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How to Convert Guitar Chords to Piano Chords [+ Tabs]

Convert guitar chords to piano chords

Curious about how to convert guitar chords to piano chords? We can’t let guitarists have all the fun playing classics like “Stairway to Heaven” and “Hotel California!”

Just because a song is written in tabs doesn’t mean that piano players can’t read it too. In this article, we’ll show you how to translate guitar chords to piano using tabs.

Convert Guitar Chords to Piano Chords

First, let’s establish a basic understanding of the guitar. The notes of the open strings from thickest to thinnest are E, A, D, G, B, and E. Also, each fret on the guitar is a half step.

This means that you can find any note by starting from the open string that the note is played on and counting up in half steps, one fret at a time, until you arrive at the desired note.

Understanding Guitar Tabs

In this tutorial, we’ll be using tabs to convert the guitar chords to piano chords. What you need to know about tabs is that there are six lines that represent the six guitar strings. The bottom line represents the thickest string, while the top represents the thinnest.

The numbers you’ll see on each line indicate the number of the fret that is played on that string. As far as reading rhythms, tabs usually only approximate rhythms. But as you read the fret numbers from left to right, more or less spaces between numbers indicate note values and rests.

So, more space between two numbers means that you’ll either hold the note or rest until the next one is played. If numbers are stacked on top of each other vertically, that means those notes are played at the same time.

Practice Converting Guitar Chords to Piano

In a nutshell, the basic idea for translating guitar chords to piano is a method of counting up in half steps from an open string.

After getting some practice with this method, you can effectively steal all the guitarists’ favorite songs!

Let’s practice by sinking our teeth into one of the most wonderfully cliché, guitar-based songs ever made – “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. Take a look at the video below that provides the tabs.

Now it’s time to figure out the right piano notes, and from there, the appropriate piano chords to play!

We’ll just focus on the first measure for now. To find the first note, we look at which string it’s played on. The number 7 is on the third line from the bottom, which indicates the D string.

Since the fret number is 7, we’re going to count up 7 half steps from the open D string. Feel free to use your piano to help you do this. When we count up we get these notes: D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A.

So, A is the first note. Next, let’s look at the second note. It’s played on the third thinnest string, which is a G. Since the number is 5, we count up 5 half steps from the open G string, giving us these notes: G, G#, A, A#, B, C.

So, our second note is C. Keep using this process to find the next notes.

When we get to beat 3 of this measure, there is a 7 and a 6 stacked on top of each other. This means that both notes are played at the same time. The 7 is on the thinnest string, E, while the 6 is on the third from the bottom string – D.

Starting with the thinnest string, E, let’s count up 7 half steps: E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B. Now, count up 6 half steps from D: D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#. So you’ll play B and G# at the same time.

So there you have it! What song are you going to convert to piano chords next? Do you have any questions about how to use this method? Let us know in a comment below.

AndyWPost Author: Andy W. teaches guitar, piano and more in Greeley, CO. He specializes in jazz, and has played guitar for more than 12 years. Learn more about Andy here!

 

 

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11 Quick and Easy Tips for Reading Guitar Chord Charts

11 Quick and Easy Tips for Reading Guitar Chord Charts

While it’s true that you don’t need to read music to play the guitar, you should learn how to read guitar chord charts. A guitar chord chart is a visual representation of a chord.

This helpful visual is a little like music-by-numbers; it tells you which finger goes where and on what string, so in case you come across a chord you don’t know, you’ll be able to play it. Here’s an example of a guitar chord chart, also known as a guitar chord diagram:

Guitar Fingering Diagram E minor

Guitar chord charts are a cinch to read once you learn what all the lines, numbers, and circles mean. Are you ready to start learning how to play songs on the guitar? Here are 11 things you need to read guitar fingering charts.

11 Tips for Reading a Guitar Chord Chart

Visualization

The grid of six vertical and five horizontal lines represents the guitar fretboard. If you’re having trouble understanding the basic layout of the image above, hold your guitar in front of you so that the strings are facing you and the headstock is pointing up.

The image of the guitar chord chart represents this same view of your guitar, with strings running vertically and frets horizontally.

Which End Is Up?

Guitar chord charts are more commonly situated vertically (like above) rather than horizontally, especially in songbooks. It’s good to learn to interpret both vertical and horizontal grids though.

Righty or Lefty?

Since guitar chord charts are typically written for right-handed guitarists, they provide a challenge to left-handed players, who have to do a bit of re-visualization by flipping the chart around. If a given source doesn’t provide a left-handed version, you can download left-handed guitar chord charts online.

Chord Name

The letter at the top of the chart is the name of the chord.

RELATED: 20 Easy Songs with Basic Guitar Chords

Vertical Lines

The vertical lines on a guitar fingering chart represent the six strings of the guitar. The low E string (the thickest one) is on the left of the diagram, followed by the A, D, G, B and high E string, which is on the right of the diagram.

The string names are sometimes noted at the bottom of the guitar chord chart.

Horizontal Lines

The horizontal lines on the chart represent the metal frets on the neck of the guitar. The top line will generally be bolded or marked by a double line, which indicates the guitar’s nut. Fret numbers are sometimes noted to the left of the sixth string.

Chords Beyond the 4th Fret

If the guitar fingering chart is depicting frets higher than the fourth fret, the top line on the chart will not be bolded (or doubled) and fret numbers will be shown, either to the left of the sixth string or to the right of the first string, to help orient you on the fretboard.

SEE ALSO: How to Read Guitar Tabs

Black Dots

The black (or red) dots on the diagram tell you which frets and strings to place your fingers on. The numbers inside the dots indicate which fingers to use on each of the frets. They correspond to the four fingers of the fretting hand.

Number 1 is the index finger, 2 is the middle finger, 3 is the ring finger, and 4 is your pinky. You don’t use the thumb to fret, except in certain unusual circumstances. In those cases there would be a “T” inside the black dot.

Fingerings can also sometimes be found written along the bottom of the strings of a chord chart, or between the nut mark and the chord name instead of inside the dots.

X’s and O’s

An “X” above the bolded nut mark indicates a string you don’t pick or strum. An “O” in the same location means to play the string open.

Alternate Fingerings

You may come across a suggested chord fingering that you simply cannot contort your fingers to play. In this case try experimenting with alternate fingerings. The most commonly used chord fingerings, however, will work for most guitarists.

How a Barre Chord Is Charted

As you probably already know, barre chords are chords that involve using one finger, usually your index finger, to hold down multiple strings in a single fret simultaneously.

A barre is noted on a guitar chord diagram by a curved or solid line running through a fret from the first note to the last note of the chord, or by a series of dots in the same fret that all bear the same number.

Ready to give it a shot? Check out this infographic from Guitar Domination to learn 32 essential chords. [Preview below]

Learn to Read an Acoustic Guitar Chord Diagram

 

About The Author

Guitartricks.com is an online subscription service that has provided video guitar lessons for beginners and advanced players since 1998. The site has more than 11,000 video lessons and 600+ song tutorials. Learn more about the site with this Guitar Tricks Review.

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play thousands of songs using these guitar chord progressions

Play Thousands of Songs Using These Guitar Chord Progressions

guitar chord progressionsDid you know there are a handful of common guitar chord progressions that are repeatedly used throughout hundreds of songs?

If you’ve spent much time on YouTube, you might be familiar with the Axis of Awesome. In their popular video, the Axis of Awesome performs a compilation of around 50 songs in under six minutes, all while using the same guitar chord progression.

The video is very entertaining as it creatively reveals a secret that professional musicians have known for decades.

Guitar Chord Progressions to Play Thousands of Songs

Although most popular songs are based on just a handful of guitar chord progressions, sometimes the chords are modified (adding a 7th or 9th for example).

They can also be played in a different order, or using different instruments and grooves. So to the untrained ear it may be hard to detect the same underlying chord structure.

Once you understand how the most common guitar chord progressions work, it will open the door for you to play thousands of songs easily. Let’s start by learning about some of the most basic guitar chords.

5 Basic Guitar Chords

If you’re just getting started on the guitar, you’ll want to learn a few basic chords first. The chord charts below show five of the most common open chords. Open chords are chords where some of the strings are played “open”, without holding down any of the frets.

5-Chords-Grids-Together

To read the chord charts, imagine that the top line of the chart is the nut, where the neck of the guitar meets the headstock. Each of the six vertical lines represent a guitar string, with the low E string at the far left and high E at the far right.

Each horizontal line represents a different fret on the fretboard. The numbers along the bottom of the chart let you know which finger on your left hand should fret each string. Your left hand fingers are numbered one through four, starting with your index finger.

For example, to play the A chord as pictured above, hold down the D string with your middle finger on the second fret, the G string with your ring finger on the second fret, and the B string with your pinkie finger on the second fret.

Now, strum from the A string down. The X at the top of the diagram indicates that you should not strum the low E string.

Understanding Guitar Chord Progressions

A chord progression is a pattern of usually three or four chords that is repeated throughout a song. Some songs use a couple different guitar chord progressions, switching back and forth for the verse and the chorus.

You might find other songs that use a single chord progression the whole way through.

Many musicians use what is known as the Nashville System to talk about chord progressions. For example, let’s look at the common chord progression C-F-G, also known as I-IV-V in C.

nashville number system

On the Nashville number system, each note in the scale is given a number one through seven, written as a Roman numeral. The root note of the scale is I. In our example, C is I, the root note. F is the fourth note in the scale, IV, and G is the fifth, V.

The Nashville system encourages musicians to focus more on the relationships between notes rather than the notes themselves. This is particularly helpful if you are playing with a singer or another musician and they ask you to change the key you are playing.

Rather than scrambling to transpose the song, using your familiarity with the relationships between guitar notes, you can quickly and easily switch keys.

I-IV-V Chord Progressions

Common guitar chord progressions like G-C-D, A-D-E, and E-A-B are all examples of the I-IV-V chord progression in action. So the next time you are looking at a song and you see one of these sequences, you will know you are looking at a I-IV-V chord progression.

The I-IV-V chord progression forms the foundations of countless classic songs and contemporary favorites. According to Ultimate Guitar, the I-IV-V progression, with slight variations, can be used to play the following songs:

  • “Imagine” by John Lennon or “Everybody Talks” by Neon Trees (I-IV)
  • “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers or “Where Everybody Knows Your Name” from “Cheers” (I-V)
  • “Basket Case” by Green Day or “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt (I-IV-V-I)
  • “All the Small Things” by Blink-182 or “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga (I-V-IV-I)

I-V-vi-IV Chord Progressions

Want to learn to play all the songs from the Axis of Awesome video we shared about? Just get familiar with the I-V-vi-IV chord progression and you will have all 50 songs (and many more) in the bag!

You can play all the songs from the video using the chord progression C-G-Am-F, plus:

  • Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”
  • Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”
  • The Beatles’ “Let It Be”

ii-V-I Chord Progressions

These progressions are commonly seen in jazz standards, though they do creep into pop songs from time to time. Using an ii-V-I progression, such as Dm-G-C, you can play songs ranging from the jazz favorite “Autumn Leaves” to Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend.”

SEE ALSO: Easy Guitar Tabs to Play Now

Practicing Guitar Chord Progressions

Now that you are familiar with the most common guitar chord progressions, memorizing the chord patterns and practicing will help you get to the point where you can easily learn hundreds of songs.

If you’re just starting out on the guitar, changing from one chord to another quickly and smoothly might be challenging for you.

Choose a chord progression and practice strumming each chord slowly and evenly for four counts. Try to keep your transitions on tempo with the pace you are playing.

Once you feel comfortable changing chords, try playing one song in a few different keys. As you play, sing or hum along to hear the difference.

amazing grace

Try playing “Amazing Grace” as pictured above in the key of C and then move it to the key of G. Changing keys helps you to hear the relationships between notes, which makes it easier for you to develop your ear.

Write Songs of Your Own

Another great way to apply these guitar chord progressions is in writing your own songs. Don’t feel like you have to use only these chords. Instead, use them as a starting point to explore your musical vision.

If you’re just beginning to write your own music, it helps to know which chords will sound good together. Try taking one of the tried and true chord progressions you’ve just learned and put your own spin on it by adding or subbing a new chord, or playing it with a funky rhythm.

For more help with guitar, private lessons with a qualified instructor are the best way to sharpen your skills. The right teacher will give you the personal attention you need to make your dreams a reality.

TakeLessons guitar teachers are qualified, pre-screened, and can help you understand more about guitar chord progressions. Search for your perfect guitar teacher today!

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Essential guitar chord progressions

4 Essential Guitar Chord Progressions for Beginners

Essential guitar chord progressions
When you first start learning how to play the guitar, it’s tempting to rush into your favorite songs and riffs, but beginning with the basics – like guitar chord progressions – can make a huge difference in your progress.

In this article, we’ll help you master four easy guitar chord progressions. But first let’s look at a couple important chords you’ll need to learn in order to play these progressions.

Learning Guitar Chord Progressions: Step 1

Once your guitar is in tune, start out by learning “first position” or “open chords.” These chords are played close to the nut and utilize a number of open strings. The best chords to start learning are Em, C, G, and D.

Em is the first chord you should learn on the guitar. Here’s how to play this commonly used chord:

E minor chord

The next chord you should learn is C, or C major. For this chord, you only need to strum the top five, highest-sounding strings.

As you practice these guitar chords, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

  • Play the notes of the chord individually, making sure that all the notes are sounding loud and clear.
  • Practice switching between different chords and keeping a steady beat. Try not to stop – the goal is to switch between chords, getting the best sound possible.

Now you’re ready to learn some easy guitar chord progressions. (Keep reading to learn the fingerings for the G and D chords, too!)

SEE ALSO: How to Play the F Chord on Guitar

4 Easy Guitar Chord Progressions for Beginners

Basic Guitar Chord Progression #1

Play these two measures four times. Once you’ve mastered this progression, you’re ready to add in the G chord. For the G chord, there are two fingerings shown below.

The one in red should be avoided if at all possible because it’s more difficult when you are switching between a G and a C chord. The one in black may seem awkward at first because you are using your fourth finger, which is your weakest finger, but keep practicing and it’ll get easier!

Basic Guitar Chord Progression #2

Play this guitar chord progression four times. With the addition of the D chord, shown below, you can play thousands of songs! The biggest problem encountered with this chord is getting the first string to sound. Make sure that your third finger is not touching the first string. Here is the fingering:

Basic Guitar Chord Progression #3

Now that you know both G and D, play this progression four times for even more practice.

Basic Guitar Chord Progression #4

Play the first four measures shown above two times, then end on G.

There are a lot more chords to learn and also different versions of these particular chords. But knowing these guitar chord progressions is a great start because they will allow you to play thousands of songs.

Want to switch it up and do more with these chords? Try the following exercise for each chord progression:

  1. Strum only on beat 1 of each measure. This gives you plenty of time to get to the next chord.
  2. Next, try strumming only on beats 1 and 3.
  3. Finally, strum on all 4 beats.

By now you should be very familiar with some basic guitar chord progressions. To advance even more in your skills, consider working with a guitar teacher. An experienced teacher can help propel you to the next stage of mastering the guitar. Best of luck on your musical journey!

Pacific guitar lessons with Matt B.Matt B. teaches guitar to students of all ages in Pacifica, CA. Matt joined the TakeLessons team in October 2012, with over 40 years of experience teaching music. His specialties include pop, jazz, folk, and rock guitar styles. Learn more about Matt, or search for a teacher near you!

 

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5 Killer Tips for Mastering Guitar Chords

Guitar chordsLast week, TakeLessons teacher Kevin B. showed us how to play 5 easy guitar chords that allow you to play tons of easy songs.  Have you been practicing?

Just as pianists should learn the theory behind scales, beginner guitar players should review individual chords to ensure a well-rounded foundation.  After all, chords are the basis of guitar playing, so the more you know, the easier time you’ll have learning songs.  Instead of just memorizing each chord, go the extra mile to really understand which notes are involved and why. Check out a few of these great tips from the Not Playing Guitar blog and you’ll be dominating those guitar chords in no time:

1. Become an expert.
Your love of chords and what they can do for you should push you to learn as much as you can about them. For example, learn all about chord inversions and extensions, or how to alter chords by moving just one note.

2. Learn how chords are made.
Your first step to becoming a chord expert should be to learn how chords are made. You can learn the notes of each chord and their relative scale positions. Your knowledge will help you learn how to find or create fingerings for any chord, play chord extensions and inversions and enrich your playing.

3. Practice in all keys.
Whenever you learn a new chord progression or a song, practice it in as many keys as possible.

4. Integrate each chord you learn with those you know already.
Make sure you understand how each new chord you learn relates to the others you already know. What is its place in progressions and songs? What other chords does it work well with?  Remember to practice the new chord with the chords you know already, and learn how to change to and from all of them with the new chord.

5. Integrate new chords into your repertoire.
When you learn a new way to play a chord, try out the new form in your existing songs and progressions. This will grow your playing options and also allow you to hear how different chord forms sound.

Ready to take your guitar playing to the next level?  Find a private teacher near you and sign up for music lessons here!

 

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Free TakeLessons Resource

 

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Learn to Play 20 Songs Using 5 Easy Guitar Chords

5 Basic Guitar Chords & 20 Easy Guitar Songs for Beginners

easy guitar chords guitar songs
Are you ready to learn 5 basic guitar chords that are the basis of dozens of easy songs? In this blog post, we’ll take a look at a few simple open-string chords on the guitar that you can use to play many beginner guitar songs.

You’ll learn how to read guitar chord grids and tips for memorizing these 5 important guitar chord shapes. We’ll also take a look at a chord-change exercise that will help you get your chord playing skills up to speed in no time.

How to Play 20 Guitar Songs with 5 Easy Guitar Chords

Understanding Chord-Grid Notation

Along with guitar tablature (or “tabs), chord grids are an important shorthand method of notating guitar music. Although it is important for all guitar students to eventually learn to read music notation, tablature and chord grids are usually a better option for beginners who just want to learn simple rock, pop, or folk songs quickly. Remember, the notation is just a means to an end, and just another way to learn something you’ll play on your guitar.

basic guitar chord gridWith chord-grids, you are looking at a simple diagram, or snapshot, of the guitar neck. The guitar is oriented so that the headstock is pointing upward, horizontal lines represent the fret-wires that separate the frets (spaces), and the vertical lines are strings.

Dots inside the diagram represent left-hand fingers, which are placed over the string inside the indicated fret. For the ‘A’ chord pictured here, all three fingers sit inside the second fret. Set your fourth (pinky) finger on the 2nd string, your third (ring) finger on the 3rd string, and your second (middle) finger on the 4th string.

Often the left-hand thumb will stay anchored on top of the neck to deaden the sixth string. This is called a flesh mute and allows the guitarist to strum all six strings so that only five strings are heard.

5 Open-String, Basic Guitar Chords for Beginners

A, C, D, Em, G Guitar Chords for Beginners

Once you understand the notation, the next step is to get the chords down by memory. In some cases, these basic guitar chords can be remembered easily by comparing them to geometric shapes. If you connect the dots inside each grid, you’ll see that the ‘A’ is a straight line, the ‘C’ is a diagonal line, the ‘D’ is an equilateral triangle, and the ‘G’ chord forms an isosceles triangle.

After you have the chords memorized, it’s time to check each chord string-by-string to ensure all the notes are sounding. Pick through each string going downward from the bass strings to the treble strings. Listen closely to verify each note. If a string is muted, try resetting the fingers so they sit higher on the fingertips. Make sure the fingers do not touch against any open strings, thereby dampening them.

Chord Change Drills

guitar chord progressions

Practice changing between any two chords using this simple drill. Play each chord on beats 1 & 3, lift the fingers completely on beats 2 & 4, and repeat. Make sure to set and remove all the fingers together (simultaneously). By doing this for a few minutes each day, you will learn to do fast and clean chord changes in the left hand, which is key to being able to play songs well.

20 Beginner Guitar Songs Using Only A, C, D, Em, and G Chords

Now that you’ve mastered the basic guitar chords for beginners, you can move on to learning dozens of new songs. Here’s a list of 20 easy guitar songs that use only these five chords:

1. Bad Moon Rising (Credence Clearwater Revival)

2. Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)

3. Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)

4. Catch the Wind (Donovan)

5. Clementine 

6. Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

7. Lightly Row 

8. Amazing Grace 

9. Time of Your Life (Green Day)

10. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star 

11. Heart of Gold (Neil Young)

12. Old MacDonald 

13. Story of My Life (Social Distortion)

14. Louie, Louie (The Kingsmen)

15. What I Got (Sublime)

16. Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)

17. Anything, Anything (Dramarama)

18. Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young)

19. Mary Had a Little Lamb 

20. Viva la Vida (Coldplay)

These songs are just the beginning! If you need help mastering the chords, or adding more difficult chords such as the F Chord, to your repertoire, try working with a guitar teacher near you, or find one online. Taking guitar lessons is a great way to ensure you’re building your skills on a solid foundation. Now go have fun rocking out!

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5 Tips for Smooth and Efficient Guitar Chord Transitions

Beginning guitar lessons is an exciting thing – learning the notes, building your first chord, and of course, playing your first song.  However, it’s not all sunshine and roses.  Learning to play takes commitment, practice and the motivation to get over some common beginner hurdles.  First, the painful process of building calluses can drive many to stop practicing.  Second, there’s always that awkward stage of learning to seamlessly transition to different chords.  You know the drill –  practice makes perfect.  But here are some additional tips from Teachstreet.com to help with switching chords:

1. Keep your fingers as close to the fret board as possible.  When that pinkie and third finger start flying out in space it takes longer for them to come back down.

2. Build your chords from the bottom string up.  For some reason a lot of us get in the habit of building our chords from the top down.  Like in an open C major chord, starting with the 2nd string, then 4th, then 5th.  The problem with that is your pick is going to hit the bottom strings first, so get those notes placed first.  That extra split second will give you a chance to get the last top bits of the chord in place.  I know it seems like a negligible amount of time, but you’ll be surprised how it can improve your guitar playing.

3. When moving from one chord to the next, move the finger that has the farthest to go first.  For instance, in moving from G major to C major in the open position, your first finger has to move all the way from the 5th string to the second.  Lead with that finger and you’ll find that your other fingers naturally pull along behind to end up close to their intended frets as well.

4.  Stay relaxed and let the natural movement of your hands help you get to the chord.  Believe it or not, the guitar is actually designed very well to accommodate the natural movement of the human hand.  When you use tip #3 and lead with the farthest finger, your other fingers will follow along behind it naturally and you can get them to settle in the right place.  If you tighten up they won’t move as naturally, so stay loose.

5. Keep your right hand moving.  The way your brain works has a lot to do with how your hands react.  As a beginner, your brain is giving you permission to stop in between chords and rationalizes it as “we’ll get it eventually.”  It’s normal and happens on a subconscious level.  You can easily change that by setting up a dissonance in your brain.  That means presenting your brain with a problem it needs to fix.  Here’s the way it works:  You brain loves when your hands are moving together.  So if you force your right hand to keep strumming, no matter what happens in your left, your brain will want to solve that dissonance by making your left hand move faster to keep up with your right.  Exactly what we’re looking for.

Looking for a guitar teacher who can help you master chord transitions even faster?  Search for a guitar teacher near you here.

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Guitar Lessons for Beginners… Where Should You Start?

Beginner guitar lessonsThe weekend is over, and for some of us, it’s time to turn off the Christmas music and go back to reality.  And for those of you who received instruments or music equipment for the holidays, it’s time to schedule your music lessons and start practicing!

The guitar is a popular gift to give around this time, but it can be a daunting thing for a beginner.  While you may be already making a mental list of songs you’d like to learn, where do you start? What can you expect from your first guitar lesson?

Your lessons will vary depending on your teacher and your own personal goals and interests.  To get an idea, here are some common topics that a beginner guitar teacher may cover,  from UltimateGuitar.com:

Reading Standard Music Notation and Tablature
Learning to read music is not as hard as it seems and will definitely make the rest of your learning experience much easier. The notation is just the information about how to perform a piece of music. Without it, it’s similar to working to set up an item of furniture without being able to read the instructions. You could eventually figure it out, but it really will be more difficult and take longer than it should.

General Music Theory
You might think it’s a little premature to do this, but it’s definitely not. Music theory is a thing that you’ll work with throughout the entire process. It’s just like mastering the grammar of music. By knowing how the music is put together, you will have enough knowledge to apply that knowledge to each and every new tune that you learn.

Here is a good short list of basic theory concepts you should to get to:
– How chords are built
– Tension and release
– What a “key” is
– Chord relationships
– Half, Authentic, and Plagal cadences
– Intervals
– Borrowed chords

Strumming Rhythms
It is useless having chords if you do not have any rhythms to go along with all of them, right? You can begin with a few basic quarter note/eighth note rhythms and then extend into sixteenth notes plus syncopations. Work your rhythms initially with one chord, and after that begin using pairs of chords to rehearse changing them proficiently. You’ll go on to learn and invent rhythm styles in the course of your studies.

Position Playing
Position playing means being able to perform melodies higher up on the neck of the guitar than the open position. Once you have a few major and pentatonic scales under your digits, this won’t be that tough.

Pentatonic Scales
Typical teaching would have you master major scales to begin with. But for the guitar player, pentatonic scales are usually a lot more immediately useful. Just like anything, don’t try and learn all the stuff at once.

Major Scales
Same as with the pentatonics, you’ll want to work with a single form here. And when you know some major patterns, they may be slightly modified to turn into various other important scales as well. Always consider the way the newer thing you are studying works with the old things you mastered.

Minor Scales
Your minor scales are based on the major patterns you learned in the past. Here you will want to get to know the natural, harmonic, and melodic minors.

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So You Wanna Play Guitar (pt.XVIII.3)

Slash

Here is the latest entry from our San Diego Guitar Teacher Jason M:

In this segment I wanted to breakdown how all of the things that we've gone over so far can affect your playing.  1.) Guitar transcription notes 2.) Ability to recognize chords and play to a track 3.) Discovering the influences of those you are influenced by and 4.) Using similar techniques to uncover signature sounds of those same artists.

This time I wanted to take that one step farther in a piece called:  Unraveling the guitar solo.

Many guitarists 10 years ago loathed guitar solos.  It was just a wanky thing Slash and Santana did to imitate proficiency, right?  Wrong.  But still kinda, yeah… I'll get to that. 

You basically have a few ideas that are common to guitarists skills and ideas and are repeated thereafter.  Rather than bore you with notes and garbage I'll share with you a couple secrets that I've noticed occur during these solos.

The classic bend:  Figure out if you're in Em and whole step or unison bend on the 12th and 15th fret of the high e and B. 

The rock lead bend/chop/hammer lick:  Slash/Santana/Hammett all use it.  Uses the 3 lowest strings.  Bend your ring finger up on the 3rd string, barre the next 2 strings down with the first, hammer on and pull off the ring finger in a sequential order 4 or 5 times in a row.

The pedal or pull off ascension:  Three finger pull offs I've mentioned before, but an open E pedal can be added to sound like pieces of Iron Maiden or Dethlok.  Simply take the high e, tremelo pick it…. and sporadically hit the notes that sound right on that same string.  (you'll probably be in Em, but I said I wouldn't mention notes).

End with a whole step bend on the highest note and shake it with a strong vibrato at the end.  This is a great way to climax, unless you wanna shred down into open position for an aftermath.

Ok, so I mentioned a couple tricks… use em, abuse em.  Now do yo know how to play a Slash solo?  Maybe, but let me bring up the points.

The keys to rote memorization of the solo are awesome because it was designed to sound memorable, if what you're playing sounds like crap instead of Slash you'll know it.  Break it down not only by measure, but by use of technique and also melody.  Those three things are going to help you perfect the tones used. 

Say you have 3 of the 4 techniques involved that I previously mentioned.  Spot em, aniticipate them, and lock down about where they come in.  If there is a measure you just can't get, don't get hung up on it…. you'll hear it again the next time you come into the solo.  Your mind should be able to grasp it eventually.  And last, listen for those moments in the solo that feel like passion.  Those notes are the ones you hold on to, and they're generally not hard to play. 

Secret of the day: If you see 16,000 notes in a measure, it's probably only six.

Rock,

Jason M Jason

So You Wanna Learn How to Play Guitar (Pt. XV)

Sheet Music

Here’s another entry from our awesome San Diego Guitar Teacher Jason M:

Q: Jason, I’m in Paris right now and won’t be back until August but I want to learn how read music and be able to play a song I’ve never heard before just from the sheet.  For now, do you have any exercises I can do so I don’t lose dexterity?

A: Thanks Max, a great rut to get out of is the tablature rut and being able to sight-read music is a feature that a lot of people end up getting hung up on.  A great way to start off is to block out any tablature that you see attached to a regular five line staff (typically in older Guitar Magazines) and then look at the notes in place.  Starting off, you’ll want to learn the diad and major shape.  A major shape is simple, it’s just three notes located directly on top of each other.  If you see notes scattered around the ledger lines check and see if it matches the (1,3,5) Major or (1,b3,5) pattern throughout.  Just because there are six notes on the staff doesn’t mean there are six different notes you have to play.  Usually it’s just a simple chord shape.  Picking up the Circle of 5ths is the next step in learning what are called Key signatures.

As for dexterity, if you would like a variation on the “chromatic scale” there are versions that I like to use.  Instead of first middle ring pinkie, try first ring middle pinkie, or first pinkie, ring middle.  Another trick you can try is a chord exercise where you make a chord and then shift one finger of that chord at a time.  For example, make a D chord in 5th position, then slide it back to the 4th fret leaving the rest of the chord in place.  Or you can make a D chord in 5th position and bring back your ring finger back or forward on fret.  One last one would be to keep your chord in place and just let your pinkie wander around a bit while you’re finger picking.  That should keep you up to speed… plus a constant switching from a major to a minor diad shape into a power chord should be enough to keep you busy for now.

Rock out man, let me know if you have anymore questions.

Jason M

Jason M

Live Resources

Guitar Chord Progressions: A Guide for Beginners

Learning to play the guitar is a task that’s undertaken by thousands, if not millions of people each and every year. The guitar, as the second most popular musical instrument in the world (right behind the piano at number one), is the peoples’ choice for a myriad of reasons.

Most commonly, however, people decide they want to play the guitar because of how prominently it’s featured in today’s top music. Many people enjoy pop music because it’s catchy and the lyrics are infectious. The guitar is an easy avenue for those wanting to play their favorite pop songs. It’s also a great instrument to play while singing simultaneously.

What are Guitar Chord Progressions?

Chords are the building blocks to guitar chord progressions. If you think of each chord as a word in a book, you can think of the guitar chord progressions as a sentence in that book.

When you string several sentences together you get a paragraph, and the same is true for guitar chord progressions. If you string chord progressions together, you’ll get a verse to a song. It just keeps building into more complex variations. When you think of chord progressions in this way, it’s easy to understand how they all work together to create the song you’re trying to play.

The Nashville Numbering System

Chord progressions are written with roman numerals called the Nashville numbering system. The system notes the scale degree on which a chord is created. The I is the root, the IV is the fourth note in a scale, and V represents the fifth note in a scale. The progression acts as a template and lets the musician or songwriter create a rhythm.

The I, IV, V, I (one-four-five-one) progression can be heard in much of today’s popular music. Each progression can be played in any key, which allows for endless combinations and sounds. Lowercase roman numerals are utilized to denote minor chords.

Do remember, however, that chord progressions act as a template. Because of this, there are a countless variety of progressions out there. Sure, much of today’s most popular music utilizes the same progressions over and over again, but the key and notes used are often different. This is why songs that share the same guitar chord progression don’t sound like the exact same song. Similar, but not exact. Once you’ve mastered the idea of chord progression, you’ll likely be able to pick out the most common progressions from your favorite songs.

While most of us can’t simply pick up a guitar and start playing without instruction, the process of learning to play a song is fairly straightforward. Once you understand the guitar’s notes, it’s time to learn chords, and then chord progressions.

If you delve into the history of chord progression a bit you’ll find that thousands of songs, from both past and present, use the same chord progressions repeatedly. We need to first understand how chords work before we can move on to chord progressions.

The Chromatic Scale

Before you begin to truly understand chords, you need to first understand the chromatic scale. The chromatic scale is a musical scale that’s broken up into 12 pitches. These semitones are noted on the guitar by the frets.

You’ll notice on your guitar that each fret is separated by a metal strip. These metal strips allow you to change the pitch of a string by altering the length between the string and the bridge. To play a chord, you’ll need to use the scale to put together notes. Three or more notes together create a chord.

Em Guitar Chord

You’ll often see chords notated as in the chart above. The six vertical and five horizontal lines represent your guitar’s fretboard.

If you’re confused by the layout of the image above, hold your guitar in front of you so that the strings are facing you and the headstock is pointing up. The image of the chord chart represents this same view of your guitar, with strings running vertically and frets horizontally.

When you look at a guitar chord chart, you’ll notice that there are X’s, unfilled O’s, and filled O’s. The filled O’s will also sometimes contain numbers. The numbers represent which finger you should use to fret the note.

  • The unfilled O’s represent open chords.
  • The X’s represent strings you won’t play for the chord.
  • The filled O’s represent strings you must hold down to play the chord.

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Basic Guitar Notes & Chords

Guitar beginners often get confused with the term “chord” and the term “note.” A chord is a set of notes, usually three, that are played simultaneously. For example, the C major chord contains three notes: C, E, and G.

These three notes strummed together create the C major chord. Try looking at building chords the same way you would use building blocks. The first note is considered the root note and the other notes in the chord are strummed after it.

Here are a few more chord charts for you to study and play:

Basic Guitar Chords: A C D Em G

Open and Barre Chords

There are two types of chords that beginners should be aware of: open chords and barre chords. Open chords only use the first three frets on the guitar and they usually contain one or more open strings. They’re the first chords beginners should learn because they set the stage for an understanding of more complicated cords, such as barre chords.

Barre chords are played with two fingers holding down all or most of the strings of the guitar across multiple frets. The finger can be moved up or down the fret board to create different notes and sounds.

Major chords are the first that beginners should learn. A basic type of major chord is a triad. The triad consists of three notes: the root, a major third, and a perfect fifth. Minor chords are equally as important. You can create a minor triad by playing a root note, a minor third, and a perfect fifth.

How to Read Guitar Chords

Guitar tabs are frequently used to denote the chords that are used in songs. Tabs may seem a bit more complicated, but learning to read chords is no more difficult than reading a chord chart.

The tablature will show the chords to a song from left to right, as if you were reading text. The six horizontal lines represent the strings of the guitar and numbers are attached to each string along the tab. An O represents an open note, which you play without holding down a fret.

E-B-G-D-A-E guitar chords tabs

If you see numbers like 1,2, or 3, they represent the first, second, or third fret that you hold down. When the numbers are located on top of each other, they’re played simultaneously. Strings that don’t have a number written on top of them are strings that are not played at that moment.

Practicing Guitar Chords

When you’re trying to practice chords, the easiest way to do so is to play some basic songs utilizing the most popular chords in music. There are hundreds of songs that can be played with three chords. You’ll easily find guitar tabs and chord charts for these songs without a doubt.

In many cases, the easiest songs use the C, G, D chords. Once you’ve figured out the very basics of guitar chords, try practicing with these simple songs:

  • Happy Birthday Song
  • Follow Me by Uncle Kracker
  • To Be With You by Mr. Big
  • Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty
  • Wipe Out by The Surfaris
  • The Joker by Steve Miller Band
  • The Middle by Jimmy Eat World
  • Heart and Soul by Hoagy Carmichael
  • Brave by Sara Bareilles

Once you’ve mastered these three-chord songs, you can move on to four-chord songs. Four-chord songs number in the thousands and span every genre of music available.

Many utilize the C, G, D, and Em chords. In fact, much of today’s popular music uses these four chords to construct their music. Some popular four-chord songs include:

  • Cruise by Florida Georgia Line
  • Be Alright by Justin Bieber
  • I Wanna Talk About Me by Toby Keith
  • Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus
  • Say Something by A Great Big World
  • She Ain’t You by New Hollow
  • Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri
  • Vanilla Twilight by Owl City

Common Guitar Chord Progressions

In order to learn guitar chord progressions (instead of simply understanding the concept), you’ll need to practice common progressions. Thankfully, there are several beginner progressions that can help you easily understand how they work. Many songs are created using very basic progressions.

In fact, there are thousands of songs that utilize the most common guitar chord progressions. For beginners, the first three guitar chord progressions are the easiest to learn. Once you’ve mastered them, you can move on to intermediate guitar chord progressions.

50s Progression (I, vi, IV, V or I, vi, ii, V)

It can be heard as early as classical music, most notably in the work of Mozart. It, however, became immensely popular in the 1950s when the Doo-Wop genre used the progression extensively. “Monster Mash” by Boris Picket and “The Book of Love” by The Monotones are notable examples.

Pachelbel’s Progression (I, V, vi, iii)

It’s commonly seen in classical music but it’s also used in more modern songs. For example, Pachelbel’s progression is used in “Canon in D Major,” but it’s also used in Green Day’s “Basketcase.”

Pop-Punk Progression (I, V, vi, IV)

It was popularized in the 1990s but was seen as early as the 1950s in popular music. The progression lends itself to a slightly edgier sound. “Already Gone” by Kelly Clarkson, “Cryin’” by Aerosmith, and “Down Under” by Men at Work all use this progression.

The Blues Progression (I, I, I, I, IV, IV, I, I, V, V, I, I)

It startles the line between a beginner’s progression and an intermediate progression. While the blues progression uses more chord changes than beginner progressions, it’s one of the most commonly used ones. It uses the standard 12-bar blues progression, although songs outside of the genre have used the progression successfully. Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” is a good example.

Descending Flamenco Progression (vi, V, IV, III)

It’s an intermediate progression that’s seen in some blues songs and alternative recordings. “California Dreamin’,” for example, uses this guitar chord progression. A variation of this progression (vi, V, VI, V) is also seen more often in modern music.

Stepwise Bass Down (I, V6, vi)

It’s an intermediate progression that uses inverted chords. It’s a relatively new progression that can be heard in “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon. It can also be heard in songs from the 1960s and 1970s, although it’s rarer than the progressions listed above.

Now that you know all about chord progressions, it will only get easier from here. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to practice the guitar every day. Happy strumming!

Photo by mark sebastian