Every Good Boy
Deserves Fruit

Getting Started: The Very Basics

Let's get you up and running. Today we'll talk about enough of the very basics to get you to a point where you can play music with other people. It's not going to be award-winning by any means, but it'll be enough.

Get started first; get amazing later.

You'll need to know the following chords:

$$ :w !Chord' (Maj G) | !Chord' (Maj D) | !Chord' (Min E) | !Chord' (Maj C) !AnnotateBars [Maj G, Maj D, Min E, Maj C] $$

The chords $Maj G$, $Maj D$ and $Maj C$ are pronounced "G major," "D major" and "C major" respectively. $Min E$ is called "E minor." We'll discuss where these chords come from and what they mean another time; today it's sufficient to just memorize them.

Popular music is often transcribed in the form of chord sheets. A good place to find music for anything you're looking for is Ultimate-Guitar.Com. Don't let the word "guitar" fool you---the music is the same for every instrument!

Today we'll be looking at the song Wagon Wheel, whose chord sheet looks like this:

G D Em C
G D C

Each of the vertical lines corresponds to a bar, and so this chord sheet means to play one bar of $Maj G$, then one bar of $Maj D$, etc. When you get to the end, start again at the beginning. Rinse and repeat while singing until you run out of words.

Chord sheets are intentionally terse; they offer a very rough guideline of how the song should be played, but don't really tell you how to do it. This is the primary skill we'll be developing throughout the next few lessons.

Today, however, we'll just hammer out the chord in four quarter notes for each bar. Let's interpret the chord sheet above as the following:

$$ !Preamble Treble (Just (4, 4)) Nothing :q !Replicate 4 (Chord' (Maj G)) | !Replicate 4 (Chord' (Maj D)) \n !Preamble Treble Nothing Nothing !Replicate 4 (Chord' (Min E)) | !Replicate 4 (Chord' (Maj C)) \n !Preamble Treble Nothing Nothing !Replicate 4 (Chord' (Maj G)) | !Replicate 4 (Chord' (Maj D)) \n !Preamble Treble Nothing Nothing !Replicate 4 (Chord' (Maj C)) =:| $$

Congratulations! You've now part of a very exclusive club of musicians who can play Wagon Wheel. Memorize these chord changes, and invite some friends over for a jam sesh.

It might sound silly, but a huge portion of playing music is just this---knowing and playing the chord changes. The rest is just embellishment.

So, what does embellishment look like? Really anything that adds some interest to the music. For example, we can break the chords:

$$ !Preamble Treble (Just (4, 4)) Nothing :q !Replicate 2 (Diddle (Maj G) 4 First [[0], [1, 2]]) | !Replicate 2 (Diddle (Maj D) 4 First [[0], [1, 2]]) \n !Preamble Treble Nothing Nothing !Replicate 2 (Diddle (Min E) 4 First [[0], [1, 2]]) | !Replicate 2 (Diddle (Min E) 4 First [[0], [1, 2]]) \n !Preamble Treble Nothing Nothing !Replicate 2 (Diddle (Maj G) 4 First [[0], [1, 2]]) | !Replicate 2 (Diddle (Maj D) 4 First [[0], [1, 2]]) \n !Preamble Treble Nothing Nothing !Replicate 2 (Diddle (Maj C) 4 First [[0], [1, 2]]) =:| $$

That's already sick, that. But you know what you wanna do with that right? You wanna put a bangin' donk on it:

$$ !Preamble Treble (Just (4, 4)) Nothing :q !Replicate 2 (Diddle (Maj G) 4 First [[0], [1, 2]]) | !Replicate 2 (Diddle (Maj D) 4 First [[0], [1, 2]]) \n !Preamble Bass (Just (4, 4)) Nothing :h !Replicate 2 (Note G 2) | !Replicate 2 (Note D 3) $$

It's sort of silly how much better a little embellishment sounds already, isn't it? We'll progress from here by looking at small, simple adornments can be quickly learned, and layered for great effect.

For practice, familiarize yourself with playing songs and singing along to them. You can let your vocals carry most of the musical weight; for now your instrumentation is best considered as accompaniment. Practice with a metronome and make sure your chord changes are on the beat. Play music using both hands, and build independence between the two by playing them at different times. Find some other four-chord songs to play---here's an easy and fun way to find some that you already know.