|The "90%" Chords|
|It's commonly said that 90% of all of the
pop, rock, folk, blues, rhythm and blues, and other non-classical, non-jazz songs or tunes
can be played successfully using a few of only 12 guitar chords.
I think this number is conservative. I'd venture that you can play better than 95% with these chords, and you can do it elegantly and with great effect.
Here are the 12 chords. They're arranged in 5 keys, called the CAGED keys (easier to remember than the more alphabetical ACDEG). Using a capo and these sets of chords, you can play most tunes in any key.
|An easy way to hear and understand why these
are the "90%" chords is to play each chord progression left to right, listening
to the familiar patterns. You should begin to hear a few old songs in your head with
I suggest for simplicity's sake that you strum simple 4 bar patterns in each key, just like the next one. Strum each of the 4 chords 4 times before changing. You'll hear lots of rock and roll and folk songs in the process.
|Notice that I've repeated the designation of
each chord with a number. Those numbers represent the position the "root
note" or name note (C, for example) represents in that major scale of notes. So
in the C major scale, C is the root or 1st note of the scale, and the scale is named for
the root -- ALWAYS. F is the 4th note, G is the 5th, and A is the 6th note of the C
scale. That's way the chords are named as they are in the key of C. More about
scales will be found elsewhere here.
The point is to eventually learn -- at a minimum -- those 4 scale degrees for each of the CAGED keys, and to be able to know what is meant when someone says "This tune is in D, and it's a 1 - 5 - 1 - 4 - 1 in the verse."
There are 4 other scale notes - 2, 3, 7 and 8 -- which are all useful to learn about, but not as important as 1, 4, 5 and 6. Of course, the 8th note is the easiest -- it's simply the octave note of the 1 note. ("Octave" is derived from the Latin word for "eight.")
|Another Fun Exercise -- Mix 'Em Up!
When you play chords one after another, we call that a "chord progression." The "standard" chord progression is 1 - 6m - 4 - 5. But there are many more, and you should get used to mixing the order to create other sounds and textures. Here are a few ideas.
|Of course, there are several alternative
fingerings for each chord, but just stick with first position for the moment. Get
these five progressions under your fingers. Understand in each key what is the 1
chord, the 4 and 5 chords, and the relative minor chord.
Notice that there is some overlap. G is the 1 chord in the key of G, the 4 chord in D, and the 5 chord in C. Several other chords also make multiple appearances. Note how they fit in the particular keys.