On Practice: Chords
By Daniel Roest
Every guitarist needs to know a set of chords called Open Chords, chords in the first position that use open strings. Here they are:
A, Am , A7, B7, C, C7, D, Dm, D7, E, Em, E7, F, G, Gm, and G7. You can learn them in clusters like E, Em, E7, D, Dm, D7, etc. or in keys like
A: A, D, E7 and C: C, F and G7. The keys you need most are C, G, D, A, E, Am and Em. These all need to be memorized to the point where when you see the next chord, your hand begins to prepare and move on its own, from muscular memory. After learning and memorizing Open Chords, you'll move on to Barre Chords, chords based on the Open Chords and using a left hand first finger barre. Every chord, in fact everything the left hand does, has an optimum left arm and wrist position. Try a B7 with your left elbow tucked in tight to your waist. Now try it again with your elbow several inches out - much more comfortable in the left hand! Do the same with a G7, and you'll find you need your elbow closer to your waist than with a B7. Pay attention to the whole left arm, not just the fingers! Be sure to look at The Hierarchy of Left Hand Technique for more on this. To see a page of chord diagrams including those listed above, see http://www.tabledit.com/images/diagrams.gif
Here's an exercise to help you memorize chords the ways you usually find them - grouped together in keys. Let's sing Happy Birthday in 5 keys: C, G, D, A, & E.
First, we'll group chords together the way musicians refer to the three primary chords in any key: the I, IV and V7 chords, also called Tonic, Subdominant and Dominant 7th. The easy way to handle this is just to stick to saying "One, Four and Five" for these chords. And it's really easy to figure out what the chords are:
The I chord is the same as the key - A for the key of A, C for the key of C, etc.
Then you just count up the alphabet to get the other two primary chords. If A is the I chord, think, A, B, C, D to get D as the IV chord, and E7 for the V7.
Try it in C: C is the I chord. C, D, E, F, G. F is the IV chord, and G7 is the V7 chord.
Here's Happy Birthday:
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear _______
Happy Birthday to you.
And many more!