Playing Your First Song Needs Preparation!
Preparing allows us to see things in full view. This is making sure we are doing it right the first time so we’ll have a better foundation to use in our lifetime.
In this lesson, we will not just play a song but we will learn what composes a song. Understanding each part of the song creates a great impact in your dynamics, on how loud and soft you are strumming your guitar. We should always keep in mind that we are expressing an emotion and not just making any sound.
Typically, the three main sections of a song are the verses, chorus and the bridge. A full structure consists of the following: Intro – Verse – Chorus – Verse – Chorus – Bridge – Chorus – Outro. Sometimes it includes a Pre-Chorus and an Instrumental before or after the Bridge.
Intro. This section is likely to introduce and establish the tempo, rhythm and the melody. It usually starts really slow and low but fast songs usually start louder.
Verse. The story starts to unfold in the verse. It sets the mood or emotion of a song and is usually played softer to give way to the voice telling the story. The second verse can either reinforce the emotion from verse one or bring a sudden shift of emotion, showing another development of the story. This is why you notice an increase of volume in your strumming.
Pre-Chorus. This part is optional. it’s a verse to chorus’ transition. You will also hear the volume building up in this section.
Chorus. This is the core of the song. It usually contains the hook, the title and every part points back to the chorus. This is where all instruments are set to play altogether in chorus with a louder volume.
Bridge. The bridge is set towards the end, after all the verses and in between the 2nd and 3rd chorus. It is usually a heightened emotion both in lyrics and sound, an extended build up from the chorus. Just like the chorus, you will hear another increase of volume, typically louder than the second chorus.
Instrumental. Another option music arrangers would do but not necessarily part of a song. This sometimes serves as a transition to build up further or release the tension before or after the bridge. Others do a guitar solo in this section or other instruments present in the band.
Outro. The outro is your cue that the song is ending. It is usually done slowing down from a repeated chord pattern of the chorus or in a sudden break if it’s a fast song.
Aside from these sections are unseen elements we need to know before playing the guitar. Always know the time signature, tempo, key and the chord progression of the song you are playing. If you search a song on the internet, you’ll find these details right after the title.
Chord Progression Of A Song
Chord progression is a series or sequence of chords moving from one chord to another. It is sometimes called a “chord pattern”, the order in which chords are played. When you add strumming to a chord progression, you are playing a song.
In playing guitar, this formula equates to a song: CP + S = Song.
A chord progression plus strumming is equal to a song.
For your first song, we will be using one of the common progression used in music and probably one of the easiest chord patterns you can play as a beginner: G, Em, C, D.
Let’s review the chords,
G Major (Gmaj or G)
- Place your 1st finger on the 5th string/2nd fret
- Place your 2nd finger on the 6th string/3rd fret (this is your bass note, G)
- Place your 3rd finger on the 1st string/3rd fret
- Play strings 4, 3 and 2 open
E minor Chord (Em)
- Place your 2nd finger on the 5th string/2nd fret
- Place your 3rd finger on the 4th string/2nd fret
- Play strings 6, 3, 2, 1 open (the 6th open string is your bass note, E)
C Major (Cmaj or C)
- Place your 1st finger on the 2nd string/1st fret
- Place your 2nd finger on the 4th string/2nd fret
- Place your 3rd finger on the 5th string/3rd fret (this is your bass note, C)
- Play strings 3 and 1 open
- Do not play the 6th string, (X)
D Major (Dmaj or D)
- Place your 1st finger on the 3rd string/2nd fret
- Place your 2nd finger on the 1st string/2nd fret
- Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/3rd fret
- Play string 4 open (this is your bass note, D)
- Do not play 6th and 5th string, (X)
It may look difficult since we are jumping from playing one chord (Em) to playing all four chords. So let’s break the chord progression into four combinations to practice chord shifting.
- G, Em
- Em, C
- C, D
- D, G
Practice shifting from chord to chord using these four patterns so you can build muscle memory. Always check your strings if it’s ringing clearly with no buzzing sound. Fret closer to the fretwire, not in the middle or on the wire and don’t use too much force in pressing your string to the board.
Don’t push yourself too hard if you’re still having a hard time changing chords. You can practice one or two chord combinations a day until you are able to play all four chords comfortably.
Another thing a guitarist should do diligently is listening to the song over and over again.
- Listen to get to know the song’s melody and lyrics.
- Listen, tap along and start counting the beat so you will know the tempo.
You can do this while you’re resting your fingers from your chord shifting exercises. You can even have the song playing in the background while you’re doing household chores. Listening well will surely help establish the right strumming pattern for the song you’re playing. It is also in listening consistently that you develop a skill of identifying notes or chords by ear, to some this is a gift.
You’re All Set!
Good job in preparing well. Have fun playing your first song!