Playing chords

Playing guitar chords - making it a bit easier

Guitar chords can seem difficult for many beginning guitarists. You feel like there are thousands of them and they are impossible to memorize and play. For most popular music though you don't really need that many chords; you can actually perform credibly and make a living with just 4 chords! But of course, the more you learn about them the better guitarist you become and after a while you'll start to understand how to actually build chords too.

Memorizing chords

Learning to remember chords might be easier if you visualize them as shapes on the fretboard. Think of them as Lego or Tetris blocks or chess moves. In the basic course we will teach you multiple open chord shapes plus a power chord shape. We will introduce them one by one, so you'll have easier time learning them. Here's a simple exercise that can help you memorize a chord shape. Think of it as a memory game:

Study a chord from the chord diagram. Put your fingers on the right frets, look at them, play the chord and listen to the sound. Then take your hand off. Now, without looking at the screen, try to remember where each finger was, place them on the fretboard and play the chord. Does it sound the same? If not, check the diagram again.

Troubleshooting chords

At first it might be hard to get a good sound on a certain chord. There can be many reasons why it doesn't sound right or get accepted in the game:

  1. First always check that your fingers are on the right frets on the right strings. It's easy to make mistakes there even when you're an advanced guitarist.
  2. Make sure you don't accidentally mute any string that should be ringing. Play each string separately and listen to the sound. If you are muting a string with another finger then try to adjust your wrist or thumb position. You should try to have your hand arched, not lying flat on the fretboard. Note also that your fingernails must be short so that you can fret with your fingertips and minimize the area of contact.
  3. If a note is buzzing, adjust the position of the finger. Playing too far away from the fret requires more power, so always aim to play as close as you can. With some chords, especially the A major, it's hard though.
  4. You don't always have to play all the strings. If the chord diagram shows nothing on some string, then don't play it. Chances are that the note on that open string doesn't fit the chord and makes it sound wrong. You can use your free fingers in the fretting hand or even the thumb to mute the unwanted strings.
  5. Choose the right guitar for your hands. Practicing with a nylon string guitar is OK since you don't need as much strenght to press the strings, and nylon strings are more tender for your fingertips. However, if you have small hands, you may find it easier to reach certain chords on a steel string acoustic or an electric guitar, since the fretboard is narrower.
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