Here's some tablature for a common chord progression that many
popular songs are based on. You may hear songs like "What
a Wonderful World," and "Cupid," by Sam Cooke,
as well as some more modern tunes. I highly recommend singing
a song you like as you play these changes. That makes the song
A note on strumming: strum four beats per bar with a pattern
that feels natural. Focus on keeping a steady rhythm. You don't
even have to use a pick. Your fingers or thumb can strum.
The "||:" and ":||" symbols tell you to repeat what's between them.
"D.C. al Fine" means to go back to the start and then play until
you reach the word "Fine."
The following includes some thoughts on why this
song sounds as good as it does. You don't need to know this to
play around with the song. Feel free to skip ahead. You don't
have to read this to simply enjoy playing, but it might help you
out. With just a few elementary facts about chords, you can begin
writing your own progressions. Let's talk about these facts.
First, learn some Musical Math. Here are some
introductory concepts to it. Chords are built from scales. The
chords in the song we're working with come from the C major scale.
Here are all the chords in C major:
Plain old English
b* means "b half-diminished," which is kind of like a minor chord,
but really closer to a G7 in its overall sound.
The strongest chord movement, or cadence in Western music
is the Five One. In the key of C, that means playing a G7 chord,
and then playing a C chord right after it:
Do you hear how strongly that sets up C as the key center or
tonic? Right after you strum the G7 (the Five), your ear
is just itching to hear the C (the One). Just try playing the
G7 and don't play the C. You'll feel like there's something important
missing, like you forgot to put your underwear on this morning.
Here's another strong chord movement. Play a D
min (a Two in C major) followed by a G7 (a Five from C major).
This movement doesn't happen in the song we played, but something
like it does: an F (a Four) to G7 (a Five). Let's play more examples
of Four-Fives and Two-Fives in other keys:
This chord movement, which shows up in measures 1 and 2 of the
Sam Cooke song, is not as strong as the Five One and Two Five
movements, but it's just as important. Let's play some examples.
Do you hear how close the Ones and the Sixes are? When you move
to the A minor from C, it just doesn't feel as final or complete
as playing a G7 to C. It's almost like you're playing two different
flavors of the same chord. The music doesn't have the sense of
completion that a V to I change has.
To summarize these rules: for strong chord movements, play Five
to One and Two to Five. For not so strong chord movements, play
One to Six.
Here are other places on the web where you can learn about chord
This lesson is a excerpt from Guitar
Chords: A Beginner's Guide by Darrin Koltow
Learn how harmony, chords and chord
progressions work on the guitar. Guitar Chords features
over 230 illustrations, including 180 chord diagrams.
Also, there are 25 tablature examples, each with a
MIDI file. You'll also get charts for Rock, Blues
and Jazz so you can begin sounding great immediately.