Chords C and G7

The chords you are going to learn now are easy versions of basic chords. (You'll learn the more complex forms later.) The chords are C (shown in FIGURES 5-1 and 5-2) and G7 (shown in FIGURES 5-3 and 5-4). Memorize the names of the chords and the shapes they make.

To play the C chord, put your first finger on the second string at the first fret. Press hard. Strum the first, second, and third strings together to sound the C chord. Do this four times. You've now strummed four beats. When these four beats are written as shown in FIGURE 5-5, they make one bar (or measure) of music.

Strum the chord four more times. You've now strummed two bars of C.

To play the chord G7, put your first finger on the first string at the first fret. Strum the first three strings together, and do this four times. Play the C chord four times, and then another four times. Play G7 four times. Now play C four times.

Surprise! You've successfully played the song “Merrily We Roll Along.” The 4/4 at the beginning means count and play four beats in every bar. (If the time signature was ¾, what would that mean? Answer: You would play and count three beats in the bar instead of four.)

The bars are created by bar lines that look like this: “ | ” It is usual to write four bars per line and then go to another line. In “Merrily We Roll Along,” for example, as FIGURE 5-7a shows, the first bar is C for four beats, and the second bar is also C for four beats. The third bar is G7 for four beats, and the fourth bar is C for four beats. The next line is a repeat of the first line, so that the song has a total of eight bars altogether.

Merrily we roll along, roll along, roll along, Merrily we roll along, over the deep blue sea.

Changing chords to play this song is going to take some practice. You may find that your fingertips get sore. The strings will buzz if you stop them in the wrong part of the fret or don't press hard enough. As you change chords while you strum, it's a challenge to jump your finger smoothly from the first string to the second string and back again. But don't get disheartened. Remember, everyone who has ever played the guitar — from Segovia to Pat Metheny to Eric Clapton — has had to go through this stage, and every one of them found it just as awkward and just as frustrating as you do.

The trick again is to practice slowly and try to aim for good technique. Slightly arch your wrist, use your fingertips, and press firmly with your thumb in the middle of the back of the neck as you press down with your fingertip to stop the string. Try to eliminate all sounds of buzzing. Keep your other fingers out of the way.

Now try another old folk song, “Go Tell Aunt Rhodie,” shown in FIGURE 5-7b.

Go tell Aunt Rhodie, go tell Aunt Rhodie, Go tell Aunt Rhodie, the old grey goose is dead.

Once you can play these two simple tunes with smooth chord changes from C to G7, it is time to move on and learn two more important chords.

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