Beginners Online Training Part 2

3. PLAYING IN TIME WITH ONE CHORD

Next, try playing the pattern with one chord only. A relatively easy chord like em is ideal. Again, strive for even tempo, and be sure to keep your stroke direction consistent from measure to measure:

If you are a ‘complete’ beginner, you may hear various buzzes and/or muted notes when you play. Keep the finger pressure constant, even if it’s uncomfortable. You will develop calluses in a short time. Make sure to stay on the tips of your fingers as much as possible, and try to place them toward the succeeding fret, rather than in the middle, or especially the back:

 

Not like this: 

         but like this:

4. THE BIG SECRET

How to play chord progressions in time

 

How to change between simple chords on the guitar might not be a ‘big secret’, but one might think so, given the available information on the subject. In my experience, the vast majority of beginner guitarists quit the instrument due to their frustration around this simple task! Again,

 

Most beginners quit the guitar because they can’t change between simple chords fast enough!

 

The best help I’ve seen for this is ‘keep working at it, it’ll get better’, and similar advice. I can’t argue with that, but I want to be more specific, since it seems to be such an issue for both beginning and even intermediate players. In fact, lack of preparation- in either hand- is, in my opinion, the root cause of ALL technical problems on the guitar.

HOW THE PROS DO IT

 

The easiest way to explain this is to compare the execution of a simple 2 chord progression 2 ways.

2 chord progression:

 

 

 

If taken ‘literally’, it would be played like this:

 

 

Instead, it should be played like this:

 

 

Note that in this example, I am actually changing ‘early’, moving to measure 2 (with the new chord shape) before the present one is completed!

This is not only possible, it is preferable—it allows a smooth and graceful transition between chords. In essence, the open strings of the guitar are played during the switch, which works because the open strings are either chord tones in both chords or otherwise consonant, meaning they sound good with any of the simple ‘open’ chords.

Again, if you look carefully, you will see that the new chord (D) is being prepared and formed as the old chord (C) is being lifted from its position. This is a lot to do consciously in the early stages, but if you just concentrate on leaving early and keep the rhythm going, you will accomplish the same thing!

In many instances, the chord change will be in an ‘unexpected’ place, to bring out the rhythm. These changing points are usually on ‘weak’ beats, and thus played with an upstroke.

Example:

 

 

Note the changes to em and D are each on the 4th eighth note of the measure, weak beats played with an upstroke. This helps define the syncopation.

 

5. BEGINNER STUDY PIECES

 

Many beginners would like to start playing some of their favorite music right away. Others are content to play through some study pieces. I encourage all beginners to practice whatever inspires them. The following study pieces were devised to address the challenges of introductory rhythm guitar in a way that is enjoyable and accessible. Often, inexperienced players are distracted and ‘thrown off’ by the polyrhythms (more than one rhythm at the same time) and vocal phrasing inherent in so many songs. The following pieces contain drums, bass, and a single note guitar melody. If the student plays the simple rhythm part well, the good result is undeniable and quite rewarding. I encourage you to try some of these to get a feel for ensemble playing and keeping good time in a typical musical setting. Enjoy!

 

1. “One Easy Piece”

 

This is my simplest study piece, hopefully well named. It is also the only one that has no sheet music, since it is 3 chords only, repeated throughout. Its form is as follows:

 

Em       (1 measure)

Cmaj7   (1 measure)

Asus 2   (2 measures)

Here is a mp3 of the backing track:

 

Use the same pattern I demonstrated earlier, perhaps familiar by now:

Refer to the previous instructions if the execution of this rhythm is not clear.

If you remember to play the Asus2 for 2 measures and the other chords for only one each, you can’t go wrong! A detail of the progression looks like this:

 Here is a video sample of the part:

 And the sheet music:

 

 

The following  piece expands on “One Easy Piece” to include more chords and the opportunity to shift rhythm.

2. One Easy Piece # 2

 

 

 

This piece is identical to ‘One Easy Piece’ until measure 11, when it begins to shift through other open chords. As a playing approach I suggest the same rhythm as in ‘One Easy Piece’ (rhythm #1) except for measures in which 2 chords appear.

Example: Measure 11

The 2 chords in each measure mean a faster change. Warm up to the task by playing half notes (shown above) for these. Then return to rhythm #1 for the one chord measures that follow. 

Here is a video of measures 9-16 to show the shifting from rhythm #1 to half notes and back again:

 

 

When you reach a level of proficiency, substitute classic ‘backbeat’ rhythm–

for the half notes:

Here is a video sample of this:

 

A detailed explanation of backbeat rhythm can be found in THE RHYTHM SECTION©

 Here is a mp3 of the backing track:

 

Alternating rhythm #1 with backbeat provides good rhythmic variety, the quality so often missing in intermediate and even advanced players! It’s great practice for breathing life into a piece.

3. Easy in A

‘Easy in A’ is a straightforward open chord piece. Use backbeat throughout for developing a solid sense of this all-important rhythm.

 

Here is a mp3 of the backing track:

 

And the sheet music:

 

 

 

 

 

These are just a few of the practice pieces I have provided to assist players with various aspects of their musicianship. Check out other pieces and updates both here and in the intermediate/advanced section.

©2016 Jim Greenfield