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Not everything has to be difficult. This is also true when playing guitar.
I have the most fun playing basic songs. Simple harmonies that everyone can easily identify with.
They are fun to sing along with or just mess around.
One of my favorite “easy songs” is Jane’s Addictions’ ‘Jane Says‘.
The song is made up of only two chords (G & A), yet the way Dave Navarro plays them is genius. The song is probably the bands most famous hit. Why? Because people remember it and can identify with it. Just because its easy to play doesn’t diminish it.
There are tons of three and four chord songs out there that people love to hear. No fancy tuning, no strange chords. Here are a few examples of some three chord songs:
Twist and Shout by the Beatles (D,G,A); Wild Thing by The Troggs (A,D,E); Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Deep Blue Something (D,G,A).
Experiment with these types of songs. Have fun with them. If you want to practice to sing and play at the same time these songs are perfect for that.
If you want to add some depth, here are some suggestions:
1. Change up the way you play the chords. Start in third position then maybe use bar chords or power chords
2. Play around with different effects and distortion
3. Pick each note in the chord individually instead of strumming or mix it up, play arpeggios and strum
4.Try to keep a steady beat by tapping on the body of the guitar between strumming the rhythm.
5. Change up the tempos, palm mute, change octaves, take the basic chords and maybe add a dominate nineth or seventh etc etc etc. The main point here is have fun with them.
I am not much of a theory guy. I like to just go with the flow. I am a big fan of playing with “feeling”. Sometimes too much theory is too much like homework. However, I also believe you do need somewhat of a foundation. So with that being said, I want to touch on just a bit of theory as it pertains to basic songs.
Follow this concept and you will be able to recognize and play most of the songs out there. This will also help when you want to write some of your own songs. Simply put, a way to know what chords sound good together.
I am going show you something called the Roman numeral system.
It is basically the way you can arrange chords of the major scales in certain keys.
Let me explain by using the C major, this is a very common key in guitar.
Here is the C major chords – C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, B dim.
Therefore, I=C, II=Dm, III=Em, IV=F, V=G, VI=Am and VII=Bdim/Bb. The B diminished can be substituted with a Bb. You can use this technique with all major keys.
Follow these four variations and see how many songs you can recognize that use them. (I – V – VI – IV); (V – VI – I – IV); (VI – IV – I – V); (IV – I – V – VI).
Here is the sequence with a real song, ‘Apologize’ by One Republic. This is played on piano but you can still strum along with guitar. Here is how it looks. Played in C major: Am, F, C, G or VI, IV, I, V.
Here is a list of songs that follow the above patterns: Glyrcerine – Bush, Superman – Five For Fighting, Push – Matchbox 20, With or Without You – U2, So Far Away – Staind, What’s My Age Again – Blink 182, Don’t Stop Believin’ – Journey, No One – Alicia Keys, Until I Fall Away – Gin Blossoms, Feels Like Tonight – Daughtry, Otherside – Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hurt – Nine Inch Nails, Want You to Want Me – Cheap Trick, Beautiful – James Blunt, Spiderweb – No Doubt, When I Come Around – Green Day, Holiday – Green Day, Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers, Let it Be – the Beatles, It’s My Life – Bon Jovi, Building a Mystery – Sarah McLachlan, Shadow of the Day – Linkin Park, Impress Me Much – Shania Twain, Everywhere – Michelle Branch, Self-Esteem – Offspring, She Will Be Loved – Maroon 5, I Hope You Dance – LeeAnn Womack, I Remember You – Skid Row, My Sacrifice – Creed, Radio Nowhere – Bruce Springsteen