Make learning chords easier by learning to see the big picture.
When you’re learning to play guitar, learning the chords is one of the most important things you have to do. It is one of our fundamental skills, and you typically learn at least a few chords when you are getting started with your guitar lessons.
The problem that a lot of people have is that a lot of brainpower is devoted to memorizing where to put your fingers to make each chord. While this is important (if your fingers are in the wrong places, you’ll play the wrong chord - or no chord at all), there is an approach you can use to make it easier on yourself.
By learning how to "connect the dots” and visualize your chords as shapes, you can help yourself learn your chords faster in the first place, and have an easier time remembering them as you play through chord progressions or songs.
In this lesson you’re going to learn:
By the time you’re done with this lesson you’ll have a good idea of how to visualize chords as shapes - making it easier to learn and remember chords as you play.
Basic Chord Shapes
Most chords you come across can be visualized as one of four different chord shapes:
Let’s take a closer look at each of these shapes.
The line shape is 2 or more notes played on the same fret. The line can be played with a different finger on each note, or as a barre - using one finger to play several notes across the same fret.
The diagonal shapes formed when notes move up or down frets (depending on your point of view), and across different strings. When you connect the dots, they form a diagonal line.
Triangles are formed with 2 short diagonal shapes. If you connect the dots, they typically form a triangle pointing to either the body of the guitar, or towards the headstock.
The box is usually made up of 4 notes, creating a 4-sided box or parallelogram when you connect the dots around the perimeter.
Try finding the basic chord shapes shown above in chords that you already know. This will help you get used to “connecting the dots”, and help you find the underlying patterns in new chords that you learn later on.
Connecting Basic Patterns
If you’ve taken the time to try this with chords you already know, you’ve probably noticed that not all of your chords are made up of a single one of these shapes.
In fact, you’ll often find that a chord is made up of a combination of at least 2 of the basic patterns shown above.
For example, the E chord is made up of a combination of lines and diagonals (Especially if you count the open strings).
The more you practice this, the easier it will be to identify the shapes hidden inside your guitar chords.
The better you get, the more you will start to make this idea your own - and you’ll develop your own way to relate to the shapes themselves.
Just like constellations in the sky, sometimes different people are going to see different things - and that’s ok.
Take a look at the chords below and try to see what you can come up with. What shapes do you see? How can you relate these to other chords you know?
Things To Think About
Next time you learn a new chord, don’t just stop at memorizing which finger goes on what string, at what fret.
Try to connect the dots and visualize the shapes you can find within your new chord.
This is also a good practice for chords you already know - when you start looking at the bigger picture, you’ll gain new insights to how your chords are put together on the guitar neck.
Did this work for you? What do you struggle with in your guitar playing?
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