stuck learning chords, scales and theory with nowhere to apply the things you work on. Take the "David Isaacs" approach and learn the guitar by using real music. You'll be playing along with...

Length: 2:32 Difficulty: 0.5 FREE
Strings & ThingsLesson 2

Strings & Things

Tune up, learn your way around your guitar, and explore a simple, musical picking exercise to help you learn the string names. You'll be playing right out of the gate!

Length: 22:20 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Hands on the FretboardLesson 3

Hands on the Fretboard

Learn hand position, posture and see how to set up your playing for success when it comes to your fret hand. Dave goes in depth with his discussion and demonstration of hand mechanics. Don't miss this...

Length: 16:10 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Your First Song!Lesson 4

Your First Song!

Learn the E7 minor and Am chords and then immediately put them to use with a simple song. Play along to the provided backing track and feel like you're part of the band...It's only your 4th lesson! Keep...

Length: 15:32 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Power to the ChordsLesson 5

Power to the Chords

Power chords are some of the most simple and ubiquitous tools for playing and making great songs. Learn the most basic shapes and put them to use right here! Dave also discusses the beginnings of strumming...

Length: 12:21 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Music & MelodyLesson 6

Music & Melody

Learn a simple melody and take in a little info about what a 'key' is. You can learn the melody and have a friend strum the rhythm. Or, do it the other way around!

Length: 18:07 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Two Finger Chords & MoreLesson 7

Two Finger Chords & More

These simple, musical tools can take you a long way. Use your index and middle fingers to play a simple Am chord and a simple E chord. You'll also learn how to read chord charts and play through another...

Length: 16:46 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
A Simple MelodyLesson 8

A Simple Melody

You will be introduced to a simple A minor scale and then learn a song that helps you get your new scale under your finger tips!

Length: 12:08 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Finger IndependenceLesson 9

Finger Independence

Do you ever feel like you are wearing mittens while you are trying to practice your guitar playing? If you have ever experienced this sensation, this lesson is for you!

Length: 11:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Let's Major on C MajorLesson 10

Let's Major on C Major

You'll be introduced to the C Major scale and then you'll be able to put it to use over a soothing acoustic guitar rhythm bed. Have fun!

Length: 10:37 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The C Chord and G7 ChordLesson 11

The C Chord and G7 Chord

Here you'll get to spend some time applying some fundamental chord shapes. Dave shows how to switch between these two chords seamlessly and, as usual, has a creative example ready to go so you can put...

Length: 18:39 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
G and C Working TogetherLesson 12

G and C Working Together

I know what you're thinking..."I just learned these!" Well, you did learn a C chord and a G chord, but this lesson goes over ways to play these chords together in a chord progression that REALLY sounds...

Length: 11:06 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Playing Most SongsLesson 13

Playing Most Songs

You've probably heard it before, but most songs out there can really be played with just 3 or 4 chords. In this lesson, Dave gives you the tools to play most of the songs you know and love!

Length: 14:04 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Rhythm & ChartsLesson 14

Rhythm & Charts

We're moving into some new territory with this series now. You'll now be focusing more and more on material that you can play in a band setting. Up until now, you've been applying the basics to real music,...

Length: 24:54 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
A Taste of the BluesLesson 15

A Taste of the Blues

Learn about the blues form and strum along with a cool, laid back, bluesy track. You'll be able to take the material in this lesson a long way down the road! Don't forget to have fun with it now though...

Length: 12:03 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Major Pentatonic MusicLesson 16

Major Pentatonic Music

Learn the C major pentatonic scale and put it to good use over a catchy tune! You'll be surprised how simple this is and how very musical you can be with just 5 notes arranged in a musically interesting...

Length: 8:38 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Four Fingers and a ChordLesson 17

Four Fingers and a Chord

The mighty and intimidating F chord is one that most beginners see as a major hurdle in learning the basic chords on the guitar. Dave offers some ways to make the F chord more approachable. Once you examine...

Length: 15:35 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Chord Shapes & ArpeggiosLesson 18

Chord Shapes & Arpeggios

Work on precision with your picking hand and more finger independence with your fretting hand using a soothing practice track called "Chimes". You'll get a good taste of combining melody and rhythm playing...

Length: 15:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Work Those RhythmsLesson 19

Work Those Rhythms

Dave works you through eight different strumming variations, discusses how to feel the groove while keeping the rhythm, and shows you how to take a handful of examples and create any strum pattern you...

Length: 14:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Complete CLesson 20

Complete C

Look at the C major scale once again. This time however, you'll get to complete the first position C major pattern. You'll play every note within reach of your first 4 frets. You'll also learn a catchy...

Length: 16:28 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
The Return to ChordsLesson 21

The Return to Chords

Work in the Am, Dm, and Em chords and play them in a melancholy, yet soothing example. You'll also get to work on your basic strumming.

Length: 12:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Shifty PentatonicLesson 22

Shifty Pentatonic

Learn the E minor pentatonic scale with a small position shift that will get you out of the open position and moving around the neck a little bit. This is where it really starts to feel like you are owning...

Length: 13:53 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Let's Major on A MinorLesson 23

Let's Major on A Minor

Earlier in the series, we explored the C major scale. In this lesson, the A minor will get some love. Learn the basic open position and use it in a new melody.

Length: 15:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
In 7th HeavenLesson 24

In 7th Heaven

Back to some chords now. In case you couldn't tell from the title, we'll be focusing on 7th chords for this lesson. You learned A7 a while back, and now you'll learn E7 and B7.

Length: 13:32 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Walkin' The BluesLesson 25

Walkin' The Blues

Take a moment to pat yourself on the back! You've covered a lot of ground so far! You've been playing real music now for some time, and in this lesson, we're going to learn a walking blues line. What is...

Length: 10:50 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Moveable ChordsLesson 26

Moveable Chords

Chords that don't have any open strings in them AND chords whose open strings fit comfortably within the chord all called "moveable chords". Learn how to play a couple chords up the neck.

Length: 15:31 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Moveable PentatonicLesson 27

Moveable Pentatonic

In this lesson, you'll take another big step forward when it comes to working outside of the open position. You'll feel like doing some jamming too!

Length: 8:44 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Syncopated StrummingLesson 28

Syncopated Strumming

There are eight more strum patterns for you to dig into in this lesson. This time, they are a bit trickier. Follow along with the rhythm charts and take each example in chunks if needed. Combine them with...

Length: 19:33 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
And Now...Barre Chords!Lesson 29

And Now...Barre Chords!

You knew it was coming! This is the lesson where we stop dancing around full fingered moveable chords and dive head first into the most common barre chord shapes. They're not as bad as you may be fearing....

Length: 19:21 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Advancing with BluesLesson 30

Advancing with Blues

As the musical examples continue to distance themselves from that stereotypical beginner sound, Dave works through this track with a simple, moving melody inside a blues progression.

Length: 14:47 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Make It up as You GoLesson 31

Make It up as You Go

Some of you may have been waiting for this one! Now we'll focus on some improvisation...Some lead playing. It's not about knowing all the scales or trying to be fancy. It is about using what you know...

Length: 12:45 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Like a DrummerLesson 32

Like a Drummer

Learn how to create motion and percussive interest with your strumming. If you look at and listen to how drummers accent general grooves, there is a lot of insight there in to how to make your rhythm playing...

Length: 17:29 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
New Chords, New StrumsLesson 33

New Chords, New Strums

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Length: 21:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
A Start to Alternate PickingLesson 34

A Start to Alternate Picking

Develop precision in your picking. Learn when it's best to use alternate picking. Get comfortable with a few exercises and then apply the technique in a musical context!

Length: 20:26 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
A Little BluegrassLesson 35

A Little Bluegrass

We're going to continue with rhythm playing and 16th note strumming, but this time we're going to touch on some laid back bluegrass playing. This is another simple style of playing to add to your arsenal.

Length: 10:06 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
A Bit More on Barre ChordsLesson 36

A Bit More on Barre Chords

Learn a few more barre chord forms and get more advanced with your strumming. As you've come to know and love with these lessons, you'll have a chance to learn a new song!

Length: 13:51 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Here You AreLesson 37

Here You Are

You've made it a long way if you've made it to the end of this series! In this final lesson of Mr. Isaacs beginner course, you'll spend some dedicated time moving both major and minor barre chord formations...

Length: 21:58 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
David Isaacs

About David Isaacs View Full Biography Nashville-based Dave Isaacs has made a name for himself as one of Music City's top guitar instructors, working with both professional and aspiring songwriters and artists at his Music Row teaching studio. He is also an instructor in the music department at Tennessee State University and is the coordinator and artistic director of the annual TSU Guitar Summit.

A seasoned performer as well, Dave has released eight independent CDs and gigs steadily as a solo artist, bandleader, and sideman. He continues to write, record, and perform as well as arranging and producing projects for other artists.

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