June Tune - The First Look At This Progression
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate
June Tune Lesson 1 explained.
June Tune - part 2 | June Tune - part 3 | June Tune - part 4
The more you look into chord progressions, the more interesting they become, and the more you start to see (and hear, of course) recurring patterns. The one I used for this lesson certainly has a familiar ring to it, I'm sure you'll agree, and there's a good reason for that. It's built around a single-note line that descends in semitones.
When I started to fiddle around looking for something worthy of a new lesson, I found myself on the opening D chord in that nice voicing, halfway up the fingerboard. OK, I thought, Where to next? I tried a few ways and settled on the Dmaj7 for the next chord. Once I heard that root (7th fret, 3rd string) drop down a semitone to the 7, I knew what I was going to do: I was going to keep that line going down one semitone at a time, and build the progression around it. Of all the many combinations of chords I could have chosen, those in this progression are the ones I settled on, as have many before me. They just sound good together. So that descending line starts on D, then moves down to C#, C, B, Bb, A, G# and finally G -- eight consecutive semitone drops -- and the chords have been harmonized around it.
Taking it one chord at a time, the descending note is: the root, maj7 and flat 7 of the D chords; the major and minor thirds of the G and Gm; the major and minor thirds of the E9 and Em.
The Gm and E9 are not chords from the key of D, but they work well in this context. Consider them as temporary key changes.
The other thing I did is to keep that D bass note ringing for most of the chords. It's the root of all the D chords, so, of course, it sounds good and strong under them. It's the 5th of both G chords, so those two chords become second inversions (perfectly acceptable) and under the E9 it's the b7, also permissible since it's a chord tone. Under the Em it's also the flat 7, so in effect the Em becomes Em7. That common bass note also adds a sense of tension and suspense to the progression, which is neat, tension that is relieved when that A7 finally arrives.
Those end chords are also a fairly common and effective way of getting back to the I chord. I've added a couple of extra notes in these -- the 6 in the Bb and the 2 in the C chord -- but they work just as well as plain old triads. Neither are in the key of D. The Bb is two whole tones below D; C is one whole tone below D, so you can remember it that way if you ever want to use it as an ending again. It works every time. So, for example, if you're in the key of A, F and G will be the chords ... if you're in E, C and D will be the chords.
If you're not into theory, don't worry -- just learn the moves -- but I love all that stuff!
There's nothing too challenging in the playing. Keeping that open D string ringing is one thing to look out for. It works so well when it rings for the duration of each chord. You'll notice that I twang it a couple of extra times on the 'four and' beat, just to reinforce its persistence.
The picking pattern for the treble notes is dead easy, repeats over and over until you get to the E9. You can see in the movie that I use the most logical fingers for those notes, logical if your hand is positioned correctly. Just make sure your wrist is slightly bent and your hand is square to the strings. Gripping the Bb6 might seem a little difficult at first, you'll need to stretch a couple of muscles for that one (which is a good thing), and that harmonic at the very end requires a bit of forethought. If you don't like playing it, just hit the high D note on the 10th fret of the thin E string ... it's the same note.
I'll do another lesson or two using this progression in different positions. It's a good one to work on because A) it sounds so nice and it's a good one to analyze and keep track of. We'll see how that descending line works in other positions. You can then run the various ways of playing it together into a longer piece.
Have fun, that's the main thing.
PS: You'll notice that I bought a LR Baggs acoustic pickup and fitted it to my old Gibson. I highly recommend them. Unlike a lot of acoustic guitar pickups, they sound just like the guitar only loud, and they don't feedback easily. I didn't use it to record this lesson, however, I used my Rode mic. >> Now on to June Tune - part 2
As well as putting together these fingerstyle guitar lessons, I am also the author of PlaneTalk - The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Package, which teaches a mindset, a way of thinking about music and a way of tracking it all on the guitar fretboard. Yes, there IS a constant down there in the maze of strings and fret wire, a landmark that points to everything at all times. I call it The Easiest Yet Most Powerful Guitar Lesson You Will Ever Learn and many testimonials at my site will back up that rather superlative description. If your goal as a guitar player is to be able to truly PLAY the guitar, not just learn by rote; to be able to invent on the fly, not memorize every note; to be able to see the WHOLE fretboard as friendly, familiar territory, not just the first 5 frets and to do it all without thinking about all those scales and modes, then you should read more here.