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Moveable Chord Forms on the Guitar

 

In this article, I’m going to discuss some basic chord shapes on the guitar in open position and show you how to turn them into movable chord forms. It is recommended that you have a basic understanding of open chords and are able to switch between them fluidly before trying the methods discussed below.

 

What is a moveable chord form anyway?

A movable chord form is a chord played with no open strings, that can be moved up and down the neck. You will maintain the basic shape of the chord no matter where you play it. However, the letter name of the chord will change as you move (the terms chord “form” and chord “shape will be used interchangeably throughout this article). It is important to know the root note of the chord so you can determine what chord you’re actually playing as you move the form. Knowing the notes on the guitar will help you.

The most popular moveable chord forms are often referred to as “barre chords” on the guitar, because they require you to create a “barre” across all six strings with the 1st finger on your fretting hand. Your first finger is essentially acting as a capo, so that you can move chord shapes up and down the neck freely. If you’re not used to barring with your 1st finger, this can be difficult in the beginning, but stick with it, and soon your barre chords will sound just as good as if you were playing with a capo! Here are some technique exercises that will help you stretch and strengthen your fingers to make playing barre chords easier. You can also read my article on fretting hand technique to supplement the exercises.

 

What Chord Forms Can I Move Around the Neck?

Well, the real answer is all of them! However, we’re going to start with some of the basic major chord shapes, because they are the theoretical foundation for every other chord. The five shapes that we’ll discuss in this article are often referred to as the CAGED chords, named after the chords that these shapes make in the open position.

The most popular movable chord shape is the E shape, so we’ll start there for the purposes of this article.

 

Let’s Start Moving Some Chords Around!

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Here is the basic E major chord shape in the open position, the one that we all know and love with the standard fingering:

The key to turning an open chord form into a movable chord form is to first learn how to play the chord in the open position without using your 1st finger. We have to free up your 1st finger in order to create the barre that will enable you to move the chord shape up and down the neck.

Here is the same E major chord with a different fingering which frees up your 1st finger:

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Now that your first finger is freed up, you’re ready to turn this shape into a movable chord form! Barre your first finger behind the nut of the guitar by laying your entire 1st finger across all six strings. This will give you a sense of how this chord shape will feel to play once you move it. Now slide everything up one fret and you get an F chord shown below:

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It is important to know that the lowest root of this shape is located on the low E string. So when you’re in the open position it creates an E major chord (the letter name of the chord is always named after the root note). Because E and F are on half step away from each other, when you move the shape up a half step, the same chord form becomes an F major chord. If this is confusing to you, please read this article on the musical alphabet and how it can be applied to guitar.

 

Continuing Up the Neck

Let’s move this same shape up the neck one more time. The F major chord is in first position with it’s root on the F note located on the first fret of the low E string. If you move up a whole step to the third position, then the root changes to a G, making the new chord a G major.

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This can be continued all the way up the neck, until the notes start to repeat at the 12th fret. In this way, you can play all 12 major chords with the same chord form! Knowing how to play movable chord forms on the guitar will open up a whole new world of possibilities playing all over the neck, instead of just staying in the open position. Knowing how and when to use these chord forms will also help you begin to understand the fretboard and it will serve as the foundation to learning your pentatonic scales and basic music theory on the guitar.

In the next article, we’ll talk about how to do this with the other four major forms in the CAGED system.

Knowing the Notes on the Guitar

original-singingguitarLearning to read standard notation is something many guitarists will never do. And while there are definite benefits to learning how to read notes, unless you’re playing Jazz or Classical, it’s not necessary to become an accomplished guitar player. However, knowing how to figure out what note you’re playing on the guitar is absolutely necessary if you want to go beyond strumming the standard open chords.

Knowing what note you’re playing on the guitar will help you to determine what scales and chords you’re playing up and down the neck. Each scale and chord has a root note that they are built from. The root note is the letter name which appears at the beginning of the scale or chord symbol (A major scale or C7 chord).

While it’s easy to memorize what chord or scale you’re playing when there are only a few in open position, when you start moving these shapes around the guitar, it becomes imperative to know your root notes and letter names.

The good news is that this is extremely easy as long as you know three things:

1) the names of the strings on the guitar

2) the difference between whole steps and half steps

3) the pattern of the musical alphabet

 

The names of the strings on the guitar

guitar, notes, lessons

As you can see, the two outside strings are both E notes, called Low E (the thickest string) and High E (the thinnest string). From Low to High the note names of the guitar strings are E, A, D, G, B, E. The strings are numbered 1-6 from highest to lowest, however, most people will order them from lowest to highest.

Here’s a little pneumonic device for remembering the string names from lowest to highest:

6-(E)very   5-(A)pple 4-(D)oes   3-(G)o 2-(B)ad 1-(E)ventually

 

What are whole steps and half steps?

On the guitar, the notes are determined by what fret you’re holding when you pick the string, unlike the piano where each note is represented by pressing a different key.

A half step is the shortest distance you can go, so on the guitar it is the distance between one fret and the next fret up or down. If you’re playing the 3rd fret – low E string, a half step up would be the 4th fret and a half step down would be the 2nd fret on the same string.

Keep in mind that the distance between an open string and the 1st fret is a half step.

A whole step is equivalent to the distance of two half steps. So if you’re playing that same note on the 3rd fret – low E string, a whole step up would be the 5th fret and a whole step down would be the 1st fret.

All scales have an order of whole steps and half steps which repeat over and over again. The musical alphabet also has an order of whole steps and half steps. Once you know that order, you’ll be able to figure out any note on the guitar.

 

So what is the musical alphabet?

The musical alphabet starts with A, just like the regular alphabet. However, it only goes up to G. After G it simply goes back to A and repeats again. So it includes letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. There is no H note. If you already know your standard open chords, you’ll already recognize a lot of these letter names from those chords.

There is either a whole step (2 frets) or a half step (1 fret) between each of these notes of the musical alphabet. The easiest way to remember the order is that there are whole steps between all the letters with the exception of half steps between B and C and between E and F.

Here are the distances between all the notes in the musical alphabet (Whole steps are represented by a W and half steps are represented by an H):

A (W) B (H) C (W) D (W)E (H) F (W) G (W) A (W) B (H) C… and on and on!

 

So what are the notes in between the whole steps?

Ah yes. You may have noticed that we’re skipping some notes because there are whole steps between most of the letters in the musical alphabet. This is where flat and sharp notes come into the equation.

A flat note is represented by a lower case b, as seen in the chord Bb Major or Ab minor. A sharp is represented by the number sign or hashtag symbol #, as seen in the chords G# major or C# minor.

When you flat a note, you bring it down a half step from whatever letter name you’re on. So if you’re playing a G note (3rd fret – low E string), you would play the 2nd fret for a Gb. A sharp note is just the opposite, go up one fret. So to play a G# on the low E string, you would play the 4th fret.

Now when we play the 4th fret G#, it could also be called an Ab because it is one fret above a G and one fret below an A. These are called enharmonic notes. They are notes which can be labeled as a flat or a sharp. Usually this is dependent upon what key you’re in, but we’ll get to that in another article!

 

Figuring Out What Note You’re Playing

So to figure out what note you’re playing on any string, simply start with the open note that you know because you have your string names memorized! Then work your way up the musical alphabet until you get to the note that you’re playing.

Examples:

  1. If I want to figure out what note I’m playing on the 5th fret, low E string I would start with my low open E, then go up a half step to the 1st fret (because there is a half step between E and F). Now I’m on an F note on the 1st fret, go up a whole step to the 3rd fret. Now I’m on G. Go up one more whole step to the 5th fret. Now I’m on A because the musical alphabet always repeats after G. So the 5th fret, low E string is an A note.

  2. If I want to figure out what note is on the 4th fret D string, I can do the same process. Start with my open D string, then go up a whole step to the 2nd fret (because there is a whole step between D and E). Now I’m on an E note. Then go up a half step to my next letter F on the 3rd fret (because there is always a half step between E and F). If we wanted to go up to the next letter we’d have to go up another whole step to get to G. However, we’re only going up to the 4th fret so we’ve hit a sharp/flat note. The 4th fret – D string can either be called an F# or a Gb depending on what key you’re in.

You can do these exercises all day long to practice finding and naming notes on all the strings of the guitar. Just kidding, maybe just 5 minutes a day? As you know, regular practice goes a long way!

Below is a diagram of all the notes on the guitar so you can check your work. Good luck naming those notes!

guitar, lessons, frets, fingering

Partnering with Local Schools – La Salle Academy

Music PartnershipsLa Salle Academy: Expanding our Teaching Partnerships

One of the core mission statements at Philly Music Lessons is that everyone deserves a chance to learn music. It drives us to make lessons available to many communities and families with varying income levels and schedules. That is why we offer the convenience of in-home lessons, as well as local studio lessons in Fishtown and South Philly, and why we offer financial aid discounts to low-income families.

To further expand opportunities for kids to learn music, we’ve started to partner with local schools, offering discounted private and group lessons during after school hours. Because our lessons are made available at an affordable rate, right on the school premises, it is much easier for kids to begin the process of learning music!

Engaging Students at La Salle through Music Performances and Presentations

DSC_0047 (1)We recently traveled down the road from our Fishtown studio to La Salle Academy, located in Kensington on North 2nd Street. Our teachers gave presentations to grades 3-8, showing them the basics of piano, guitar, violin and drums. Starting with the principles of technique and theory, our two multi-instrumentalist teachers, Sean Conlon and Emily Stewart, were able to give the kids a sense of what the beginning portion of learning an instrument really looks like. Our teachers performed solo pieces on each instrument, and followed with group performances to show how different instruments can come together to create unique styles and sounds. It was very inspiring for students to see professional musicians performing at an advanced level. We feel this experience gives them a sense of the hard work and dedication that goes into attaining such a level of musicianship.

DSC_0052 (1)DSC_0043 (1)With our presentations, children are better able to gauge their general level of interest in music. They may also be able to better determine which instrument they’d like to learn. We feel that starting a child off with an instrument that really inspires them is the best way to form a positive and lasting relationship with music. We hope these kinds of experiences at an early age will stick with them for the rest of their lives!

New Music Education Partnerships

Philly Music Lessons will be working to maintain and expand relationships with other schools in the city of Philadelphia throughout the 2018 school year. We feel our teachers have a lot to offer in terms of supplementing standard music education classes and providing individualized lessons to students who may not have access to them otherwise. As most educators know, there is no substitute for a great teacher.

 

The Spring Recital Is Upon Us!

recitalpicCalling all musicians! This year’s Spring Recital will be held on May 20th at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia. All Philly Music Lessons students are encouraged to sign up for a slot at either of the two concert times.

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

  • Set 1 at 1:30pm
  • Set 2 at 3:00pm

Will you bring down the house with a brilliant rendition of your favorite song from Broadway, or shred through some classic rock? If you’re not sure what you’d like to do, your teacher can help you decide what to perform to best show off all of your progress. Not only do you get to perform yourself, but you also get the chance to support the rest of the Philly Music Lessons family in their own musical journey!

Show off your skills to friends and family alike right on Rittenhouse Square!

New Lessons Space at By My Side

More great news for music lovers in Fishtown!

We are now offering private lessons at By My Side Parenting (the former 3 Mama Llamas space).  Kids and adults from beginner to advanced can take lessons for piano, guitar, bass, drums, ukulele, clarinet, sax, flute, voice, cello, violin, tuba, trumpet, trombone, banjo, and more.

Lessons For Everyone

original-bmspost2Starting at age 4, lessons can be geared toward a variety of interests and learning styles within a wide range of genres (classical, rock, jazz, and more). ½ price trial lessons enable families to test out the waters first. And because we appreciate everything that goes on at By My Side, we’re giving a 10% discount for families that attend playschool, playgroup, or the after-school programs at the space! Rentals are available to get students started on something new.

We work with each family’s schedule and needs to find a teacher that fits your availability and interests. Visit our website or call (215) 645-0405 to set up lessons. 

By My Side Parenting is located at 1542 E Montgomery Ave, Philadelphia.

PhillyMusicLessons.com | office@phillymusiclessons.com

Fall Recital 2016 Highlights

Students Showing Off Their Skills

Taking lessons and practicing is something that all musicians have to spend most of their time doing, but it all pays off at the performance. Just this December we returned to the Ethical Society of Philadelphia for our largest recital yet. We featured students on piano, violin, cello, saxophone, voice, and guitar for a fantastic afternoon of music making. Our recitals provide our students with the opportunity to show off their skills to friends and family alike. Not only is it a great time for everyone involved, but it’s a crucial experience for becoming a well-rounded musician.

The wide diversity of genres and styles reflects the amazing diversity and talent of all of our students. From Beethoven and Saint-Saëns to The Beatles and Coldplay, enjoy this musical cross-section of our Philly Music Lessons family. We’re so glad to have seen so many people at our recital this past fall, but in case you missed it, here’s a little something to give you an idea of how talented our students are!

 

Kids Violin Class with Rentals & Other Fishtown Music Classes

violin philly

Beautiful Tone, Beautiful Heart!

Suzuki-Style Violin Class for Ages 3-5

“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”

Shin’ichi Suzuki

Saturdays at 11 AM at Philly Music Lessons
October 1st – November 19th
$198 for 8 classes
(Includes a 3 month violin rental fitted for your child’s size at the first class)

Though many different curiosities are piqued when children come into our space and see instruments on the walls and in our practice rooms, violin seems to be of particular interest over and over again! Thus we’ve decided to offer a Suzuki-style violin class for kids ages 3-5. With a violin rental embedded into the cost, kids have the opportunity to experience the Suzuki method and other violin group work intended to introduce young bodies and minds to the violin. Read more about our kids violin class here!


 

Music Exploration Ages 3-5

Tuesdays at 4PM
October 4th – November 22nd
$128 for 8 classes

Our music exploration class is an intro to music beyond baby and toddler classes. Kids will explore ukuleles, their voices, piano techniques, and percussion patterns to gain experience with string instruments, solfege (ear training), and rhythm training. This class lays the groundwork for private lessons in a variety ofinstruments and is simply a fun way to explore music! Each class concludes with an art project that will reinforce a new concept each week.


newmoms

Baby and Toddler Music Classes Ages 0-3

Ongoing Weekly classes at 10 AM Wednesdays and Saturdays
First time FREE! $10 drop in all September

Mommas, daddies, nannies, grandparents, and caregivers can join other families in the Fishtown area for weekly music classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 AM. Babies just a few months old will enjoy classes as much as the toddlers. All classes are drop-in this September, with a special rate of $10 per class (normally $15). Come October, we’ll be moving to a monthly sign up (10 kids max, unlimited makeups) to encourage regular friends and faces, and to allow groups of babies to grow and learn together!

Summer Rock Camp in Philadelphia

Registration Now Open!

Play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and sing in a band
Learn the fundamentals of recording technology
Get performance experience in the studio
Walk away with a professional quality recording of your child

Dates: August 10th – August 14th
Time: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Ages: 9 – 14
Cost: $350 for a one week session

 

Contact Us to Register Your Child!

Josh-Olmstead_Rock_CampSummer Rock Camp is held at the Philly Music Lessons studio in Fishtown, Philadelphia – Kids will learn to play faithful renditions of rock songs by such classic bands as The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin, as well as the modern bands they inspired, including Black Keys, Foo Fighters, Jack White, and My Morning Jacket. They will also get to study the basics of recording technology, live tracking, and overdubbing, before participating in a camp-culminating recording session. This music-based camp introduces beginners with little or no previous training to the fundamentals of rock performance, including guitar power chords, bass riffs, backbeat-driven rhythms, and emotive vocals. Intermediate students with regular instrumental lessons will have the opportunity to work in separate groups to study rock music in greater depth, undertaking closer note-for-note transcriptions of guitar solos and bass lines, original tempos and percussion arrangements, and multiple-part vocal harmonies. In addition to daily instrumental warm-up exercises and sectionals, band rehearsals, recording workshops, and general music instruction, we will listen to audio recordings, watch documentary and concert film excerpts, and discuss the greater cultural and sociological impact of the bands and music that we study. We break for lunch everyday, followed by an outdoor activity or indoor arts and crafts time. This is a multi-instrumental camp. Participating students will be encouraged to play guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards, as well as sing. A CD of the camp-culminating recording session will be provided to students as an archival benchmark of their musical progress and success. Contact Us for Registration

Director:

Josh_Olmstead_classical_guitar_teachersJosh Olmstead began directing student rock band workshops in 2003, adding a classical guitar ensemble component to his workshops in 2012. He is a classically trained guitarist, whose repertoire includes Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic works. As a classical guitarist, he has performed for private functions at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, National Constitution Center, and the Samuel Powel House. Josh is also an accomplished songwriter and recording and performing artist. His original music was recently featured in an episode of Southwest Airline’s Dish Trip. Josh’s songs also receive regular airplay on independent radio stations. As a guitarist, singer, and songwriter, Josh has performed internationally in England, Scotland, Germany, and the Netherlands, as well as in several U.S. cities. As a guitar instructor, Josh chooses specific coursework and style of guitar based on the interests and skill level of individual students. General study to include development of a wide range of skills, including accurate tuning, technique, scales, arpeggios, reading music notation, and/or tablature, sight reading, chords, songs and/or repertoire, vocal accompaniment, music theory, as well as general musicianship. Contact Us for Registration

See below for a general outline of the week at Rock Camp:

Daily-Camp-Schedule