Ready to learn a cool song on the guitar? Here, Lowell, IN teacher Blake C. shares his guide to the acoustic version of Anna Nalick’s “Breathe”…
Looking for cool songs to learn on guitar? You’ve probably seen the typical suggestions, such as “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin or “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne, but there are a lot more to learn. But there’s no point in just listing them out–instead, in this article I will discuss a somewhat unsuspecting cool guitar tune that is fun to play and even more enjoyable for your audiences to listen to, even if your audience is limited to your family.
The song “Breathe” by Anna Nalick is probably not a song that comes to mind when considering cool songs to learn on guitar. However, the acoustic version of the song–I especially like the Rhapsody Originals live version on YouTube performed with one guitarist–has several nuances that spice up the simple guitar part. For the purpose of this blog article, I will review the chords used and some of the nuances that add flavor to the tune.
First, listen to the song below.
Now we’ll get into learning the chords.
The version of the A Major chord played during the verses, as illustrated in Figure 1, is not the initial version of the A Major chord learned by beginner guitarists, but is even easier to play than the usual second fret version of the A Major chord. The chord name is normally written as an A chord without the term Major included in its title.
In this version of the A Major chord, the 1st and 5th strings are played open, which creates resonating notes that nicely connect this version of the A Major chord with the next chord played, the G chord. However, like the version of the A Major chord played, the variation of the G chord played is not typically taught to beginner guitarists, but is even easier than the usual G Major chord played on the 2nd and 3rd frets of the guitar.
The G chord used in the song requires the guitarist to simply move the A Major chord from the 5th fret location to the 3rd fret, creating a G6/9 chord. Okay, I may have exaggerated a bit about the simplicity of this version of the G chord–if played how the guitarist plays the chord, your thumb will play the G note located on the 3rd fret of the 6th string.
Playing the G note located on the 3rd fret of the 6th string is not essential to achieve the intended feel of the song, but it is one of the “cool factors” for this version of “Breathe”. If you struggle with placing your thumb on that note, skip it for now, but make it a goal and continue to work on it.
Many transcriptions of this tune are available on the internet, but more often than not are written using the A Major and G Major chords located within the first three frets of the guitar in the place of the A Major and G 6/9 chords used for the version above. A closer listen reveals the resonating 1st and 5th strings in both the A Major and G 6/9 chords. These resonating strings within both chords create another “cool factor” for this tune. It may be simple, but it sounds terrific!
Next, the version of the D Major chord is the same version typically taught to beginner guitarists, as illustrated in Figure 3. Then the guitarist plays the A Major chord on the 5th fret as illustrated in Figure 1, but then adds “coolness” to the guitar part by placing his 4th finger on the 7th fret of the 3rd string to create an Asus4 chord, as illustrated in Figure 4.
Before he starts the musical phrase over, he plays a resonating Aadd9 chord by removing the 1st and 4th fingers, which leaves his 2nd and 3rd fingers in place while he strums the all strings from the 5th string to the 1st string–the Aadd9 chord is illustrated in Figure 5. Once again, simple, but the Aadd9 chord nicely emphasizes the end of that phrase leading to the next phrase.
For the pre-chorus, the chords used are A Major, B minor–titled as Bm in the chord chart–and the same D Major chord illustrated in Figure 3. The B minor chord, which is not necessarily a beginner chord, is played as a barre chord on the 2nd fret, as illustrated in Figure 6. Once you develop your hand and finger strength along with fretboard balance, barre chords are often easier to play than some open position chords.
Conversely, the version of the A Major chord played in this section of the song is the same version taught to beginner guitarists, which is located on the 2nd fret of the guitar and illustrated in Figure 7. After the A chord, the guitarist moves to an E Major chord in 1st position as illustrated in Figure 8. Leaving well enough alone would be easier, but not as cool–the guitarist embellishes by hammering the 4th finger onto the 2nd fret of the 3rd string and then individually picking the remaining higher notes of an Esus4 chordm as illustrated in Figure 9. This is subtle, yet extremely cool.
Finally, the chorus of this acoustic version of Anna Nalick’s “Breathe” begins with a relatively standard G Major chord, as illustrated in Figure 10. Although this version of the G Major chord is not always taught to beginners, it offers better balance than the usual versions of the G Major chord. The standard version of the open D Major chord, as illustrated in Figure 3, is played which leads to the version of the A Major chord illustrated in Figure 1.
The little nuances of this version of the song are somewhat typical in the world of guitar, and are definitely worth working on until you can effortlessly insert them into this tune as well as others. Keep practicing, and if you would like to further develop your music skills, contact TakeLessons.com to locate the best guitar teachers in your area or online!
Blake C. teaches songwriting, singing, and guitar lessons in Lowell, IN. He specializes in classical guitar technique as well as modern rock and blues styles. Blake has been teaching for 20 years and he joined the TakeLessons team in July 2013. Learn more about Blake here!
Photo by InSapphoWeTrust