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Beginner's Strumming Lesson (Knocking on Heaven's Door Chord Progression) - Part 1
Lesson by: Kirk Lorange
Note: This is an older lesson and the videos aren't of the greatest quality, but the lesson is still a good one.
Click here to go to Part 2 | Click here to go to Part 3
OK, for all those who just bought their first guitar last week, here's something to start you off.
It's a 4 chord strumming lesson, and I'll go through it systematically for you. If you feel so inclined, you will easily be able to sing "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" to it.
The four chords are:
G, D, C and Am. The first three are major chords. 'Major' is a flavor ... The other chord is A minor. 'Minor' is another flavor. All four chords come from the same key, and so are related to each other ... like brothers and sisters.
First of all, watch and listen to the the movie. This is the end product. We will go through the several steps needed to play this.
I'm sure you will recognize the sound of those chords played together. I am strumming them with a flat pick, or plectrum, and what I'm playing is a what could be described as rhythm guitar. Strummed chords are considered part of the rhythm section, along with bass and drums; Melody lines, licks, riffs and solos are considered to be 'lead guitar'. The truth is though, most guitarists do both, even in the same tune.
The chords go:
| G - - - | D - - - | Am - - - | - - - - | G - - - | D - - - | C - - - | - - - - | ... keep repeating.
Each little dash is a beat of the same chord. The vertical lines are bars, which separate the measures, each of which is 4 beats long. You can see that the Am and the C are played for twice as long as the others. You can also see that the second half is pretty well a repeat of the first half, only the Am is replaced by the C.
Here are images of the four chords. The red Xs over those two finger indicate that those fingers are not being used ... they're just hovering above the strings. You should easily be able to see which fingers are being used for which notes, clearly shown as black dots on the diagrams below.
Here are the diagrams for the same chords. The vertical lines are the strings, the horizontal are the fret wires. The red Xs mean that you should not let the pick play that string. So, you can (and should) strum all the strings for the G chord; The C and Am require that you don't strum the thickest string, and the D requires that you don't strum the 2 thickest strings. Below the diagrams is the tablature for the chords. The lines represent the strings, thickest on the bottom, and the numbers show which frets to finger on those strings. They're just numerical versions of the diagrams.
The first thing you should is get familiar with getting your fingers around those chords and making them ring nicely. It's going to be a little painful to start out with, and you may find it very difficult to make your fingers adopt these positions. Just stick at it and it will come together. We all have trouble when we first start ... you just have to make those fingers obey and let the tips toughen up so that it's not painful. A couple of weeks of daily playing will do the trick.
Below is the video showing the best way to get familiar with not only holding each chord down, but changing between them. I play just one strum per chord, on the first beat of the measure. Practice this until you feel comfortable. I have attached the full length backing track for you to play along to when you feel ready. I suggest playing along to the movie first, then do it on your own to the backing track.
Here is a movie showing the best way to get familiar with not only holding each chord down, but changing between them. I play just one strum per chord, on the first beat of the measure. Practice this until you feel comfortable. I have attached the full length backing track for you to play along to when you feel ready. I suggest playing along to the movie first, then do it on your own to the backing track.
I'm not really a flat picker myself, but when I do, I hold it between my index and thumb, lightly. Relax your arm, your wrist, relax everything; just let the pick lightly brush over the strings to start out. Listen to your chords. They should ring. If there's anything dull sounding, zero in on what it is, which string is not being properly fretted. You may find a finger is holding down a note on one string but is touching another, choking off its note. You need to investigate all that yourself, patiently. What seems impossible at first just becomes second nature after a while, so don't be discouraged my imperfections. Just keep plugging away at toughening up those finger tips and cleaning up all loose ends in your technique. Pushing taut wires down onto a plank of wood with finger tips is by no means a natural process ... it takes conscious will power.
Be positive with your movements. Changing chords can be very difficult at first. Just remembering the configuration of each is enough to worry about let alone shifting from one to the other smoothly. Think ahead ... once you have successfully strummed one chord, start visualizing the next and imagining how your hand is going to have to configure itself to grab it. You'll find that because you're strum from the bass strings to treble, that it's best to get the fingers onto those bass strings first.
Just keep practicing and remind yourself that even Jimi Hendrix had to go through this process, and that we all must continue to practice in order to maintain our level of expertise and hopefully keep improving on it. Now on to Part 2.