On days 1, 2 and 3 we focused on specific things that you needed to practice in order to gain that initial momentum required to start playing guitar. Now that we have gotten the ball rolling, we can take the time to explore some of your options. There are so many things to learn and no matter how hard you try, and how much time you devote to it, you’ll probably have to pick and choose what you spend your time on. I don’t mean to be discouraging here, I want the exact opposite. There are so many things to practice, so many opportunities to grow and have fun – this is exciting!

     Imagine a forest so large it takes 80 years to walk through it from one end to the other. No one person could explore the entire forest and learn every intricacy of every tree and bush and creature and create a complete mental image of the entire forest. Even if every person on the planet walked this imaginary forest, collectively they wouldn’t be able to map it out entirely. There’s just too much detail, too many things to see and hear and touch and experience. The world of music is infinite in nature, and although we’re just beginning our journey now, as you progress you’ll realize that it takes a lot of time to accomplish certain goals. And some people will spend their lifetimes exploring just a single branch of music, going incredibly in-depth, discovering new things. With this in mind, don’t feel like you need to accomplish everything here in order to be successful. As long as you are working on something, anything, you will be honing your skills and improving your musicianship.

     We’ll start today’s lesson with some strumming. There’s a new technique involved here, the “root strum.” The idea is quite simple: instead of strumming all the strings, just strum the lower strings (or even a single lower string). This separates the guitar into two registers, low and high, and is useful in almost every style of music. You’ll find this strumming pattern works really well when it’s sped up and has a really “country” vibe to it.

And we’re not done with the strumming yet! While we’re at it, let’s figure out how to add the root strum to a familiar pattern, the most common pattern of all…

So you know 3 chords, and have worked on 4 strumming patterns. Now what? Well… there’s really only one thing to do: LEARN SOME SONGS!

Here is a list of songs that, with your newly earned skill-set, you should be able to play with a little practice. They only use the D G and A chords:

  1. Margaritaville – Jimmy Buffet
  2. Back Home Again – John Denver
  3. Crying Time – Buck Owens
  4. Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys – Waylon Jennings
  5. Twist And Shout – The Beatles
  6. Breakfast At Tiffany’s – Deep Blue Something
  7. La Bamba – Ritchie Valens

(NOTE: These songs may not be your thing, but if you learn 1 or 2 more chords, the floodgates will open, and you’ll definitely be able to find a few hundred songs you could learn that you’d actually enjoy.)

     Before we conclude our lesson, there’s one more concept I feel is important for beginning guitarists to learn. As I’ve already mentioned, learning guitar can seem overwhelming, there are so many chords(!) strumming patterns(!) scales(!) and all this other stuff! It’s too much! Well, the truth is, most things that seem really advanced are actually based on much simpler things.

     Take for instance the A7 chord. The first time you lay eyes on it, you might think “Aw jeez! Another chord to learn?” (or you might be more optimistic “Aw yeah! Another chord to learn!”) but either way you’d have to look it up. And afterwards, you’d realize that it’s pretty darn similar to the A chord you already know, just take off 1 finger from the fretboard and voila! This is a really simple example, but as you delve deeper, you’ll see things like this popping up again and again.

     After a while, if you practice consistently and achieve your goals regularly, you may realize that even the most complicated musical concepts are just built upon the simplest. Things like chords, strumming patterns, arpeggios and scales are transformed, one step at a time, into complex-looking, amazing-sounding musical devices. And this same process applies to you, too – you transform yourself, one practice session at a time, from a person, into a person with an extraordinary ability. If you ever talk to a very good musician, they’ll probably be pretty nonchalant about their abilities. “You can learn a song BY EAR?!” – “Yeah, it’s not that hard.” They’re not just trying to show-off, it really isn’t that hard, it just takes hard work.

     Learning a song by ear starts with hearing a chord in a song, then trying all the chords you know and seeing if it’s the same one. From there, you’d try to figure out another chord, and another, using trial-and-error to discover each of the chords in that song. And it goes from there until one day you can hear the chords and don’t even need to test them on your guitar to see if you’re right. Of course there are a lot more steps involved and this isn’t meant to be a guide on how to learn songs by ear. I just want to reinforce my point, that your job now is to pick up a guitar and explore. Don’t feel bad about what you don’t know. Find solace in the fact that as long as you are working on something new and challenging yourself, you’re getting better.

     Speaking of the A7 chord, let’s take a moment to learn one more song before we go. Pay attention to the “stop” at the end of the strumming pattern. This is a really useful musical device and being able to stop playing but keep the beat going in your head is a necessary skill. It really helps if you tap your foot along to the beat. That way, you can still “feel” it, but not have to play it with your strumming hand.

Day 4 – What To Practice

  • 5 minutes – Review D G D A chord progression with Strumming Pattern #3
  • 5 minutes – Play “Bad Moon Rising” or “The Middle” with Strumming Pattern #4
  • 10 minutes – Practice “Surfin’ USA” (work on that A7 chord!)
  • 10 minutes – Try to learn a new song that uses D, G and A chords

30 minutes total!

2017-05-18T12:45:46-08:00 May 17th, 2016|Categories: Article, Strum Along|