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Practicing Simple A Minor & E Major Chords


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Simple Chords Group 2: Intro To A Minor & E Major

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In this lesson we are going to learn a simple E major chord.

Some of the notes in this chord are "open" string notes. In this case, make sure to keep your fingers clear of that string so you don't mute it. You want to have your hand "hovering" or "arched" slightly over any string that has an "open" string note. Some of the notes are "fretted" notes. In this case, place the tip of the your index finger right behind the first fret of the G string (the third thinnest one).

It is important to use the tip of your finger. Beginners find their fingers can be tender & occassionally are tempted to use the pads of their fingers. With time (and dedicated practice!) your fingertips will harden with callouses. Until then, tough it out! You can do it! It is worth it!

From the last knuckle of your finger to the fingertip, arch your finger so it is pointing straight down into the string & fretboard. This will give you the most leverage & power. In addition, your fingertip should be right behind the fret you are playing. Not on top of the fret! You will get a muted sound right on top of the fret. Also, not too far behind the fret. In that case you won't get enough leverage & you will be making it too hard on yourself. Right behind the fret is the best location for any fretting any note!

Your thumb should be placed directly opposite your fingers on the back of the neck. Your thumb should provide just enough pressure to keep your hand firmly in place on the neck and opposing pressure to help your fingers hold down any fretted notes. Sometimes beginners squeeze too hard with their thumb and, or their fingers. Actually this is a problem for some skilled guitarists, too! Remember that you want just enough pressure to get the job done. Not enough will, of course, result in a poor sounding chord. But too much will is wasted effort and can over time actually hinder your ability to move quickly and effectively to the next chord or hand position.

First, get the notes of these beginning chords to sound. After you can do that, start to experiment with exactly how much pressure you need in order to play fretted notes and chords.

We want to practice playing each chord using two different approaches. We want to individually pluck each string slowly right after one another. This will give us a way to hear whether or not every note in the chord is sounding as clearly as possible. After you've made sure that each note is sounding as clearly as possible, then we want to strum the chord, lightly grazing the pick over each string quickly right after one another. This is typically how chords are strummed on the guitar. Once you get used to this technique, try to strum back and forth.

Now we have two more simple chords to put together! In this lesson we will practice strumming them and going back and forth between the A Minor and E major chords. The idea here is to get used to changing from a chord using two fingers to a slightly different position using only one finger. Notice that the index finger frets both notes that are needed on the first fret; the middle finger plays the note that is needed on the second fret. This is a finger placement principle you will see used often as you learn more about playing the guitar.

Start with the A minor chord. Get your fingers in position. Strum it three times downward. Stop the strings (mute!) from ringing. Remove your middle finger and move your index finger over to the G string for the E major chord position. Strum it three times downward. Stop the strings (mute!) from ringing. Move your index finger back over to the B string, place your middle finger back on G string to get back to the A minor chord position.

Repeat this over and again.

Congratulations! You are playing more music!

Eventually we want to focus on rhythm. This means keeping good time with our strumming. We want to make sure that each strum is evenly spaced apart in time. Notice that we are starting with a pattern:

  • 1st Strum
  • 2nd Strum
  • 3rd Strum
  • Pause (mute)

    We do this as we first learn to play chords in order to have a good way to stay in time rhythmically. The Pause (mute) is useful in helping us have time to get our fingers from one chord position to the next. Gradually, we can try to practice playing chords on all four beats. But using idea of the Pause (mute) in place of a beat is a useful tool for guitarists of any level.

    Keep practicing until you can get all four strums in there and switch effectively between the A minor and E major chords.

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