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No matter which genre of guitar you play if you know a mere 3 chords you can play a LOT of music. Let's start with 3 common ones: G, C and the D7 chord. To help the beginner students we are going to build this chords a little bit at a time and begin with the "easy" version of the C and the G. This will allow you to play something by the end of this lesson no matter what your skill level is.
Take your third finger and place it on the High E string (1st) just behind the third fret. This is a miniature version of the actual G chord which we will look into later. This chord only uses 3 strings, or 3 notes. Since a chord by definition is at least 3 notes this meets the criteria of a chord. We will play the open G string (3rd), open B (2nd) string and the high E (1st) string at the 3rd fret. Strum the last 3 strings!
To play this chord take your first finger and put it on the first fret of the B (2nd) string. On this chord you will play the same 3 strings as the easy G chord, so remember to again check the fretting of the note you must play as well as the rest of your fingers if the chord is muffled or does not sound right. This chord consists of the notes G, C and E, fitting the match that a chord must have 3 notes.
The D7 chord may be more difficult to finger as it requires fretting with 3 fingers. Place your first finger on the B (2nd) string on the first fret. After that take your second finger and place it on the G (3rd) string on the second fret. Then place your third finger on the high e (first) string on the second fret. Pay attention to the shape of chords, it will be easier to memorize.
Tip: If your finger is in the wrong position you will hear a muffled noise, or perhaps a rattling sound. If while strumming you feel the chord does not sound correct be sure to reposition your 3rd finger so it is just behind the 3rd fret, pressing down firmly enough so that the string rings out clear yet not hard enough that it hurts your fingers. Make sure no other strings are being muffled by the remaining fingers on your hand, that will muffle the other notes which need to be played.
Go back and finger the Easy G chord, which if you recall requires you to play your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the high E (1st) string. Remember, the high e is the smallest string on the guitar that has the highest pitch. Strum the easy G chord downwards 8 times at a pace that is comfortable for you. Then change to the easy C chord which requires your first finger to be on the B (2nd) string on the first fret and strum it 8 times downwards as well. Switching between these two chords is a great way to practice chord changing, strumming and simply getting your hands used to the instrument.
Because switching between the easy C and D7 chord is so easy take this time to practice switching between the two. Start by strumming the easy C chord down 8 times, then play D7 8 times and back to easy C 8 times. If that is easy for you take it one step further and play a small progression using all 3 chords, play the easy G 8 times, the easy C 8 times and then the D7 8 times. Don't move on until you have it!
When playing the guitar using a pick some people like to anchor a finger or two on their pick guard to help give perspective as to where the hand is while strumming People often anchor their pinky or ring finger and in some cases both. This can limit you in the future, especially if moving to fingerstyle, so just keep it in mind for later.
Now that you know the easy C, easy G and D7 chords it is time to learn the full C major chord and G major chord. Don't worry, you can do it! You own a six string guitar, right? Well then, you probably are saying to yourself "why are we only playing 3 strings?" Well, coming up next we will give the G major chord which uses all 6 strings and the C major chord which uses 5.
The reason we started with the high G with your third finger is because that is part of the full G chord. Now lay your second finger down on the 3rd fret of the low E (6th) string. Remember, the low E is the thickest string on the guitar. Now your first finger naturally wants to fall on the A (5th) string on the second fret, so let it! Now you have the full G major chord in which you can strum all 6 strings for a delightfully rich sound. Make sure you are not muffling any of the strings!
The E Minor chord is used throughout all modern and classic music, and an integral part of tons of chord progressions. The tricky part with E Minor is making sure the open chords ring out "underneath" your fretting fingers. This can be a little bit tricky if your aren't Paul Gilbert (if you are under the age of 20, google him!) and have scary long fingers. The important thing here is accuracy. Don't move on until you can cleanly play this chord with all open strings ringing.. trust us, it will pay dividends later.
The final chord we are going to learn today is the C major chord. To finger this, put your first finger back on the 1st fret of the B (2nd) string as if you were playing the easy C chord. Now reach across with your second finger and lay it down on the 2nd fret of the D (4th) string. Leave the G (3rd) string open. Now let your third finger fall on the 3rd fret of the A (5th) string. Unlike the G major, with this chord you may only play 5 strings, so please take care not to play the low E (6th string, thickest) while strumming this chord.
Go Slow. Be Accurate.
You won't do this perfectly in a few hours, or even a few days. After you have played around with the chords practice playing the following pattern. Strum the G Major chord down 4 times, strum the D7 chord down 4 times, strum the C chord 4 times, strum the D7 chord down 4 times and finally strum the G major chord down 4 times. Practice this progression over and over until you can play it with ease. This progression will be challenging, but it will vastly improve your fingering of these chords as well as the transitions between them.
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