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Chords are an essential component of playing the guitar. When you first start out, it’s best to make a habit of learning one or two new chords a week, and with each chord you learn, practice playing it with the previous chords you’ve learned. Not only does this help you commit the chords to memory, it helps you learn how to move from chord to chord smoothly, so you can start applying your new chord vocabulary to playing actual songs. After all, isn’t that why we all start playing in the first place?
Guitar chords songs refers to songs that sound great when played using nothing but chords, whether on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, or both. These songs range from simple arrangements of rock, pop, and country favorites to more songs using more complex guitar chords. The arrangements you decide to play will probably be determined by how advanced your knowledge of chords is.
Basic guitar chords are built using the first, third, and fifth tones of the scale that corresponds with the chord you want to play. For instance, if you want to play a G major chord, you go to the G major scale and find the first, third, and fifth notes in the scale. The G major scale has one sharp (F), so the notes in the scale are G-A-B-C-D-E-F#. The first note is G, the third note is a B, and the fifth note is D. These are the notes you need to make a G major chord. If you wanted a G minor chord all you need to do is make the third note a flat. This system applies to any chord you want to build. These three note chords are called triads and make up the bulk of the beginner open positions chords you’ll use to play a lot of guitar chords songs. When you study these chord shapes, you’ll notice that the root of the note (the first note) usually appears on the lower string and is doubled on a higher string, which reinforces the key tonality.
More advanced chords are made by adding scale degrees to this triad. Adding a seventh will give you a seventh chord, removing the third and replacing it with the fourth tone in the scale will give you a sus4 chord, etc.
You can use basic chords you’ve memorized, but understanding how to build chords from the notes of a scale gives you the ability to form new chord positions anywhere on the neck of the guitar, even if it’s a shape you’ve never played before.
Knowing just three or four basic chords gives you the knowledge you need to play hundreds of popular guitar songs. Add extended chords to the mix and you have a limitless number to choose from. Here are some of the most popular, easy-to-play songs you can play with just three basic chords or less.
“Brown-Eyed Girl” (Van Morrison) C-G-D
“Whole World in His Hands” (trad) G-D
“Bad Moon Rising” (Credence Clearwater Revival) D-A-G
“Twist and Shout” (The Beatles) D-G-A
“King of the Road” (Roger Miller) C-F-G (or G7)
Teach yourself some of these basic guitar songs and do some exploring. You’ll be amazed by how many songs you’ll have at your fingertips.