Monthly Archives: August 2012

Chording Exercise

This is a good rhythm guitar exercise – it’s focused on getting you really smooth at changing between different chords. It can also help train your ear – you learn how different chords sound together.

First, create a bunch of flash cards with different chords on them. The more the merrier. Bonus points for not just naming the chords, but for putting the fingering on it – that way you can have the same chord several times, but with different fingerings.

(Click on any of the images to see them much bigger in a new window)

Here’s a pile of these flashcards that I made on the backs of blank matchbooks:
Don't play with matches, kids

Next, dump all the flashcards in a bag or a hat or something:
It's a trilby, not a fedora

Start pulling flashcards out. The first one you pull out goes on the top row, then the rest of them in the row below:
This exercise is not about sounding good

The exercise is to play through these, going from the chord on the top row to the first one in the second row, then back to the top row, then to the second one in the second row, then back to the top row, etc. So, using the layout pictured above, the chord pattern I would play would be:
Cadd9 – E11 – Cadd9 – B7 – Cadd9 – G13#9 – Cadd9 – D7sus4/A – Cadd 9

This may not sound all that fabulous, but after you finish, you will never have trouble going from that Cadd9 chord to any of those other chords.  Eventually, you should be fluid enough that you can flow from any chord to any chord.

As far as the rhythm goes, I’d suggest starting with a very simple pattern – downstrokes quarter notes in 4/4, changing each new measure. Then make your strumming patterns more complex, but never lose the groove. Keep the following in mind as you do this:

  • Timing is everything – use a metronome or a drum machine, and learn to be rocksteady as you go through the changes
  • Focus on making the transitions as smooth as possible
  • Make sure that each note in each chord is clear
  • Don’t speed up until you can do all of the above
  • If you discover some cool chord progression while doing this, write it down and use it in a song!

Bonus points if you record some of these random progressions, and then practice soloing over them. This can help you learn to play over crazy changes, and can also help you find interesting melodic ideas that you might not have found otherwise.  If it sounds terrible, well, do the exercise, then move on with your life.

Two Links Tuesday: Star Wars Reconsidered Edition

Link One: George Lucas’ Big Mistake

Link Two: The Star Wars Saga: Introducing Machete Order

I love Star Wars. A lot. Even the bad movies, like Episode One? Yes, I saw it multiple times on the big screen, then bought it on DVD. And then watched it a few more times. And the ones I actually like I’ve seen even more times.

In spite of all that, I couldn’t agree more with this quote from Link One:

And Yoda, the exemplar of the Jedi philosophy, is wrong about everything.

The reasoning behind that is presented quite well there.

There is a long-running debate among fans regarding viewing order for the saga – should you watch these in order of release, or in order of episode number? Both of these have problems, and Link Two proposes a new viewing order that resolves them quite handily. My wife and I recently went through them in that order, and it’s definitely the way to go. (It leaves Episode 1 out entirely, so that’s a big argument in favor of it right there.)