Chords and Rhythm

Learning the basic guitar chords is the quickest and easiest way to get you playing along to your favourite songs and sounding like a real guitar player. If you like to sing, being able to accompany yourself by strumming chords on an acoustic guitar is a fairly easy skill to learn and have you sounding great in a fairly short period of time.

Learning Guitar Chords

When you first start learning chords, the quickest and easiest to pick up are called the open chords. These are the basic chords that everybody learns when they first start on guitar. The chords are fairly easy on your fingers and are all up at the top of the neck. You can go a long way as a rhythm guitarist just by knowing the open major and minor chords.

CAGED chords

The next step is learning how to move the open chord shapes up and down the neck using barre chords. The most common major barre chords use the A and E shapes while holding down all the strings one or two frets above the shape using the first finger of your left hand. You can adapt the shapes of the open C, A, G, E, and D chords in this way, hence the term CAGED chords.

Just like the major chords there are various minor chord shapes that you can use either open or as a barre chord as well. Depending on the type of music you’re playing, they’re a little less common, but important to know as well.

7th Chords

Once you know the major and minor chords, you’ll want to add a little more colour to your playing by adding some of the other chord types as well. The most common of these are the 7th chords. 7th chords can be major, minor, dominant or even diminished.

As you might expect, 7th chords differ from regular major or minor chords by adding the 7th note to the chord, giving the chord its characteristic sound.

Chord Inversions

Another way to spice up your rhythm guitar playing is to use different inversions of the various chords. By changing which note you place on the bottom of each chord, you change the inversion of the chord and each inversion has its own particular sound.

Strumming Patterns

Finally, rhythm playing requires you to have a rock solid strumming technique. There are a wide variety of strumming patterns that you can use, but they’re all based on having a good sense of the “feel” of the song and applying some basic rules.

Becoming a good rhythm guitar player, like being a good lead player is all about understanding the song and using your musicianship skills to ensure that your part fits in seamlessly with the rest of the band.


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