Supplemental Material for Page 2 (Chapter 1)
A, D, & E
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Related audio: CD Track 1 (Intro); Track 2 (Tuning Notes); Track 3 (Audio for Page 2)
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General info about page 2:
The amount of time required to achieve mastery of page 2 varies wildly from student to student. For this page, let's define "mastery" as the ability to switch from one chord to another with a metronome at 144 beats per minute. The progressions at the bottom of the page should be playable in quarter notes at a moderate tempo with a nice, clean, ringing tone. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months of steady practice to achieve. Don't proceed to the bottom half of the page until the three chord combinations on the top of the page ("A to D", "A to E", "D to E") can be played with reasonable ease and fluidity. In short, the progressions (numbered 1-4) are fun & musical, but the exercises on the top present a much more efficient way of practicing.
It's OK to proceed to other pages (and to work on material not presented in Sensible Guitar) before page 2 is mastered. However, this material (top half of page 2) should constitute a huge percentage of your practice time until all of Chapter One is mastered, as it builds skills which are critical to countless facets and styles of guitar playing.
Important advice for those just starting out:
If you're very, very new to looking at chord diagrams and figuring out where to put your fingers, here's what to do when you look at the pictures of the chords:
Go in order of finger. That is, ask yourself: "Which string is finger number 1 on?" (For A, the answer is the fourth string). Get that first finger on the string, and then double check that it's in the correct fret (second fret for A & D; first fret for E). Then, "Which string is finger number 2 on?" Double check your fret, and then continue on to the third finger. You'll quickly get used to reading the diagrams, and the chords will be memorized before you know it (with reasonable practice).
Be sure your left thumb points upward, applying the necessary pressure to the back of the neck. Don't turn the thumb sideways, or let the palm of your hand touch the guitar. Avoid resting your left arm on you leg. Also, many beginners will try to adjust their left arm angle, seeking a way to play more comfortably. Note that drawing your left elbow in toward your body does not make playing easier, and is ultimately much less comfortable. Try to stay loose, relaxed, and "squared up".
Regarding the text on the top half of the page:
"Practice the following chord combinations."
This refers to the three shaded areas (as mentioned above: "A to D", "A to E", "D to E").
"Play each pair of chords over & over, giving each chord just one strum."
The "just one strum" part is the most important. Tempting as it may be to listen to your newly formed chord by giving it a few strums before moving on, remember that this is a waste of your practice time. Once the chord is formed, all the hard work is done. To maximize the efficiency of your practice time, give one strum and hustle over to the next chord. Give it one strum, and hustle back. Use the audio as a guide. Use a metronome if you have one, and get a metronome if you don't.
How many times is "over & over"? Who knows. The quicker you get, the more times you'll be able to switch chords in a given amount of time. I advise students to do each pair of chords for "as long as you can stand it, and then five more times. Then move on to the next pair of chords". For young beginners, spending a couple of minutes on each of the three chord pairs is ample at first, but only if consistently done on a daily basis. The more time you put into this, the faster you'll become proficient. Skipping days of practice is the worst thing you can do. It's all about muscle memory, and your hands need to get their work in (practically) every day.
"Work on quick, smooth switching from one chord to another."
Really push yourself to move your fingers as quickly as possible. The metronome is especially helpful in this regard. Pay attention not only to forming the chords quickly, but also getting out of the chords as fast as you can. For example, when going from D to A, be sure not to sit & let the D chord ring. Give it one quick strum and spring right out of that D position, heading back to A right away. Good words of encouragement are "Push yourself".
A good sign of progress is when more than one finger gets into position at once. For most folks, fingers 1 and 2 will eventually land in place together as you form the chords, with only the third finger straggling slightly behind. Later, all three fingers will pounce into place at once. You may wish to peek ahead to page 8, which offers a few tips: when going from A to D, note that the third finger remains on the second string. It simply shifts from the second fret to the third. For E to D, the first finger remains on the third string, simply shifting from the first fret to the second. Try not to take these fingers away from the strings as you switch chords. You can even leave them touching the strings as you switch, simply sliding them into the correct frets. This is a harder approach at first, but becomes a nice "shortcut" once your fingers learn the chord shapes. In general, try to keep your fingers close to strings. Don't lift them away from the guitar neck between chords, as it will only take longer to get back in place.
Page 8 also indicates some "alternate fingerings": other ways to play some of the chords. For those with big hands, the A on the bottom of page 8 may be a good option.
Looking ahead to page 3:
It's a good idea to apply the information from page 3 to the chords on page 2. When you finally get around to working on the bottom of page 2, try strumming various combinations of half notes and quarter notes. As you learn additional rhythms (like from page 5), apply them as well. Of course, this raises the issue of right-hand technique. Teachers recommend various approaches, and there's more than one correct way to strum the guitar. I advise strumming from the elbow, with minimal wrist motion. Avoid turning your hand or arm a different way for the upward and downward parts of the strumming motion. Stay loose & relaxed. Strum with a nice, light touch. Don't bend your wrist. While having some wrist motion in the floor-to-ceiling direction is not horrible (some fine players do this), be sure not to bend your wrist inward toward the guitar, even a little bit. Consult a teacher if you're unsure about your right hand technique. Even if you develop great ability in your left hand, you'll never sound good if your strumming is sloppy.
Getting off to a good start is critical, and there are more potential problems than can be practically addressed in one place. I've tried to address the major pitfalls, but beginners are sometimes creative in finding poorly-advised ways to approach the guitar. If you have a question or concern, or suspect you may be doing something "wrong", please seek out a teacher, or email me with a question. ~C.C.
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