Learning Guitar - Lesson Eleven

01
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What You'll Learn in This Lesson

seventh chord on acoustic guitar

The eleventh lesson in this series of lessons aimed at beginner guitarists will include both review material, and new material. We'll learn:

  • Seventh barre chords
  • Major chord inversions
  • New strumming patterns
  • Many new challenging songs

 Are you ready? Good, let's begin lesson eleven.

02
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Seventh Barre Chords

lesson eleven maj7 barre chords

Until this point, we have only learned major and minor barre chords on the sixth and fifth strings. Although we can play thousands of songs using only these chord shapes, there are many more types of chords available to us. Let's have a look at various types of seventh barre chords... (of course you'll need to know the names of notes on sixth and fifth strings).

Major Seventh Chords

Written as, using the note "C" as an example, Cmaj7, or Cmajor7, or sometimes CM7.

To the unfamiliar ear, the major seventh chord might sound a little unusual. Used in the proper context, however, it's a colorful, rather common chord.

The chord shape with the root on the sixth string is actually not a barre chord, although it is usually labelled as such. Play with your first finger on sixth string, third finger on fourth string, fourth finger on third string, and second finger on second string. Be careful not to let the fifth, or first strings ring.

TIP: try letting your first finger lightly touch the fifth string, so it doesn't ring.
Playing the chord with the fifth string root involves barring strings five through one with your first finger. Your third finger goes on fourth string, second finger on third string, and fourth finger on second string. Be sure to avoid playing the sixth string.

PRACTICE IDEA: pick a random note (eg: Ab) and try playing that note's major seventh chord on both the sixth string (fourth fret) and the fifth string (11th fret).

03
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(Dominant) Seventh Chords

dominant 7 chord guitar

Although technically referred to as a "dominant seventh" chord, this type of chord is often just referred to as just a "seventh" chord. Written as, using the note "A" as an example, Adom7, or A7. This type of chord is extremely common in all types of music.

To play the sixth string shape, barre all six strings with your first finger. Your third finger plays the note on the fifth string, while your second finger plays note on third string.

Check to make sure the note on fourth string is sounding - this is the toughest note to get to ring clearly.

Play the fifth string shape by barring strings five through one with your first finger. Your third finger goes on fourth string, while your fourth finger plays note on second string. Be careful not to play sixth string.

04
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Minor Seventh Chords

minor 7th barre chords

Written as, using the note "Bb" as an example, Bbmin7, or Bbm7, or sometimes Bb-7.
To play the sixth string shape, barre all six strings with your first finger. Your third finger plays the note on the fifth string. Check to make sure all strings are ringing clearly.
Play the fifth string shape by barring strings five through one with your first finger. Your third finger goes on fourth string, while your second finger plays note on second string.

Be careful not to play sixth string.

Practice Ideas

There are six unfamiliar shapes above, so it will assuredly take a while to get these under your fingers. Try playing some or all of the following chord progressions. Choose any strumming pattern you feel comfortable with.

  • Bbmaj7 - Gmin7 - Cmin7 - F7
  • Dmin7 - Gmin7 - Bb7 - A7
  • C7 - F7 - C7 - G7

Try playing these chords in a variety of different ways - all on sixth string, all on fifth string, and a combination of both. There are a large number of possible ways to play each chord progression above. You can also try making your own chord progressions with seventh chords. Don't be afraid to experiment!

05
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4th, 3rd, and 2nd String Group Major Chords

4 3 2 string groups

In lesson ten, we examined the concept, and practical usage of chord inversions. In that lesson, we explored three ways to play every major chord on the sixth/fifth/fourth, and the fifth/fourth/third strings. This lesson expands on what was discovered in lesson ten, so be sure to read the original major chord inversions lesson before continuing

The concept of playing this group of chords is exactly the same as it was for the previous groups.

To play the root position chord, find the root note of the major chord on the fourth string of the guitar. If you're having trouble finding the note on the fourth string... here's a tip: find the root on the sixth string, then count over two strings, and up two frets. Now play the first chord above, fingered as follows: ring finger on fourth string, middle finger on third string, and index finger on second string.

To play the first inversion major chord on this string group, you'll either need to locate the chord root on the second string and form the chord around that, or count up four frets on the fourth string to the next voicing. You'll barely need to adjust your fingering at all from the last voicing to play this one. Just switch your middle finger to the second string, and your index finger to the third string.

Playing the second inversion of the major chord means either trying to find the chord root on the third string, or counting up three frets on the fourth string from the previous chord shape.

To find the root on the third string, find the root on the fifth string, then count over two strings, and up two frets. This last voicing can be played any number of ways, one of which is just via barring all three notes with the first finger.

Example: to play an Amajor chord using the above fourth, third, and second string voicings, the root position chord starts on the seventh fret of the fourth string. The first inversion chord starts on the 11th fret of the fourth string. And the second inversion chord starts on the 14th fret of the fourth string (or it could be played down the octave at the second fret.)

06
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3rd, 2nd, and 1st String Group Major Chords

3 2 1 string groups

This pattern is probably becoming fairly clear by now. First, find the root of the chord you'd like to play on the third string (to find a specific note on the third string, locate the note on the fifth string, then count over two strings, and up two frets). Now play the first chord above (the root position chord), fingered as follows: ring finger on third string, pinky finger on second string, and index finger on first string.

To play the first inversion major chord, either locate the chord root on the first string and form the chord around that, or count up four frets on the third string to the next voicing. Play the first inversion chord like this: middle finger on the third string, index finger barres second and first string.

The second inversion major chord can be played either by finding the chord root on the second string, or by counting up three frets on the third string from the previous chord shape. This voicing can be played as follows: index finger on third string, ring finger on second string, middle finger on first string.

Example: to play an Amajor chord using the above third, second, and first string voicings, the root position chord starts on either the second or 14th fret of the third string (note: to play the chord on the second fret, the chord shape changes to accomodate the open E string). The first inversion chord starts on the sixth fret of the third string. And the second inversion chord starts on the ninth fret of the third string.

07
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Two Bar Strumming Pattern

two bar strumming pattern

In several past lessons, we have explored a variety of ways to strum the guitar. Until this point, all patterns we've learned have been only one measure in length - you simply repeat the one bar pattern ad nauseum. In lesson 11, we'll take a look at a more complex, two measure strumming pattern. This will probably be somewhat of a challenge at first, but with some practice, you'll get the hang of it.

Yikes! Looks overwhelming, doesn't it? You're welcome to try the above - hold down a G major chord, and give it a shot. Chances are, at first this pattern will probably be too overwhelming to play. The key is breaking the strum down, and examining smaller segments of the pattern, then putting them together.

08
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Breaking the Strum Down

breaking the strum down

By concentrating only on part of the initial strumming pattern, we'll make learning the whole strum much simpler. Be sure to keep your arm moving in a constant down-up motion, even when not actually strumming the strings. The pattern starts with down, down, down, down up. Get comfortable playing this much of the pattern before continuing. Now, add the final two strums (up down) of the incomplete pattern - down, down, down, down up, up down.

This will probably take some practice, but stick with it.

Almost there! Now, we need to simply tack on a down up down up to the end of the incomplete pattern, and our strum is complete. Once you're able to play the strum once through, try repeating many times. The strum ends with an upstroke, and begins again immediately with a downstroke, so if there is a pause between repetitions of the pattern, you're not playing it correctly.

Tips

Once you've got the strumming pattern down, you'll need to work on switching chords without breaking the pattern. This can be tricky, since the strum ends with an upstroke, and would begin again immediately on the new chord with a downstroke. As this doesn't give much time for switching chords, it's very common to hear guitarists leave the last upstroke of the strum off, when moving to another chord.  

09
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Learning Songs

playing guitar hay
Redrockschool | Getty Images

We have covered a whole lot of material in these eleven lessons. Chances are, your knowledge of the guitar exceeds your ability to perform at this point. This is natural.. your ability will never match your knowledge of the instrument. With a good practice regime, however, you should be able to bring the two closer together. Take a stab at the following songs, and remember - push yourself! Try and play things that are difficult for you.

Although challenging material may not be as fun to play, or sound good initially, you'll reap the benefits in the long run

I Will Survive - performed by Cake
NOTES: a perfect song for exploring our newest strum. Play the chords suggested in tab, using the pattern once for each chord (twice on last "E"). If you want to sound more like the recording, use power chords instead of full chords.

Kiss Me - performed by Sixpence None the Richer
NOTES: another song we can use this lesson's strumming pattern with. This is a fun one to play, and shouldn't be too much of a challenge.

The Wind Cries Mary - performed by Jimi Hendrix
NOTES: this has a nice contrast of chords, with some fancy single note playing that you shouldn't find too difficult. For more insight into this song, check out the Wind Cries Mary tutorial right here on this site.

Black Mountainside - performed by Led Zeppelin
NOTES: this is definitely asking too much of you, but some guitarists like to be pushed. This song uses an alternate tuning known as DADGAD. It will take a tremendous amount of work, and you probably won't be able to play half of it, but, why not try?

Not sure about how to play some of the chords to the songs above? Check the guitar chord archive.

For now, this is the last lesson available. I'm sure you feel ready to go charging ahead and learn more, but chances are (extremely) good there are areas of the previous lessons you've neglected. So I urge you to start at the beginning, at see if you can't work your way through all of these lessons, memorizing and practicing EVERYTHING.

If you're feeling confident with everything we've learned so far, I suggest trying to find a few songs you're interested in, and learn them on your own. You can use the easy song tabs archive to hunt down the music that you'd enjoy learning the most. Try memorizing some of these songs, rather than always looking at the music to play them.