Learning classical guitar can be daunting due to the sheer number of skills you need to acquire and master. These include reading sheet music and building up your fretting and plucking techniques.
One essential skill that often falls by the wayside is playing guitar chords. More often than not, classical guitar students pay more attention to other skills than incorporate guitar chord training into their regimen.
This is unfortunate, considering the fact you need to start learning guitar chords to help musical memory.
What’s musical memory, and what do guitar chords have to do about that?
If someone gave you a random string of letters, would you be able to memorize at least half of those? Now, what if someone gave you a sentence to remember?
Now, if you are just beginning to learn how to play the classical or acoustic guitar, you’ll find it difficult to memorize the fretboard and different notes. Think of each note as letters, and you’ll be confused about their location on your instrument’s neck.
The simplest and probably most effective way of memorizing those notes is to use patterns. Or, in this case, guitar chords.
If notes are equivalent to the letters of the alphabet, you can view chords as words. And by extension, chord progressions are akin to sentences.
As you keep practicing your instrument, you’ll be able to memorize the placement of individual notes on the fretboard. But if you are just starting with playing the guitar, you’ll have to put aside time to practice playing chords.
Major vs. minor chords
Now that you have some basic understanding of the importance of guitar chords when you are starting, it’s now time to move on to a few basic concepts, starting with major and minor chords.
Guitar chords can be broadly classified into two categories – major and minor chords.
Major chords like the A, C, E, and D chords are expressed like letters. On the other hand, minor chords are represented with the small “m” beside the chord name.
But what’s the difference between the two?
Major chords are comprised of the first, third, and fifth-degree of a major scale. On the other hand, Minor chords are composed of the first, flattened third, and fifth notes of a major scale.
How to practice and learn guitar chords
If you want to learn guitar chords, you’ll need to set aside time to practice these. This is particularly true if you are a beginner.
But how exactly should you proceed?
Instead of practicing playing guitar chords haphazardly, it is best to divide your practice sessions into three parts: chord memorization, chord changes, and timing.
Memorizing guitar chords
Before you play your first guitar chords, you need to learn chord shapes first. This will help you know where to place your fingers on the fretboard.
The simplest way to do this is to look at a chord chart and study the finger placement for the chord you want to play.
The chord diagram will detail which strings you need to play and the part of the guitar neck where you need to place your fingers.
When you are just starting, it is better to practice with what is called open chords. These beginner guitar chords are considered best for newbies because they require little finger strength and dexterity.
Practicing chord changes
Once you have memorized a few common chord shapes like the C major, G major, and E minor, the next thing that you need to do is to become comfortable switching from one guitar chord to another.
If you are trying to learn a chord-based song, it might be tempting to rush through the chord changes. Avoid this as much as possible.
Instead, practice changing chords slowly, paying special attention to proper technique.
Initially, start with two chords heavily used in popular songs, like the C major and G major.
At this stage, spend most of your practice time strumming one chord before shifting to another chord. Don’t worry if you are transitioning between the two chords slowly. Over time, you will become more comfortable, and switching between chords becomes second nature to you.
It also helps to practice chord changes using those that have a similar shape or finger placement, like A minor and E major or C major chord and A minor.
Once you feel comfortable switching from one guitar chord to another, you can ramp things up by playing in time.
For this task, you can use a metronome or simply count from one to four. Here, your goal is to develop your rhythm.
Start by choosing two chords. And then, count from one to four and then repeat. Every time you get to one, switch to the other chord. Use counts two and three to prepare for the chord changes.
Ideally, you should be able to switch to the other chord at the next one count. If you find this difficult, you’ll need to count slower.
But on the other hand, you can seamlessly switch between the two chords. You can increase the difficulty of the exercise by speeding your count. For this, you can buy a metronome or download an app on your phone.
Practice leads to mastery
How often should you practice, and for how many minutes?
While there are no set rules, you’ll progress faster if you practice playing guitar chords daily for at least five minutes.
At first, learning how to play chords may be challenging. But if you put in the time and effort, you’ll be able to memorize the chords and play more songs.