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Learning new guitar chords

Mark McKenzie 12-17

Learning new guitar chords“Do I need to know every chord?”

Hey there Guitar Freaks :)

I remember when I’d just started getting into the guitar in a big way and someone bought me a ‘Chord Book’ for Christmas. It had 1,115 guitar chords in it, and I remember worrying how I was ever going to learn every shape in the book.

These chords had crazy numbers after them that looked more like mathematical equations then a name of a chord. I tried playing them, and of course, I started at the beginning of the book (because that’s what you do right?).

Tricky chords

I recognized a few of the ‘A’ chords at first…but then it got real scary. My guitar neck was warped and my strings were way too high off the fretboard, so I struggled to play beyond the 3rd fret.

Then I joined the NZ Army Band and had to play Amaj7 and G13 and Dmin(b5). I was in big trouble because I’d spent the previous years pretending to be Van Halen in front of my mirror. So I had to dust off my old trusty chord book.

Now my memory is not the best, so I started by finding one way of playing the chord and it had to be versatile. By that I mean…it had to be moveable, so I could play the same shape in different frets (eg Amaj7 could be moved up two frets and become a Bmaj7). That way I only needed to memorize one shape for that (maj7).

Pretty quickly I realized I needed two ways of playing each chord, because often I’d have to play a lot of chords in a bar, and needed them to be close to each other.

So back to the chord book for a second version of the same chord.

The truth is…I don’t really know that many guitar chords. I know more than enough…but nowhere near 1,115 of them. But I do OK with the ones I do know.

When I find a chord that I don’t know (yes that still happens), I like to find two ways of playing it that suit me and the way I approach the guitar. The chord book is simply a tool. It’s a map.

I like to think of guitar chords as colors. So if ‘A’ is blue, then ‘Am’ might be a powder blue and ‘Amaj7′ a teal blue. The ‘Chord Book’ is like a color chart for guitar chords. Maybe you’re thinking of changing a few colors…well try a new color from the chord book and see if it works for you.

Let’s try it out. Here are some chord progressions below. I’ve given an example of how I might change the colors too. You should have a go using our chord book to help you make your own versions of the same progression.

Chord Progression Variations

Basic E A B A
Variation Emaj9 Amaj7 Bsus2 Amaj9
Basic Dm Am G G7
Variation Dm7 Am7 D/G G13
Basic A Bm C#m D
Variation Amaj9 Bm7 C#m9 Dsus2

Let me know how ya go :)



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