Finger Friendly Chords
(08 Jul 02)
One of the most beautiful things about music is that you can get so much output from so little input: great music from a wee bit of work.
I think also that the physical aspect of making music is not as important as the mental aspect of making music. What I'm getting at here is this: the more you understand about how music works, the less physical work you have to do to make the music you want.
Let's illustrate this with an example:
This first phrase shows a lot of notes. You have stuff happening on many strings, and on each beat, and sometimes in between beats. You get some cool sounds in here, no doubt. We play around with the 3rd on the C and G7, and we play around with the 5th on Dm, and the 5th on G7.
Now, let's say you come from a singing background, and you're just starting to learn to play guitar. You understand music theory, you've sung lots of songs, and you generally know how music works. Also, you can read tab.
Well, if you go to tackle the above tab, your fingers may scream, "Stop! Stop! Too many notes! I can't make the shapes! I'm melting, melting! Let's take up the piano or basket weaving instead!"
Well, your heart is set on learning guitar. But you also want to give your fingers a break. So, you use your knowledge of music to produce the following tab, which is based on the first tab:
Your fingers are happier now, or at least not as uncomfortable. You're playing fewer notes, and still getting some terrific sounds. Some would say the second tab sounds even *better* than the first. Such people often speak of this truth: "Less is more." I don't always agree with that, but in this case I do.
The point of this exercise is this: the more you feed your mind with music, the less physical work you have to do to make music. I wish that my first guitar teacher, who *was* a good teacher, spent more time teaching me how music works, and less on how the guitar works. I came extremely close to quitting playing because I couldn't yet fret the F major chord on strings 1 through 4, frets 1 through 3. My thinking went something like this: "My fingers don't have what it takes to make music. Therefore, I don't have what it takes to make music." If he had shown me that I could produce a sound related to F major from only two notes, A and F, my frustration might have been less.
Let me give you some tips on making more from less. I'll give you some simple guidelines that will let you turn those big chords that use 4, 5 and 6 strings, into 2 and 3 note chords that will be easier for you to play -- and may even sound better to you.
I like to intro the music before the guidelines, so let's look at this: the open position chords you were taught, and their "condensed," finger-friendly version. The old way is shown on the left, and the new, finger-friendly chord, or FFC, is on the right.
How did you like that G7 sub? Same sound, less trouble. Is guitar cool or what?
As for the F major, I know it isn't an open position chord, but it's an important chord. And if you are like I was, you need a way to get an F major sound to play while your fingers are still struggling with the full F major shape.
The first chord I chose to replace the full F major is an F6. Notice you're actually using *more* fingers to play it, instead of the F major.
The second replacement for the F major is called an F 6/9. It has a G and a D in it, which you don't find in your regular F major. Yet, it's an easy replacement for an F major sound.
We need to explain another finger-friendly chord (FFC) because the tab doesn't show you how it's easier than the usual form. The A major might have been taught to you as follows:
- High E string is open.
- B string has finger 3 on fret 2.
- G string has finger 1 on fret 2.
- D string has finger 2 on fret 2.
When I first learned this, from a Mel Bay book I think, I said, "My fingers are too crowded! I'm trying to fit ten pounds of chocolate into a five pound bag!"
Then, when I got to college, someone showed me the FFC for A major:
- High E string is open.
- Bar your first or second finger across strings B, G and D, fret 2. It's okay if your finger mutes the high E string.
After I learned that, I applied it to every tune I knew. It was so much easier to *rock* with this form of the A chord. For instance, I could now do stuff like this:
Don't worry if this gives you a hard time. You'll pick it up if you stick with it. I just wanted to show you that some FFC forms are not only finger-friendly, they're also blues and rock friendly.
Barre chord FFC
Those are a few ideas for FFC forms for open position chords. Let's now look at barre chord FFC forms. Here are two of the most common barre chord forms converted to their FFC forms:
Please notice that you can choose to barre the fifth fret in the D7 FFC, or you could use three different fingers, one for each note.