Chords in C major - Part 1 (Guitar Lesson)

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Mark Brennan

Chords in C major - Part 1

Mark covers 7 basic chords in the key of C major.

Taught by Mark Brennan in Basic Electric Guitar seriesLength: 35:14Difficulty: 1.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (01:44) Lesson Intro Welcome back to the Phase 1 Beginner Electric Guitar series with Mark Brennan! Mark kicks off lesson 8 with a chord progression in the key of C major. This progression includes a handful of chords that you will learn in this lesson.

Lesson Objectives

-Learn how to play essential chord voicings in the key of C major.

-Apply these chords to some basic chord progressions and strumming patterns.

-Learn how to create smooth transitions from one chord to the next.
Chapter 2: (07:29) The Easy C, G7, and G Chords Reading Chord Diagrams

A chord diagram provides a visual representation of the guitar fretboard. Chord diagrams are laid out as if the guitar is hanging on a wall or sitting up on a guitar stand.

-The vertical lines represent each of the six strings. The horizontal lines represent the frets.

-At the top of the chord chart, numbers or "X's" may be written. An "X" indicates that a certain string is not strummed as part of the chord. A "0" indicates that a string is played open. Often, the left hand fingering of a certain note is listed above the chord diagram. The numbers 1-4 correspond to each of the left hand fingers. Many of the JamPlay chord charts indicate the proper fingering for a note directly within the fretboard diagram.

-The circles or dots written within the diagram represent fretted notes.

Review of Right Hand Exercises

Hopefully you have been diligently practicing each of the right hand accuracy exercises from lesson 4 as part of your daily warm-up routine. These exercises will prepare you for the chord progression exercises presented in this lesson.

Easy C Chord

This particular voicing for C major features two fretted notes and two open strings. The first finger frets the note C at the 1st fret of the second string. The note E is fretted by the second finger at the 2nd fret of the fourth string. Both the third and the first string are played open. Notice how the lowest two strings are not strummed as part of this chord.

As you attempt to finger this chord, remember all of the proper left hand guidelines that Mark discussed in lesson 5.

1. Keep the left hand in a natural, relaxed position at all times. Do not squeeze the neck!

2. Keep the thumb perpendicular to the neck. Do not curl the thumb or bring it up over the top of the neck. Also, Do not turn the thumb so that it runs parallel to the back of the neck. This greatly limits the range of motion of each finger.

Note: There are some exceptions to this rule that will be discussed later in the series.

3. Keep all left hand joints slightly bent. Do not flatten any of the knuckles.

4. Keep the left hand fingernails as short as possible.

5. Fret the strings with the very tips of the fingers. Arching the wrist outwards will help accomplish this goal. Utilizing this technique will prevent you from bumping any of the adjacent strings. Making contact with adjacent strings will prevent them from ringing clearly. This rule becomes extremely important when playing chords. If you find that you are accidentally muting an open string, arch your wrist outwards further. This will give each of the fingers the space necessary to clear the open strings.

6. Keep the wrist slightly bent.

7. Keep the palm parallel to the bottom of the neck. Do not tilt the wrist from side to side. This will limit the range of motion for each of the fingers.

Easy G7

This chord features only one fretted note. The note F is played by the first finger at the 1st fret of the first string. Even though this chord is quite simple, do not allow your left hand technique to become sloppy.

The fourth, third, and second strings are played open. Similar to the easy C chord, the sixth and fifth strings are omitted.

Easy G

Just like G7, the easy G chord features one fretted note on the first string. This time around, the note G is played by the third finger at the 3rd fret. The fourth, third, and second strings are played open.

Chord Progression Exercise

Note: Open "Chords In C Major Part 1 - page 1" listed under the "Supplemental Content" tab. This exercise spans measures 8-12 of the second line.

Set your metronome to a relatively slow tempo. Mark has his metronome set to 85 beats per minute. You will probably need to set your metronome to a slower tempo such as 60-70 beats per minute to begin with. Each chord in the exercise is strummed in a steady whole note rhythm. Make sure that each strum coincides perfectly with the downbeat click of the metronome. Once you have mastered the exercise with whole notes, play through the exercise using half notes. This will force you to change chords at a faster pace.

Tips for Chord Transitions

1. The rhythm must remain smooth and constant through each chord change.

2. Visualize the fingering of the following chord before you play it.

3. Move all left hand fingers simultaneously while changing chords.

4. Do not alter the position of the wrist when playing chords in the same position. This may result in muted open strings.
Chapter 3: (06:59) The E Minor and A Minor Chords E Minor (Em)

This chord utilizes the full resonant sound of the guitar. All six strings are strummed within this voicing. The sixth, third, second, and first strings are played open. The second finger frets the note B at the 2nd fret of the fifth string. E is fretted by the third finger at the 2nd fret of the fourth string. Be careful that you do not accidentally mute the third string with the third finger. When forming any new chord, pick each of the strings individually to ensure that they are ringing clearly with a solid tone.

The root note of this chord is located on the sixth string. Throughout this series, Mark will frequently refer to chords by their root note location. For example, you might hear him say, "play the sixth string root E minor chord."

A Minor (Am)

The "open" A minor chord features three fretted notes and two open strings. The second and third fingers fret notes at the 2nd fret. The first finger frets the note C located at the 1st fret of the second string. Be careful not to mute the open first string with the first finger. Also, notice how the sixth string is omitted from this chord.

The root note of this Am chord is located on the fifth string. Consequently, you may hear it referred to as "Am with a fifth string root."

When switching from Em to Am, the second and third fingers stay in the same formation. They simply move up to a different pair of strings. Mark refers to this maneuver as the "lock and shift" technique.

Em / Am Exercise

Note: Open "Chords In C Major Part 1 - page 1" listed under the "Supplemental Content" tab. This exercise spans measures 24-36.

This exercise begins with the Em and Am chords strummed for two measures each in whole notes. As the exercise advances, the harmonic rhythm becomes faster. Harmonic rhythm refers to the rhythm at which chords change in a progression. In measure 28, the chords are strummed in half notes. Each chord is now played for one measure instead of two. The harmonic rhythm increases again in measure 32. With this measure, each chord is strummed for a full measure in a steady quarter note rhythm.

Musical Road Signs

Some repeat signs are included in this exercise. An "open" repeat sign occurs at the beginning of measure 24. A "closed" repeat sign occurs at the end of measure 35. Once the end of this measure is reached, repeat back to the beginning of measure 24. The exercise also features a second ending. Once the end of measure 34 is reached on the repeat, skip ahead to measure 36.
Chapter 4: (08:50) The F Chord and the D Minor Chord D Minor (Dm)

The Dm chord features an open D string and three fretted notes on the third, second, and first strings. The sixth and fifth strings are omitted. Pay careful attention to the left hand fingering that Mark uses to play this chord. Many players choose to play the D note on the second string with the third finger. However, within the context of a chord progression, it is usually much easier to fret this note with the pinkie finger.

F Major

Most beginners struggle with this chord. As a result, you will probably need to devote more practice time to F major in order to perfect it.

As you first attempt to play the F chord, do not concern yourself with the note played on the first string. Focus all of your attention on the three notes located on the fourth, third, and second strings. Once you have mastered this abbreviated version of the chord, you are ready to tackle the four string barre chord version.

A barre occurs when a single finger frets two or more adjacent strings. In the case of F major, the index finger frets both the first and second strings at the 1st fret. You must straighten the tip joint of the index finger in order to perform this barre. Also, the first finger must remain perpendicular to the fretboard.

Additional F Chord Tips

Note: The following information is taken from lesson 2 of Matt Brown's Phase 2 Rock series. Refer to this lesson for additional help with the F chord.

When first learning this chord, place your third fingers on the fretboard before the barre. Keep your fingers as close to the fret wire as possible. Then, without moving your second and third fingers, place the barre down. Keep your first finger parallel to the first fret. Do not angle it. Make sure that the fleshy pad of the first finger is fretting these two notes rather than the side of the finger. When you place the first finger down, your second and third fingers should not move at all.

Also, you must follow proper classical technique guidelines. Keep your fingers bent and relaxed at all times. Do not flatten any joints except the tip joint of the index finger. Even though the thumb is not used to actually fret a string, it is the most important factor when fingering the F chord. Keep the thumb perpendicular to the middle of the neck. Do not angle it sideways or bring it up over the top of the neck. Finally, compare your technique to Mark's and make any necessary adjustments.

Chord Progression Exercise

Open "Chords In C Major Part 1 - pages 1 and 2" listed under the "Supplemental Content" tab. This exercise begins in measure 37 on page one and continues on page 2. Consequently, you will probably want to print out both pages and place them on a music stand.

When switching from Dm to F major, the first finger is used as a pivot finger. A pivot finger is a finger that remains in the same location throughout a chord change.

Practice this exercise in the same manner as the exercise discussed in the previous scene. Begin by strumming each chord in whole notes. Then, increase the harmonic rhythm to half notes. Finally, strum each chord for a full measure in a steady quarter note rhythm. Practice this exercise along with a metronome set to a relatively slow tempo.
Chapter 5: (08:11) Chord Pairing Exercises Note: Open "Chords In C Major Part 1 - page 2" listed under the "Supplemental Content" tab. The chord pairing exercises begin in measure 41 of this document.

Practice each chord pairing exercise using the methods outlined in the previous two scenes. Begin by strumming each chord in whole notes. Then, increase the harmonic rhythm to half notes. Finally, strum each chord for a full measure in a steady quarter note rhythm. Practice all exercises along with a metronome set to a relatively slow tempo. Once you have mastered an exercise at a given tempo, increase the speed of your metronome by a few notches.

Chord Pairing Exercise 1 (C to F)

Within this exercise, the first finger is used as a pivot finger. When performing any chord change, remember to move all fingers simultaneously.

Chord Pairing Exercise 2 (C to Dm)

When performing this chord change, remember to use Mark's "lock and shift" technique. The first and second fingers remain in the same basic shape throughout the chord change. These fingers simply move up two strings when switching from C to Dm.

Chord Pairing Exercise 3 (Dm to G)

The third finger must hover over the fretboard when playing the Dm chord. Make sure that this finger is prepared to fret the note G on the first string when it is time to change to the G major chord.

Chord Pairing Exercise 4 (Em to F)

This exercise will definitely require some extra practice. No pivot fingers can be used within this chord change. However, you can use the third finger as a "glide finger." Simply slide the third finger up one fret when switching from Em to F.

Focus the majority of your practice time on materials that you find challenging. Do not spend your practice time satisfying your ego by playing through material that you have already mastered.

Chord Pairing Exercise 5 (Am to F)

When performing this chord change, the index finger is used as a pivot finger.

Chord Pairing Exercise 6 (G to Em)

Within the context of this progression, Mark chooses to alter the left hand fingering of the G chord. He uses the pinkie finger to fret the G note on the first string instead of the third finger. This adjustment makes the shift to Em slightly more manageable since the third finger no longer must perform a giant leap from the first string to the fourth string.

Chord Pairing Exercise 7 (F to G)

The alternate fingering utilized for G major in the previous exercise is once again used in this exercise.

Chord Pairing Exercise 7 (Dm to F)

The middle finger is used as a pivot finger within this exercise.
Chapter 6: (02:00) Lesson Wrap-up and What's Next Final Thoughts

Do not be intimidated by the amount of material presented in this lesson! Work on a few exercises at a time. It will most likely take you several weeks if not months of practice to master all of the chords and exercises that Mark has demonstrated.

Always remember that rhythm is the most important component of rhythm. Strive for perfect rhythm with every exercise or piece of music that you play.

Preview of Next Lesson

In lesson 9, Mark will demonstrate full versions of the basic chord voicings taught in this lesson. Once again, all chord chord shapes will be applied to some chord progression exercises.

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.

willmaxwillmax replied on January 5th, 2017

The video freezes at approximately 2:49 of part 5. Sound continues.

mohcinedmohcined replied on January 23rd, 2016

Part 5 freezes at 0:14 seconds in. The audio continues, but the video stops.

Thibodeaux2010Thibodeaux2010 replied on January 5th, 2016

Part 5 freezes at 0:14 seconds in. The audio continues, but the video stops.

KeithJP!!!KeithJP!!! replied on October 24th, 2015

Video part 5 seems to be damaged. Video stops playing at 2:41 minutes.

namuhnamuh replied on May 16th, 2014

In the supplemental material, it would be nice to have the chords as written on the Staff too.

harshneelharshneel replied on November 15th, 2013

Dear Mark, The D minor chord shown in this lesson video is wrong, its different from the D Minor shown in the supplementary material... When you are playing the d minor in your fifth video the graph which appears showing d minor tab shows playing the b string on the fourth fret instead of the 3rd fret which is a D note

fkb1999fkb1999 replied on November 1st, 2013

Mark your lessons are fantastic. I am really enjoying them. Thanks. F.K.Brennan

blackhoofmareblackhoofmare replied on October 28th, 2013

Full barred F chord.... for over a year. Hit that high F and my guitar's all like "Nope", move the position down one fret. Sweet summer breeze. :3

erik_vaerik_va replied on June 16th, 2013

One thing that confuses me is the importance of playing the F not barring all 6 strings. I have big hands (as I am 6 6) and the full barre is the only way I can do it, I never bothered learning it any other way (and following these lessons I struggle but begin to be able to lay the 4 and 5 string versions "smoothly") . But then when watching people playing guitar on tv, it feels like few play the full E-shape barres. Many also use the thumb for the low E, including Hendrix and Frusciante. Then I've been told that the 4 string F plus thumb on low E dampening A is good as it leaves the pinky free for adding pulling off notes. BTW These lessons are great. I've been strumming and singing, with limited riffing and single note play, for many years, and I am trying to restart from the beginning to be able to really progress and push myself a little.

dtutterrowdtutterrow replied on June 13th, 2013

I think I know why it's called an F chord...can't make that transition. Also, my pinky keeps muting my E-string on the D-Minor.

skye4skye4 replied on June 13th, 2013

HIi Mark, I really like the way you teach these lessons, slow and easy going with clearity. I'm getting it whoever my finger seem stuck on a chord beyond 4/4 measure. I feel that I will get over this smoothly and sharply. Thanks for teaching not just me but others as well.

joeybisacciajoeybisaccia replied on May 31st, 2013

Hey Mark, I love the lessons and I'm picking up everything at a pretty quick pace. However, I'm having trouble with the F Chord. Are there are tips you have that could help me with it?

golfridergolfrider replied on January 20th, 2013

My problem is my hands are short and fat fingered which makes playing anything in these first few frets next to impossible. I need a guitar with a slightly wider neck at the head. Does anyone even make one?

rustyh1rustyh1 replied on November 26th, 2012

Another great lesson!

cmh5cmh5 replied on December 13th, 2012

Hey Mark: really enjoying your lessons so far.Finding the F chord difficult but actually find it easior to play the 5 string F using the pinky vs 4 string. Same for the full G. Also as A CCR fan I am learning "Down on the Corner" and find it fun to use the notes and chords we are learning in a song. I can play Riffs 1 and 2 so far.Chris, Calgary, Alberta.

tomhowardtomhoward replied on July 23rd, 2012

Hi Mark. Like many I struggle getting a clean sound from the F chord. Part of the problem is physical in that my hands are small and I can't stretch the fingers very far. I've developed a work around where I form the chord using my index finder as a bar on the first two strings and then, rather than using my middle finger on the third string, I use my third finger and then I use my pinkie on the fourth string. I can form the chord easier this way but am wondering if this "crutch" forms a bad habit or will cause problems/limitations later. Thanks. Tom

tomhowardtomhoward replied on July 23rd, 2012

Actually Mark you addressed this last Feb 11 to red57bird. Same question and I understand that there's no issue now but one will arise as we go to the 5 string F chord. Thanks. Tom

jimdavislivejimdavislive replied on June 22nd, 2012

I'm having the exact opposite of other people's problems. I've been playing barred chords for years. It's the base 1st position chords I have trouble with. But, since I want to learn fingerstyle I know that I have to master them.

jimdavislivejimdavislive replied on June 22nd, 2012

Mark: I was messing around with C, Am, F and G7 with differant strums. One sounded familiar so kept messing with it. It's the lead into 26 miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is waiting for me. Neat!

noahzarknoahzark replied on June 11th, 2012

mark: in the musical intro to lesson 8, there is a passage that sounds like 123,123,123,1 . I can't make out the right hand picking. can you clue us in? thanks, I really enjoy having you as my 'teach' . you do a great job.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on June 13th, 2012

I think you're referring to the "walk down" from the F to the C chord. I'm picking that down-down-up, down-down-up, down-up, down.

markscmarksc replied on March 6th, 2012

Hi Mark, to angle of the fingers on the strings so they don't touch surrounding strings I notice in several of the photos that the thumb moves higher on the neck. Is there any rule of thumb (pardon the pun) for this?

slamdogslamdog replied on October 19th, 2011

Mark, When I click on "add this to my chords," is there a file these go to so I can retrieve them? I am a bit lost here.

estearnsestearns replied on December 29th, 2011

Hi Mark when ever I form any chords my fingers cover too many strings maybe thier too fat any ideas, thanks alot

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 9th, 2012

make sure that your on the tips of your fingers and that the first joint of your finger is straight up.

dismithdismith replied on January 3rd, 2012

Hey Mark. I am really enjoying the lessons. You are helping me identify some areas that I have become lazy in. Your attention to the details is very helpful. Thanks.

jhenriksenjhenriksen replied on June 13th, 2011

Mark, when I was taking lessons, my instructor said Bdim was the VII chord in the C Major scale but that most people don't use it. In the G Chord section you substituted D7 for F#dim but in this section you didn't say anything about the Bdim chord. Are you using G7 instead of the Bdim chord?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on June 22nd, 2011

Yes..I realize this is confusing. I chose to stay away fronm the diminished chord for thiese lessons, because I feell they are not that useful to a bginner guitarists. The bdim is spelled b-d-f. The G7 chord is spelled g-b-d-f, so I consider the V7 chord to be a suitable substitiute for the vii diminished chord. The vii dimi chord has a dominant sound and function....hope this makes sense.

jarls1jarls1 replied on March 25th, 2011

Yipee! You are helping me identify and solve some of my bad habits. Thank you so much!!

Jammin JohnJammin John replied on March 12th, 2011

Thanks! Got them ordered.

Jammin JohnJammin John replied on March 7th, 2011

Mark, what kind of pick holder do you have above the nut on your guitar? I'd like to get one. All I can find are the stick on ones which I don't want to use. Your lessons are what got me to join JP and after 2 -1/2 months of practicing on average 2 hours a day I am still excited to come home from work to do it again. Sure, some of the stuff is challenging, but little by little it comes around. Thanks again for the great lesson sets!!

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on March 8th, 2011

It's a Wedgie Headstock Mount Pick Holder...musician'

wanda j lwanda j l replied on February 27th, 2011

Help!!! I don't like the F chord my fingers don't have the strenght to barre. Can I play just the F,A,and C every time there's a F chord in a song?

estearnsestearns replied on December 29th, 2011

Enter your comment here.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on February 28th, 2011

Yes, but it's just a 3 string chord and doesn't have a lot of tone. I would play it this way til your fingers get stronger, but keep practicing the four string form with the will come with practice.

red57birdred57bird replied on February 4th, 2011

Hey Mark - really enjoying the lessons after a 40 year absence from playing. My fingers are fairly short and fat, and the only way I have been able to effectively pull off the F chord is to use my ring finger and pinky instead of the middle and ring finger. I'll keep working on the standard, but do you see any issues with this workaround? Thanks.

estearnsestearns replied on December 29th, 2011

Enter your comment here.

hoosierdaddyhoosierdaddy replied on February 17th, 2011

i have the same type of fingers and just tried it your way and it is alot easier lol

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on February 28th, 2011

This works for the four string F. When you move on and try the five string, and then the full barre forms, the fingering will change. But these forms might be easier for you with the standard fingering.

mountainbykermountainbyker replied on February 8th, 2011

Hi Mark, thanks so much for the great lessons! Quick question - an earlier lesson suggested we use our pinky for the easy G7 but in this one I see you are using your ring finger. Is one way better than the other? Thanks - Paul

rogervigusrogervigus replied on February 3rd, 2011

I finally got the F chord to ring out clean! Took me quite a few days to get it and I can only do it a few times before my hand cramps into the shape of a chicken claw but I did it! I thought I'd never get that one. I do have a question too Mark. I am moving pretty slowly through the lesson sets and making sure I can do the excercises before moving on. It may take me a little while to get through the beginners stuff but I think I'll have a better grasp. Is that how you would recommend it or would you recommend a little faster pace. Also when it comes to practice I just go through all the supplemental material excercises up to this point and keep at it for about 45 mins to an hour. Is that what I should be doing or should I be focusing on some excersises more than others?

laurentlaurent replied on January 2nd, 2011

Hello, I ve got a problem with the F chord, my first finger, the pinkie you say I think :-). In fact it make me bad and when I do the barre the fisrt and sometines the fith string sound bad. have you some advises for me. thanks

mkohlermkohler replied on December 31st, 2009

Thanks for the lessons. I really like the intro piece ... it that something you could post?

pavelkrupetspavelkrupets replied on October 24th, 2010

Yep. I agree. I would like to learn to play it as well. :) Thanks!

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on October 25th, 2010

It's the changes to "Let It Be" by the Beatles...hmmmm.

sausn2002sausn2002 replied on August 23rd, 2010

The last lesson about the C Major Scale greatly helped me with this lesson. I feel very confident playing now.

jessman25jessman25 replied on August 16th, 2010

What can I do to help rid my self of cramps in the large thumb muscle in the lower part of the hand when playing these chords? Are there any stretches or exercises that might help this?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on August 22nd, 2010

I would stop and rest your left hand when it gets to cramping. You're using hand muscles that aren't condition to do what you're trying to get them to do. I would also suggest your stretch your levt hand a bit before you play , by extending your fingers and stretch the webbing between the fingers. With practice you develope strength in these muscles, so stay patient. Try practicing in shorter intervals, until you get more strength.

geo1198geo1198 replied on July 12th, 2010

Hey Mark, I have some trouble keeping my fingers on the strings during the F chord, especially the index. I'm pressing the strings down the best I can, but it still has a "buzzy" noise...What do you think the problem is?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on July 15th, 2010

Hey geo....try playing it without the barre...just your index on 2nd string 1st fret, middle on 3rd string 2nd fret, ring on 4th string 3rd fret. Get this much clean with no buzzing (you can even play the 1st string open if you like, making it a very nice sounding F Major 7th chord). When this starts to feel secure and comfortable, try adding the barre. Barre the index across the 1st and 2nd strings on the 1st fret. You can also try the barre first without the other fingers down, getting the barre clean, and then adding the other fingers. It's different for each student. And just about eveybody struggles with this chord. So stay patient and keep at it. It'll come around with practice...Mark

geo1198geo1198 replied on July 26th, 2010

Thanks Mark! I've mastered the Easy F, now I'm trying to pull off the full versions of each on the next lesson. Haven't practiced in a while due to some stuff...Thanks for the advice!

tlofstromtlofstrom replied on June 22nd, 2010

Hi Mark, because I have a pin in my ring finger, the F is particularly hard. Is the 6 string Barre chord F voicing that far off or can I get away with using it. It's much easier for me to play with the fused joint.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on June 22nd, 2010

Hey Tim....if it's more comfortable to grip the full barre form...that's certainly cool, as long as you have the hand strength for it. That usually takes a player a little while til they can pull it off. Grab the whole form and pick or strum the particular set of strings you want, or strum the whole thing...Mark B.

EyeofsauronEyeofsauron replied on June 21st, 2010

Thanks for this lesson. You are a great teacher! I struggled with the F chord for about two weeks, and then I finally got it. I found out how to play one of my favorite songs completely by accident using the excercises in this lesson. "Getting away with it" by James is simply Dm, F, C and G repeated over and over. Each note is sounded individually rather than strummed, starting from the three lowest notes upwards, followed by the three highest notes pucked downwards three times, before moving onto the next chord.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on June 21st, 2010

Thanks! And great job learning that song by James. Appears that you have a pretty good ear and feel for the instrument.

crazyguitarist93crazyguitarist93 replied on June 16th, 2010

hey mark i'm really enjoying your lessons and i'm learning a lot thanks!!

miikamiika replied on June 1st, 2010

Hi Mark! I notice that my left hand tenses up when I play the F chord. I guess it goes away with practice. Does practicing the F chord help strengthen your left hand at the same time?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on June 4th, 2010

The F chord will cause tension because of the hand strength needed to grip it cleanly, especially with the bar. Keep working with it and it will come. Try practicing it up a few positions. It is a moveable form, and it's easier to play further up the neck. Try it at the third fret. That would transpose it to a G chord. Or, try it at the 5th fret as an A chord. You may consider getting a Gripmaster type device to help with building strength in your fretting hand. Good luck! Mark

poulsonpoulson replied on April 18th, 2010

I am greatly enjoying the lessons. Today I viewed Lesson 8 in the Beginners course. While practicing the chords demonstrated in this lesson I cannot notice much difference between the easy C and the Am chord. Am I doing something wrong or is there little differnce in the sound of these 2 chords?

poulsonpoulson replied on April 26th, 2010

So much for interaction with the instructors.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on April 26th, 2010

Hey Kriss...sorry I didn't get back to in on this in a timely manner...I'm a busy man, not that it's a good excuse. I'll try to stay on top of your questions better going forward. I think jbooth answered your question sufficiently....let me know if you nedd more clarification...again, sorry. Mark B.

jboothjbooth replied on April 26th, 2010

Hey man, just to let you know, not all instructors can check their comments in a timely fashion. If you wish for a quicker response the best bet is the forums since it is much easier for them to monitor their forums sections. In regards to the chord, note that the A Minor chord has you fingering the third string second fret, where as the easy c does not. That one note is enough to change the chord. Also note that in the Easy C chord you do not strum the 5th string. Remember, which strings you strum can also determine what a chord is, so if there is an "x" on top of a string during a chord chart, be sure not to strum. Hope this has helped.

bobby_bobbobby_bob replied on March 14th, 2010

Hey Mark. just to say I really think you're a terrific teacher. I'm enjoying your lessons, and making lots of noise in between. You ROCK, teacher!

sergueiksergueik replied on January 24th, 2010

Hi Mark. First, thanks for pretty much perfect beginners series. Very much on target (at least for me). As many of your students, I am having a difficulty with F-chord. From what I understand, the F-Chord you are showing in Lesson 8 is a four string chord. I can easily transition to it and play it, if instead of "barreing" just first and second string, I go ahead and barre all six. Should I continue struggling with trying to barre only first strings or full barre is just as good and will not cause me any grief in the future lessons? Thanks,

fl1pperfl1pper replied on January 25th, 2010

I am in a similar position in that a full barre chord version of F is easier for me. I can see that in theory moving from the 4 string version to a C should be easier than a 6 string F to C, but if that isn't the case for us then I can't really see why it should be any disadvantage to play all 6 strings. Any reason why that could be a problem Mark? The lessons are great by the way. The hardest thing for me is unlearning the bad habits I have. I can do it whilst following the lessons, but as soon as I play something I already know, my hands start to revert back to the old (wrong) way!

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 25th, 2010

If it's comfortable to play the full barre F chord, and you have enough strength in you left hand, by all means play it that way. Most beginners don't have the strength to do this. But definitely, go for it. But there are times when a four or five string F chord is all your going to need for a particular chord change or arrangement. Let your ear be your guide.....Mark

fl1pperfl1pper replied on January 26th, 2010

Thanks for the answer Mark. Sometimes life is nicely ironic. I took what you said and practiced using the full F barre chord which was good except I'm a litle weak on the 6th string. Then I read another comment you wrote about mixing up your practice with some chords, single note stuff and songs. I went for 'Cowgirl in the Sand' by Neil Young because it's great and appears to be in C Major to me. However, the very start of the song is Am and then F BUT you have have to play a 4 or 5 string version of F because you lift your finger on and off the G string to play the open G. heh, I guess we do have to know how to play it both ways after all!!

brosspntrbrosspntr replied on December 11th, 2009

Hi Mark - I am just starting out with the guitar and pleased with your lesson series. One question I have is when should I move on to the next lesson? For example lesson 8, this could take weeks if not months to get somewhat decent on chords of just the C scale. Thank you

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on December 12th, 2009

Hey Bob....The lessons are meant to be progressive, but feel free to move forward to the next lesson if you have a pretty good grasp of what's going on in the lesson, not necessarily mastered. I would encourage you to view other lessons too, to see if there's something that might light a spark....good luck, Mark

laurolmlaurolm replied on November 9th, 2009

Hi Mark!, one question, how do you know that these chords presented in this lesson go with the " C " Major Scale???....can you explain this, or will there be an explanation of this later on???...Thanks....

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on November 9th, 2009

Hey Lauro....these chords are built off the C Major scale. Each scale tone presents a root that a chord is built off of. The C chord is built off of the first scale tone, C. The dmin is built off of the second scale tone, D, and so on. You need to get into music theory in depth to fully understand this. As my series goes on, I sure I'll start talking about theory more. I'm sure there's theory lessons on the site that you can check out, too.

mastodanmastodan replied on October 19th, 2009

Arrrgh, the F chord is making me say the F word.

eduartboudewijneduartboudewijn replied on October 22nd, 2009

I know, I had the same thing when I started it, but now I find it very easy. I know people say this a lot, but practise still makes perfect...

charlie82560charlie82560 replied on August 7th, 2009

Why can't I down load this video like the others.

warcrapworldwarcrapworld replied on June 18th, 2009

Hi Mark, i have a few questions regarding barring strings. I have seen that when you played the F chord, you were able to straighten your index finger when you barred the first 2 strings. Which looked much easier and made sense to me. However, i am unable to achieve that same placement, probable due to my small hand. So i would like to know, how will i be able to achieve that? Is this the better way of barring strings(set for the future) or it doesnt matter? because i just cant help that my index bends when i tried to barre the first 2 strings of the F chord. also when i barre strings, should i be using the spot close to the side of my index finger or should i put my finger right on top of the strings with the nail being "parallel" to the fretboard? And just what does it take to make a proper barre chord? do i need to keep practicing so the skin and muscles of my index finger gets toughen up? Apologize for the long comment. Kind Regards! BEn

roquesroques replied on May 6th, 2009

Hi Mark I started your course in January 2009, 4 months after my 11 years old daughter started her own courses with a teacher. Oddly enough she's been taught different cords: - C is #1 finger on 1st string, #2 On 3rd just as you teach, but also #3 on 5th... - G7 is #1 on 1st on 1st like you teach, + #2 on 5th & #3 on 6th - G is #4 on 3rd, #2 on 5th & #3 on 6th etc... I'm new to the guitar world so I'm not sure what the issue is. We live in Paris France so maybe they have different definitions here but I would find it strange. How do you explain that? Sincerely Bernie L. Roques

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on May 6th, 2009

Hey Bernie....the chords presented in this lesson are only partial, "easy" forms. Your daughter is learning the full forms of these chords. I show the full forms in the next lesson...Chords in C Major, Part 2.....tlalk to ya soon..Mark B.

vidal_rogervidal_roger replied on March 1st, 2009

First sorry for my english, Mark, thanks for this lesson, I'm one the people that have a lot of problems changing from chord to chord without loosing the rythm, well I'm still worjking on that and I think this lesson that I just started might help me a lot!! THANKS

mastodonrocksmastodonrocks replied on February 23rd, 2009

Mark: this lesson helped explained how to make chord changes while keeping the beat. Before it seems now that I stopped strumming when making chord changes. Now I'll practice keeping a steady beat with strumming while making the chord changes. Thanks, Joe

edenajbedenajb replied on January 29th, 2009

Hi Mark, how are you?. I notice that this lesson is called part 1, does that mean that there is part 2 and 3 etc?, is it in the phase2 genre teachings?.

VinnyBVinnyB replied on January 29th, 2009

I just finished working on part 2 and it will be the next lesson in this series. Keep an eye out, it will be up soon. Later on.

bonbonbonbon replied on January 14th, 2009

I had 8 lessons as a teenager but quit because it was difficult to do a barre chord. Now that I'm 66 years old and time on my hands, thought I'd give it another try. It is a big help when the chord chart is shown in the inset when you strum so we can see where to put our fingers. Don't stop doing this, o.k.

clifford wrightclifford wright replied on January 12th, 2009

HI Mark, I have benefited from going over the basics once more. My only regret is that I don't see you listed as instructing in phase 2! Is this something you have in mind?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 13th, 2009

Hi Clifford....I do plan on doing a Phase 2 series sometime in the future. We've talked about doing a series on acoustic guitar...stylings, technique, etc. But for now, I want to get my beginner series well established. Stay tuned...Mark B.

turtle1023turtle1023 replied on January 11th, 2009

Hi Mark - i am a huge Pink Floyd fan and have been learning a few of the songs you have on here - what is the chance of teaching us "Hey You" ? Thanks

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 13th, 2009

That would be cool....since I now know how to do that classic opening riff the right way.....nice solo too. I'll put it on the list of all the other Floyd requests that I have...but that is a great choice.

meganmegan replied on January 10th, 2009

Hi Mark, I should probably go look in the section of whoever is teaching theory, but when I looked at your choice of chords for C+ I was intrigued by your choice. (I, ii, iii, IV, Vmaj7, vi) Could you supply a rationale? i.e. Where are you going, theoretically? Most often used in the key/recognition or toward harmony and composition? Any theoretical significance to the chord pairs? Sorry, maybe not a question to pose. Don't mean to confuse beginners.

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 10th, 2009

Hi Megan...that's a legitimate question, although it was not my intention to delve into any serious theory at this point. These chords are built off the roots of the C major scale. the C chord is I, the Dm is ii, the Em is iii, the F is IV, the G is V, the G7 is V7 (no V Maj 7 is shown..that would be GMaj7), the Am is the vi. The vii woud be b diminished, but I did not get into that, because it is used as a substitute for the G7, and it's not that common in most songs in the key of C. Think of the roman numerals as the chord function of the key, so you use these to traspose a particular chord progression to a different key. In my next lesson, I get into some common chord progressions. The chord pairs presented are primarily for practice....moving from chord to chord in rhythm...although they are commonly used movements in a more involved chord progression. So I would say, just practice the pairs, listen closly to the way they sound, and enjoy the sound of your guitar. The theory behind all of this will become clearer as we go along.......Mark B.

cedom505cedom505 replied on January 9th, 2009

Dear Mark, very nice lesson, you make it very easy. Would it be possible to get the transript of your lesson intros? I have noticed some new dokken material on a previous intro that I really like....

scottbrownscottbrown replied on January 8th, 2009

Hey Mark, glad you're back! I actually joined this site because I watched your lesson doing "She talks to angels". You are awesome and your wife has a beautiful voice!! I am still fighting to play "F" chord, right now I fret the D,G, & B string and not strum the high E. It sounds like an F, but is it?

MarkBrennanMarkBrennan replied on January 8th, 2009

Hi certainly is an F chord. It is just a three note version, but it an F chord. You are playing the notes F (on the D string), A (on the G string), and C (on the B string). The notes F, A, and C make up an F chord.

mikebottonemikebottone replied on January 8th, 2009

woo, keep the lessons comin mark!

plutoskiplutoski replied on January 8th, 2009

Thank you. Now I can play little tunes with these chords.

Basic Electric Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Mark's Phase 1 series will take you through the basics of playing electric guitar.

Lesson 1

Series Intro - Guitar Parts and Tuning

Mark introduces his Phase 1 series and covers some fundamental electric guitar basics.

Length: 30:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 2


Mark provides a detailed overview of amplification. This lesson has some great info for any electric player.

Length: 33:55 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Using Tablature and Learning the Fretboard

Before we start rocking, Mark goes over some tools and training necessary to every beginning guitarist.

Length: 12:52 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Right Hand Technique

It's time to get some sound out of your guitar. Mark begins with picking hand technique.

Length: 31:34 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Left Hand Technique

Mark explains proper left hand technique from the ground up.

Length: 10:36 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Natural Notes in the 1st Position

Mark teaches you all of the natural notes played in first position. He uses two classic melodies to supplement this information.

Length: 25:42 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

The C Major Scale - 1st Position

It's time to learn your first scale - the C major scale in first position. Mark also explains how the major scale is constructed.

Length: 21:31 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

Chords in C major - Part 1

Mark covers 7 basic chords in the key of C major.

Length: 35:14 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Chords in C major - Part 2

Mark expands on chords in C major by showing full forms of the chords you learned in Part 1. He also teaches you the chord progression to a familiar tune.

Length: 25:00 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Power Chord Primer

It's time to start making some noise by using power chords and palm muting. Mark gives you the framework to start rocking with the 12 bar blues progression.

Length: 36:43 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Open Position Minor Pentatonic

Take your knowledge of the notes in the first position and start jamming on a simple pentatonic riff.

Length: 14:34 Difficulty: 1.0 FREE
Lesson 12

Blues Scale Basics with Hammer-ons, Pull-offs, and Vibrato

Let's build on lesson 11 with an extended discussion of the pentatonic scale. For lesson 12, we'll simply add one note to the minor pentatonic scale to give us the famous minor blues scale. We'll also...

Length: 36:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Movable Power Chords

Mark explains how to finger power chords and how they can be moved anywhere on the fretboard. He also shows an exercise that will help you remember the name of each power chord.

Length: 16:28 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 14

Rhythmic Notation Part 1

Mark Brennan explains rhythmic notation, tempos, time signatures, note values, and more in this lesson.

Length: 32:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

The Key of G Major

Mark explores the key of G major in this lesson. He covers the first position pattern of the scale and explains how it can be harmonized in thirds.

Length: 33:22 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Chords of G Major

Mark teaches the basic chords of G major as well as some other exercises to get you acquainted with this key.

Length: 34:28 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

The Key of D Major

Mark explains the basics of D major.

Length: 25:00 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Chords in D Major

Mark takes you through the chords of D major and explains some new ones that you haven't encountered yet.

Length: 35:00 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 19

More Movable Power Chords & the Circle of Fifths

Mark continues his discussion of power chords. This time around, he explains the circle of 5ths and demonstrates some power chord progressions that illustrate this concept.

Length: 33:18 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 20

The Movable Minor Pentatonic Scale

Mark teaches the 1st box of the minor pentatonic scale.

Length: 32:31 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

The Minor Blues Scale Transposed to A

Mark explains how you can transpose the pentatonic pattern covered in lesson 20 to the key of A minor. He also shows the "lower extension box" and "home plate box."

Length: 26:09 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Blues Boogie Shuffle

Mark teaches the difference between straight eighth notes and the shuffle feel.

Length: 42:33 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 23

Amplification Part Two

In response to member requests, Mark added another amplification lesson to his growing phase 1 series. In this lesson, he compares 3 classes of amps from entry level models all the way to a Mesa Mark V.

Length: 40:45 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Introduction To Improvisation

In this lesson, Mark teaches some blues licks that can be used when improvising over a 12 bar blues progression.

Length: 24:01 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 25

The Key of A Minor

Mark covers the key of A minor.

Length: 29:36 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 26

Two Movable Major Chord Forms

Mark teaches two movable major chord forms and gives many examples of how to practice playing them.

Length: 26:10 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 27

I-IV-V Progression Revisited

Mark Brennan shows you how to apply the chord forms learned in lesson 26 to a I-IV-V progression.

Length: 21:52 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 28

Movable Dominant 7th Chord Forms

Mark Brennan continues his teachings on movable chord forms. In this lesson he shows the dominant 7th chords and how to use them in a 12 bar blues progression.

Length: 19:49 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 29

Movable Minor and Minor 7th Chord Forms

Mark Brennan teaches these minor chord forms and how they are movable up and down the fretboard. He also shows how to use these chords in common progressions.

Length: 21:29 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only

About Mark Brennan View Full Biography Mark Brennan, born August 12th, 1954 in Cleveland, Ohio, began playing guitar at the age of 10. His first influences were from the Ventures and the British Invasion, especially the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Shortly afterwards he was playing in rock bands with his brother on drums, developing his ear by learning songs straight from records. Playing in a band became a passion.

In high school, he grew to love acoustic and classical guitar. He spent time playing acoustic music, influenced by The Eagles, CSN, Dan Folgelberg, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, etc. In the 70's, he headed a very popular Cleveland band, The Brennan-Cosma Band, which played a variety of acoustic and rock music, along with originals. He also took up classicalguitar, and began developing his fingerstyle technique.

Mark is a graduate of Cleveland State University (1980), with a Bachelor of Music in Classical guitar performance. He also studied Music Composition, and took many Music Education classes. After graduation, he began his private teaching career, teaching electric, acoustic, and classical guitar, along with music theory. He taught in various studios and guitar shops throughout his career, and currently has a private practice at his home in Fairview Park, Ohio.

In the 80's Mark took an affection to Progressive rock. With his band Polyphony, he was influenced by the music of Yes, Genesis, Kansas, ELP, Styx, along with a set of prog rock originals.

Currently, Mark is in the regionally successful Pink Floyd tribute band Wish You Were Here. The band performs faithful renderings of the Floyd classics spanning their entire catalog, along with a strong visual stage show. Here, Mark displays his command of the David Gilmour style.

Mark is excited to be part of's fine roster of teachers. He's looking forward to extending his 35 years of performing and teaching experience to the JamPlay members. His philosophy is about developing a passion for guitar and being the best musician you can be; being true to yourself and developing a personal style, and truly expressing your heart through your music.

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JamPlay is proud to introduce jazz guitarist Peter Einhorn. In this lesson series, Peter will discuss and demonstrate a way...

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JamPlay welcomes David Isaacs to our teacher roster. With his first lesson Dave explains his approach to playing guitar with...

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Hawkeye teaches several Robert Johnson licks in this lesson. These licks are played with a slide in open G tuning.

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Mary Flower Mary Flower

Mary talks about the key of F in this fantastic lesson.

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Mitch Reed Mitch Reed

Mitch teaches his interpretation of the classic "Cannonball Rag." This song provides beginning and intermediate guitarists...

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Learn a simple mini song that illustrates just how intertwined scales and chords really are. Dave uses a G chord paired...

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JamPlay sits down with veteran fret grinder Steve Smyth of Forbidden and The EssenEss Project. He talks about how he got...

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Jane Miller Jane Miller

Jane Miller talks about chord solos in part one of this fascinating mini-series.

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Chris Liepe Chris Liepe

Chris brings his ingenuity to this lesson on the American folk song called "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" Also known as...

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Mark Brennan Mark Brennan

Mark Brennan teaches this classic rock song by Jethro Tull. Released on the album of the same name in 1971, this song features...

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Brent Mason Brent Mason

Learn Nashville style country guitar from one of the most recorded guitarists in history. Check out rhythm grooves, solos,...

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Eric Madis Eric Madis

In this lesson Eric talks about playing basic lead in the Memphis Blues style.

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Steve Stevens Steve Stevens

Steve Stevens shows some of his go-to licks and ideas while improvising over a backing track he made.

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Guthrie Trapp Guthrie Trapp

JamPlay introduces Nashville session player Guthrie Trapp! In this first segment, Guthrie talks a little about his influences,...

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Bryan Beller Bryan Beller

Bryan Beller of the Aristocrats, Dethklok, and Steve Vai takes you inside his six step method to learning any song by ear....

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Dennis Hodges Dennis Hodges

Learn a variety of essential techniques commonly used in the metal genre, including palm muting, string slides, and chord...

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