Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Changing Chords On Guitar Without Stopping

The most challenging thing about playing guitar, no matter how long you have played, is changing chords smoothly and in rhythm. Even the greatest guitar players in the world struggle with a difficult chord change from time to time. But there are a number of things you can do to keep the music flowing.

Plan ahead. It's very important to think about the next chord and how it is played. In other words, make sure you know what fingers go where and where on the guitar the chord is played. In fact, try to picture the next chord in your mind. It will help you get there quickly, smoothly and cleanly. The goal is to make the chord change without interrupting the rhythm (taking too long to make the change).

It also helps to decide which finger(s) of the chord will land first. There are times when you'll be able to land all your fingers at the same time and that's ideal but not always possible. When playing a C chord, for example, it might be best to let your ring finger land on the 5th fret first as it is the bass note of the chord and the first string to play when strumming. Then quickly place your fingers on the remaining strings.

Substitute a different chord for a bar chord that's difficult to play. Even if the bar chord sounds better, if you can't make the switch in rhythm, you won't be able to make the song work (and that can be frustrating). With a little bit of practice and planning, you can play most songs without bar chords. When choosing an easier chord, keep in mind that you don't have to play all the strings all the time, In fact, for a lot of songs, many of the chords will sound better with three or four strings being played.

Make the chord switching part of the music. This is a little trick that all great guitar players know. For example, while switching from a G chord to a C chord, you can play an open string as you're changing. In this case, you could play the G chords three times, then play the third string open as the fourth beat while you are forming the C chord.

Use a bass run between chords. Try this one: play a G chord, then play the fifth string open, then the fifth string at the 2nd fret. Finally, play a C chord starting with the fifth string at the 3rd fret (the bass note for the C chord). Not only does it make the chord change easier but the bass run adds to the music.

Practice the difficult chord changes separately. Take the most difficult chord changes and practice them over and over until you get them down. The next time you play the song, you can breeze through the difficult parts.

Changing chords on guitar is a challenge for any player but there are a number of things you can do to go from chord to chord without stopping. You'll keep the groove going and sound great in the process.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Guitar Hacks

No Pain no Gain

Chords are notorious for causing pain in fingers and it's a big factor in guitar abandonment. The pain of pressing down strings will go away with regular practice. Just start with E, A & D chords. Play these until you can switch back and forth smoothly. Eventually, you'll have calloused fingers and clamp onto chords with ease. If a steel string guitar is still too painful to play you may be better suited to a different guitar. The classical guitar has nylon strings which are much easier to push down. Electric guitar strings are even easier to play, but don't plug it in while practicing - an electric amp is too distracting for someone simply trying to learn the basics.

Tap your foot

If you can tap your foot in time, then you can absolutely strum the guitar in time too. The key here is to always be tapping your foot, but let it be your master clock. You can trust that foot, so go with it and never miss a beat. This can at first feel awkward, but it's no different than riding a bike. Once you get the hang of it, you'll always have the rhythm. The common problem of stopping and starting over in the middle of a song comes from overthinking. Follow the foot and if your chords are buzzing keep strumming anyway. Don't let a bad chord stop your flow - play right through even if you have to play bad chords. Just keep the tempo and keep strumming.

Get a Tuning Fork

Remember these? You smack it against the dresser and it responds with a perfect tone. Not only does it help tune the strings, but also your ears. There are a tons of digital tuners out there, but they have created a generation of lazy guitarists who tune by sight. These tuners get the job done, but when looking at the colored strobes, the ears can become disengaged. The tuning fork forces critical listening, and activates musicality. This simple tip alone can bring a rapid advancement in playing for everyone from students to professionals. Seriously, grab a set online or at the local guitar shop. Another option is to use an online guitar tuner as a virtual tuning fork.

Learn That Song

We all have one. That song that we know all too well and can be played inside your head, from start to finish. Commit to learning a song or two and playing it all the way through. Start by finding the chords online or in a tablature book at guitar center. After you can play the chords, it's time to play along with the actual song. Playing guitar is 90% listening and 10% doing. While the song plays, just strum along lightly while keeping focused on the song. The trick here is to improve your listening and then use it to self adjust. Music is a subtle art whether your thing is black metal or ragtime.

Turn on the TV

With the television turned on and muted, play the guitar while watching your favorite show. This will improve another subtle guitar skill called Intuition. Simply knowing those chord changes (without looking) will bring fluidity and comfort on the instrument. Getting your eyes off the instrument, while playing it, brings familiarity.

Final tips

Since those E, A & D chords may get boring, a subtle change to the fingering can make things very interesting. Take the middle note out of the E and A chords for a more bluesy sound. Learn all the variations of these chords and you'll soon be improvising and writing tunes. Grab a guitar tuner that suits your style.

After finding your way around standard tuning on the guitar, consider trying an open tuning for a while. The guitar will instantly sound deeper and heavier. All of the chords you've been practicing will sound completely different. Explore a bit in open tuning and you'll feel like a vast horizon opens up right in front of you. Make some music.