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Lesson Series

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Jamie Humphries - The Rhythm Method Part 1: Building CAGED Guitar Chords

Lesson Notes

The Rhythm Method - Guitar lesson by Jamie Humphries

** As featured in issue 2 **

As a guitar player I would say that you will spend probably 90 per cent of your time as a rhythm guitarist, accompanying singers in a band situation. Then why is it we spend most of our time focusing on licks and lead guitar? Yes, granted, this is an equally important part of guitar playing, but over the years I have come across many students who have the ability to fly up and down the neck but then struggle to play basic grooves. Over the coming months we're going to look at how we can develop our rhythm guitar skills and work on our timing, as well as develop a larger knowledge of chords, and also look at a variety of different styles.

To kick things off we're going to take a look at how to build chords all over the neck, and with the help of our video lessons, plus some chord diagrams for you to download, after this lesson you should be able to play 180 chords! Not bad for starters!

We're going to be looking at a blues track in our next lesson and also looking at ways to build a rhythm part, from some basic strumming chords to check we can play in time and change chords in time, to a full blown pro-sounding rhythm part, which we will build up to over the coming months. But before that we need to check our chord knowledge, and make sure we have a good understand of major and minor chords, as well as dominant 7th chords, which have a bluesy quality to their sound.

First of all it's important to understand that all chords are triads, which means they are constructed from three notes of the major scale of the same name; the notes in question would be the 1st, or the root note, the 3rd and the 5th. Collectively these three notes will produce a major triad, which has a very happy and familiar sound to it. But triads have a very thin sound to them, so we perform them as full blown chord voicings; this is explained in full detail in our video lesson.

The most effective way to learn our full chord voicings is to use the CAGED system. The CAGED system enables us to learn chords, scales and arpeggios based around our five basic chord shapes of C, A, G, E, D. These shapes can then be turned into movable barred chords, and simply shifted so that the root not falls on the desired note that we want to form our chord from. For instance, we can turn our C shape into a movable shape, and shift it up the neck so that the root note lands on the 7th fret of the A string, the note of E. Although we are playing a C shape our chord will be an E major chord, with a C shape voicing. All of our CAGED shapes can be linked together via root notes as the simple “dove tail” together covering the entire neck. They are also linked in order of how we spell the word CAGED. Our first downloadable sheet illustrates the chord of A major played in 5 fingerboard positions using the 5 CAGED shapes.

Our next set of chords to look at are minor chords. The one difference between major and minor chords is the major 3rd verses the minor 3rd. To turn our major chord voicings into minor chord voicings we simply lower the major 3rd by a semi-tone, or one fret. Most people can play open position Em, Am and Dm, but when it comes to playing Gm and Cm, they use moveable Em and Am shapes respectively to be able to play these two remaining chords. You can in fact play Cm and Gm in open position; and once again check the downloads for chord boxes illustrating all chords discussed in this lesson and also the accompanying video. Our final group of chords we are going to learn is the dominant 7th chord. My reasoning for wanting you to learn this chord types is because they have a very bluesy sound to them, and will be necessary for building our blues progression in future lessons. The dominant 7th is not to be mixed up with the major 7th. The dominant 7th is a major triad, with a minor 7th added; which is a note a whole tone lower than the root note. A major 7th is a semi-tone lower from the root note. There are also 5 CAGED dominant 7th shapes, and these can be found in our downloads.

Finally we're going to look at a system that allows us to organise practice in a more methodical way. I like to practice in key cycles, which enables us to move through all 12 keys in an organised fashion. There are 12 keys in total, and 5 CAGED shapes, so that’s 60 chords per chord type. We are looking at 3 chord types, so that 180 chords! Here is our cycle of 4ths, and the order in which you should practise the chords. Remember to follow the video tutorial.

C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb/F# B E D G C

OK well that’s it for our first lesson. I would advise spending a little bit of time each practice session, and gradually build up. Get the shapes down first, then learn one key all of the neck. After that try working through the key cycles, and then move onto the next good type. Good Luck!!

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