Buddy Fingers – fingers that move together to the next chord maintaining their finger position.
Anchor Fingers – fingers that do not move between chord changes.
Major Chords - the “happy” sounding chords.
Minor Chords – the “sad” sounding chords.
Keeping in step with last month’s Buddy and Anchor Fingers, I’ve come up with a few exercises and new chords to try.
Exercise 1a - A min to E maj (three buddy fingers)
Let’s learn A minor! For the three finger, open position – place your 1st finger on the 2nd string at the 1st fret. Put your 2nd finger on the 4th string at the 2nd fret and place your 3rd finger on the 3rd string at the 2nd fret. You can strum all six strings, however you also want to practice muffling the 6th string by wrapping your thumb around the neck.
Now let’s learn E major! We are going to move our A minor fingering to E major by keeping our buddy fingers together. Move your 1st finger to the 3rd string, 1st fret. Hopefully your 2nd and 3rd fingers naturally fell into place on the 5th and 4th strings at the 2nd fret. If not, try to move the whole group of fingers in unison to their new positions. Practice changing between the 2 chords. Don’t forget C major, F major and G major.
Exercise 1b – A min7 to E7 (four buddy fingers)
Let’s not forget about our pinkie. The pinkie is weak and lazy. The only way to toughen him up is to make him work! So . . .
Let’s play A minor, but this time let’s put the 4th finger (pinkie) on the 1st string at the 3rd fret. That note makes our A minor an A min7. It has a very cool sound, huh?
Now let’s play E major, but this time put your 4th finger on the 2nd string at the 3rd fret. This makes the E major an E 7 chord. Now, strum these chords together keeping in mind the buddy finger system. If the four finger chord are too much then just leave off the pinkie.
A Note on Strumming - While strumming, try tapping your foot in measures of 4/4. (1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &) Keep your wrist in time with your foot. Think “up-beat- down-beat”. If the foot goes down, then so should the wrist. And if the foot is going up then the wrist should follow. Focus on keeping a steady rhythm, you can experiment with tempo, counting in ¾, 6/8, etc., but don’t strum faster than your fingers can change chords. Start slow, play steady, and be patient young grasshopper.
Exercise 2 - Anchor fingers and Four Finger Chords C – Amin7 – Emin7 – G
C to Amin7
Start with the four finger C major chord by placing your 1st finger on the 2nd string, 1st fret – your 2nd finger on the 4th string, 2nd fret – your 3rd finger on the 5th string, 3rd fret – and your 4th finger on the 1st string, 3rd fret. Your 1st, 2nd & 4th fingers are your “anchor” fingers, so to change to Amin7, simply move your 3rd finger to the 3rd string, 2nd fret.
A min7 to E min7
Changing from Amin7 to Emin7 is pretty easy if you keep your 4th finger anchored to the 1st string, 3rd fret. Then place your 1st finger on the 5th string, 2nd fret – your 2nd finger on the 4th string, 2nd fret – and your 3rd finger on the 2nd string, 3rd fret.
E min7 to G
Now to change from Emin7 to G – keep your 1st, 3rd & 4th fingers anchored and simply move your 2nd finger to the 6th string, 3rd fret.
G back to C (the top)
To get back to the top of the exercise – keep your 4th finger anchored on the 1st string, 3rd fret – move your 3rd finger to the 5th string, 3rd fret – move the 2nd finger to the 4th string , 2nd fret – and move the 1st finger to the 2nd string, 1st fret.
Now I know the exercise is a little melancholy, but it is a great way to practice these four chords together. You can make many variations of these chord changes. Some combinations may sound better than other, but remember to have fun, challenge your fingers and your ear.
One of my favorite things to do when playing acoustically, with friends, is to thump out the bass line on the 4th, 5th and 6th strings. This sound is a standard motif of most country, rock, pop, reggae, and practically anything Johnny Cash sang. When no drums or bass are present its always nice to be able to step up and have everyone lock in with the bass lines. I used to worry about bouncing between the root and the 5th, but now I find if I just treat the lower three strings like bass notes, then a third works just fine. Just bounce between the two lowest strings in any given chord. If you can maintain the bass line and the strum, then by-golly you’re a one-man band. Happy pickin’.