Lesson 2 Chord Placement

 

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In this lesson, we will focus on learning the correct techniques for chord placement and building strength in the fingers of our left hand.

 

2.1 Finger Notations

 

To aid the learning of the fingerings for the different chords and later fingerstyle plucking, the fingers on your hands are given the following notations:

 

 

2.2 What are Chords?

 

Chords are formed by playing 3 or more notes simultaneously.

 

For instance, C chord is made up of the notes C, G and E, and G chord is made up of G, D and B.

 

To play a chord on the guitar, you will need to press the frets that correspond to the notes that make up the chord.

 

In guitar playing, chords are represented by chord diagrams and/ or chord notations.

 

Let us look at how to interpret both types of representations using the C chord.

 

Chord Diagrams

 

  • Circles on the fretboard indicate the frets to be pressed for that chord.
  • Numbers represent the suggested fingers that you can use to press the respective frets (see 2.1).
  • “x” means to avoid the string(s) when playing the chord.

Chord Notations

 

Chord fingerings can also be represented as a string of numbers which stands for the frets to be pressed from the 6th to the 1st string e.g.

 

       C: x-3-2-0-1-0

 

Let’s try to make a C chord on the guitar!

 

If you have placed your fingers correctly on the fretboard, it should look like this:

 

 

Now sweep your index finger across the 5th string to the 1st.

 

Does it sound muted or cracky?

 

For beginners, your fingers may lack the strength to hold down the strings firmly enough for a clean sound.

 

But don’t fret (notice the pun)!

 

To play a chord cleanly, it is more of pressing the strings in the correct manner than pressing it down with a lot of strength.

 

2.3 Chord Placement

 

  1. Use the tip of your fingers to press down on the strings.
  2. Press near the middle of the fret. Avoid pressing at the edges which will produce a muted sound.
  3. The most common mistake that beginners make is to allow their fingers to collapse and the joints to lock when pressing on the strings. Locking of joints may allow you to exert more strength but prolonged playing with incorrect posture will lead to pain.
  4. Ensure that all your fingers are upright and rounded with no locking of joints.

 

Before moving on to the Exercises, let us go through some basics of guitar strumming.

 

2.4 Basic Strumming

 

Strum (verb): to sweep across several strings setting them in vibration.

In guitar playing, it is can be done:

 

1. Using your fingers

 

Pinch your thumb and index finger together. Use the nail of your index finger to brush the strings near the soundhole.

 

2. Using a pick

 

Pinch the pick between your thumb and index finger and brush the strings with the pick.

 

Exercise 2A

 

To simulate a teacher helping you to keep time by clapping, we can make use of a metronome mobile app.

 

The Pro Metronome app (iOS and Android, free) will be used for illustration.

 

 

  • Set the metronome app to 4/4 and 60*.

In a simplified manner, 4/4 means each bar consists of 4 counts and a tempo of 60 means a tempo of 1 count per second.

  • Hold down C chord.
  • Strum (using your index finger or the pick) at every beat for 4 bars (i.e. 16 times).
  • In the diagram below, each / represents a downward strum.

 

* The tempo numbers stated in all exercises are only suggested. Feel free to use other tempos to suit your preference and progress.

 

Let us look at 2 other chords.

 

D: x-x-0-2-3-2

 

Note that there are “x”s above the 5th and 6th strings.

 

This means that these 2 strings are not played.

G: 3-2-0-0-0-3

 

Alternate fingering for G chord:

 

Exercise 2B

 

  • Set the metronome app to 4/4 and 60.
  • Hold down D chord.
  • Strum at every beat for 4 bars (i.e. 16 times).
  • In the diagram below, each / represents a downward strum.

 

Exercise 2C

 

  • Set the metronome app to 4/4 and 60.
  • Hold down G chord.
  • Strum at every beat for 4 bars (i.e. 16 times).
  • In the diagram below, each / represents a downward strum.

 

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