All posts in July 2017

Suspended Barre Chords

Just as we have suspended open chords, we have suspended barre chords, containing all the same advantages as regular barre chords. Like barre chords, these shapes are moveable and can be played anywhere on the neck, just look at the bottom note to see what your root is.  And like suspended open chords, they can be applied to major, minor, seventh and dominant chords, and likewise resolve to all of those chords.  Use these just as you would use suspended open chords to embellish and add flavor to your chord progressions. For a good example, try out California Dreamin’ by The Mamas & The Papas and use the 4th shape in the top row to play the G#7sus chord.

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California Dreamin’ – The Mamas & The Papas (1966)

Verse 1
.
                  C#m             B            A
All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown)
.       B        G#7sus             G#7
And the sky is grey (and the sky is grey)
A               E               G#7    C#m

I’ve been for a walk (I’ve been for a walk)
A             G#7sus             G#7

On a winter’s day (on a winter’s day)
.               C#m           B          A

I’d be safe and warm (I’d be safe and warm)
.    B        G#7sus            G#7

If I was in L.A. (if I was in L.A.)
.          C#m            B         A
California dreamin’ (California dreamin’)
.  B               G#7sus    G#7

On such a winter’s day

Verse 2
Stopped into a church

I passed along the way
Well, I got down on my knees (got down on my knees)
And I pretend to pray (I pretend to pray)
You know the preacher like the cold (preacher like the cold)
He knows I’m gonna stay (knows I’m gonna stay)
California dreamin’ (California dreamin’)

On such a winter’s day

Flute Solo
Cm     | Cm   | Cm     | Cm  A
E  G#7 | Cm A | G#7sus | G#7
Cm B   | A  B | G#7sus | G#7
Cm B   | A  B | G#7sus | G#7

Verse 3

All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown)
And the sky is grey (and the sky is grey)
I’ve been for a walk (I’ve been for a walk)
On a winter’s day (on a winter’s day)
If I didn’t tell her (if I didn’t tell her)
I could leave today (I could leave today)
California dreamin’ (California dreamin’)
.                  C#m      B        A

On such a winter’s day (California dreamin’)
.  B               C#m      B        A

On such a winter’s day (California dreamin’)
.  B               A      C#m

On such a winter’s day

 

Relative Major and Minor

Every major scale has a relative minor scale, and every minor scale has a relative major scale. Relative means that both scales contain the exact same notes.

A major scale’s relative minor can always be found one and a half steps below the major scale. For example, the relative minor of C major is A minor:

C is at the 8th fret. By going one and a half steps below C, we arrive at A.

Conversely, a minor scale’s relative major can always be found one and a half steps above the minor scale. So, the relative major of A minor is C major:

Why does this matter? If they contain the exact same notes, aren’t they the same thing? It matters because even though you’re playing the same notes, the note that you start on makes a big difference in the feeling or the “flavor” of the scale. Play each of these scales, and notice how they sound entirely different even though the same 7 notes are repeated in both patterns. In general terms, major sounds “happy” and minor sounds “sad”. This is a great example of how music generates emotions simply by the way it sounds, and there are specific reasons for this that will be covered in other lessons.

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The 10 Essential Barre Chords

Barre chords are often dreaded by beginning guitar players, and many players give up on trying to learn them altogether. This might be the single biggest mistake budding guitar players make, because barre chords are not as hard to learn as most people think, and they are an absolutely indispensable part of playing the guitar. You might start off hating barre chords, but once you get good at playing them – which should only take a few weeks or so – you will come to love them for their sheer versatility, and once you master them, you will wonder how you ever found them difficult.

What’s so great about barre chords? Literally, barre chords allow you to play any song in any key, a feat you can’t say for open chords. Yes, a capo can overcome some of those limitations, but then you’re reliant on an external tool that can’t easily be changed during a song. Barre chords circumvent all of these limitations by allowing you to play any type of chord using any root note, meaning you can play every possible chord with only your hand. No capo can match that.

How hard are they to learn? Well, I won’t lie. At first, they are difficult. No one ever plays them correctly right at the start. But don’t let this discourage you – look at all the guitar players out there who play them just fine. They all started out like you, and now they’re making barre chords look easy. That means you can do it too. Practice these chords for 5-10 minutes every day, and in a few weeks you will be good enough to play songs with them. At some point, they will become downright easy to play, and you’ll have difficulty remembering why they were ever hard. Have faith and practice – they will get easier and better!

To barre, form a vice with your first finger and your thumb, and press down as hard as you need to in order to make all six strings ring. Your thumb should be located approximately in line with your first finger. When you can make all six strings ring with just your first finger, try applying a chord shape with your other fingers. This is where things get really awkward, and chances are you won’t play clean chords at first, but that’s ok! That’s how it is for everyone at first. Keep at it, and soon your finger strength and dexterity will develop to the point that these chords become easy.

The major chord on the 5th string deserves special mention. It’s essentially a double barre, consisting of a barre with your first finger and another barre with your third finger, which also has to bend backwards to allow the first string to ring. This chord might seem impossible at first, but it isn’t! It’s just the hardest of the bunch. Practice it like any other and you will get it down too.

Learn the following 10 shapes, all of which are moveable, and memorize their names. There are 5 chords with a 6th string root, and 5 chords with a 5th string root. Let’s say you want to play a B major chord. You could choose to play it on the 6th string by simply locating B on the 6th string, then playing the major barre chord (6th string root version) with B as the bottom note. You could also choose to play it on the 5th string by doing the same thing, only locating B on the 5th string and using the 5th string root version of the major barre chord. Many songs will provide you the opportunity to choose 6th or 5th string versions of chords, so try to choose chord shapes that are close to each other and efficient to play.

The Minor Scale

The minor scale is a relative of the major scale, and can also be used to build chords, melodies and harmonies.

The red notes indicate the root note (A), and the numbers indicate the fingering. Learn and practice this pattern using three different techniques, always playing the pattern both up and then back down:

  • Alternate-pick every note
  • Hammer-on while ascending
  • Pull-off while descending

See the lesson on The Major Scale for tips on how to execute the above techniques.

Like the major scale, this pattern is a movable pattern that can be played anywhere on the guitar neck. Whatever note you start on is your root note, which indicates the key that you’re in. We will cover keys more extensively in a separate lesson, but for now, just know that you can play this pattern starting on any note on the 6th string, and that whatever note you start with is the key that you’re in.

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The Major Scale

Scales are simply groups of pitches arranged in ascending order.  There is a lot of music theory behind scales that is good to learn, but for starters let’s just learn how to play them.  There are many different scales, but the major scale is the most common.  The major scale is the foundation upon which virtually all chords, melodies and harmonies are built.

The red notes indicate the root note (in this case, C), and the numbers indicate the fingering. Learn and practice this pattern using three different techniques, always playing the pattern both up and then back down:

  • Alternate-pick every note
  • Hammer-on while ascending
  • Pull-off while descending

To alternate-pick, use a picking pattern that alternates strictly between down and up strokes. Start with a down stroke on the first note, then use an up stroke on the second note, a down stroke on the third note, and so on for the rest of the scale. Continue this alternate picking when coming back down the scale.

To hammer-on, play the first note and then while it’s still ringing, quickly and firmly press another finger to play a higher note. To pull-off, do the reverse – play a note, then quickly remove your finger to play a lower note with another finger that is already in place.

This pattern is a movable pattern that can be played anywhere on the guitar neck. Whatever note you start on is your root note, which indicates the key that you’re in. We will cover keys more extensively in a separate lesson, but for now, just know that you can play this pattern starting on any note on the 6th string, and that whatever note you start with is the key that you’re in.

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