Learn Acoustic Guitar

April 14, 2010

Learn Acoustic Guitar
By Antonio Orrico

Do you want to learn guitar chords? Then this story is for you to guide you in the process. Follow these tips and you’ll get good results fast.

One of the greatest things about playing the guitar is that it’s not vital to study much theory before you can play a song. While a pianist needs to know the notes in a chord a guitarist doesn’t need to, as he mainly uses chord blocks. In the guitar world we have what is called the CAGED system. We basically have five basic open chord shapes C, A, G, E and D, and by transposing them around the fingerboard – using a barre’ or a capo – we make up all the other chords.

We call “open chords” those chords that make use of both open strings and pressed notes. They are normally played close to the headstock and their unique sound makes them the chords of choice in many genres of music.

In music we have two important chord families, the Major and the Minor chords. A Major chord is made up of three notes the 1st, 3rd and 5th note of the scale, while a minor chord is basically the same but will have a flat 3rd. For example if you need to know which notes are in the C Major chord you have take the C major scale – C D E F G A B C – and take the 1st, the 3rd and the 5th out of the scale, which means that C Major Chord ( C ) is of C, E and G, while C minor chord (Cm) will be C, Eb and G. We call them triads as they are made up of three note even though on the guitar we double notes and use 4, 5 or even 6 strings to play them.

If all of this sounds Greek to you don’t worry, as you can just learn the guitar chords shapes and there you go. All you need to know is that the Major chords have a “Happy” feel and the Minor chords a “Sad” feel.

Once you have learned how to play simple triads – at least the open shapes – you should start practising alterations of them. The most popular are the sus2, sus4, 7th and add9 chords. You have a suspended chord when you substitute the 3rd with the 2nd or the 4th. You get a 7th or a add9 chord when you ad the 7th or the 9th note on top of the triad. Again don’t worry about the theory you can just learn the shapes for now.

The movable shapes are also very important and you should start by practicing the E and A barre’ chords first. They are very simple to memorize because one shape could now be used across the neck and give you different chords. Barre’ chords could be a little bit more challenging to play than open chords but they are very important as they enable you to play in most keys including sharps and flats.

Eventually you should work on power chords. Because they are made of the 1st and the 5th only, they are neither major or minor and one shape is used for both. Power chords make use of 2 max 3 notes and one shape fits all just like barre’ chords – actually they are identical to the low 3 strings on the E and A barre’ chords.

Even though they can sound nice on a acoustic guitar, it’s on a distorted electric guitar that they can shine and have been the work horse of Blues, Pop, Rock, Metal and more. Even melodic artist like Cold Play use power chords for their riffs.

When you learn guitar chords it’s a good idea to make use a chord book and learn from a good teacher. There’s so much to learn and, as you improve in your playing, it’s wiser to mastering the theory behind building chords. That way you can build your own chord shapes making use of the CAGED system instead of memorizing hundreds of shapes.

That’s all for me today I trust this column helped you to get a better understanding of the topic.

All the best

Antonio is a professional session guitarist and composer.
He has some great tutorials for those who want to learn acoustic guitar.

Visit his blog and learn acoustic guitar today.

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