Figuring Out Guitar Chords- Technique Or Talent?
Hi there! I had this comment on the “About LLG♥”page- “hey can you suggest how to find guitar chords yourself?” I thought “What a great question! I can do another ‘HH&T’ post!” (Helpful hints and tips.) So here’s my reply:
IT’S ALL IN THE EAR!
I’ve been told that I just have an “ear for it”, but it’s not like I just hear a song and immediately pick up my guitar and play it- However, that has happened quite a few times and I have to tell ya, it is awesome when it does ;) Anyway, below are the steps I use that may help you….or not. Maybe it is all in the ear ;)
I HAVE THE SONG AND ITS LYRICS READY TO GO.
First off, I always have the song I’m trying to figure out in my itunes. (Or on the link if it’s a request and I don’t own the song.) BEWARE OF YOUTUBE! MANY NEW RELEASE SONGS ARE “PITCHED” TO KEEP YOUTUBE FROM REMOVING IT DUE TO COPYRIGHT REASONS. ALWAYS GO TO ITUNES AND LISTEN TO THE PREVIEW TO SEE IF THE PITCH IS RIGHT (Some songs are noticeably wrong right of the bat while others are just slightly pitched and it’s hard to tell that it has been. That’s why previewing it in itunes is a good idea.)
I also have the lyrics pasted in notepad. Yes, I just use notepad on my pc for all my tabbing/chording. I go through the lyrics and space between line so it’s ready for chords to be placed. I then pick up my guitar, making sure the tuning is spot on and get ready to create :) (I give it a hug and a pep talk, “Come on sweetie, don’t let me down.” -J/K!!)
THE SONG IS PLAYING WHILE STRUMMING THROUGH DIFFERENT CHORDS.
I press play in itunes and just begin playing random chord progressions. If I can’t get anything within the first 3 or 4 chord changes (you can hear if you’re in the wrong key pretty quickly), I then place my capo on the 1st fret and start again with the different chord progressions, moving the capo to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. until I hear a chord (or chords) that fit. Finding out what fret the capo is on, is usually figured out in the first verse of the song (sometimes the intro!)
I then go to notepad and write down what fret the capo is on (many times I leave the song and go back to it later only to have forgotten where the capo goes. SO write/type it down!)
I then type out the ‘found’ chords where they are played over the specific word/lyric (like all my guitar chords are done.) Then I start the song over again and try to get the missed chords figured out by process of elimination. If, for example – Chords G and D are already used, I’m then trying other chords like Am, C or Bm etc. in the missed chords spots.
Once you have that first verse/chord progression figured out you’ve pretty much got the whole song done. The Bridge is usually just a switched up order of the same verse chords.
I CANNOT FIGURE OUT THIS CHORD!! NOW WHAT??!!
Trouble comes for me when barre chords that aren’t cheatable come in to play. (Yes, cheatable. It’s not a word, but I’m making it one, lol. Read definition below.)
Because I have an extremely hard time playing barre chords it’s hard for me to hear if it could or couldn’t be the chord I’m looking for. It gets very frustrating!
When that happens I move the capo around to different frets, playing the easy chords I love, until I finally find the missing chord. (Chances are if the missing chord is a barre, then when the capo is moved around to different frets, it will change to an easy to play chord.)
I then transpose that ‘found’ chord to the original fret I already figured out at the beginning. The ‘found’ chord will most likely transpose back to a barre chord I can’t play. You’ll see this in a few of my guitar chords. All easy chords and then this nasty barre chord. Well, that’s how I figured it out ;)
YOU’RE ALMOST DONE!
Congrats, you’ve got the chord progression down! The bridge was a little tough, but you figured it all out. Now spiffy up your tab so it’s easily playable by making sure the chords are placed correctly (over the lyric word they are to be played.) This makes it easier to play and sing along as you go :)
So my secret is out, lol. Is it technique or talent? I don’t know, I’m really curious. Let me know if this helps you :) I think it’s really fun to figure out songs (I wouldn’t be doing this if wasn’t!) It’s easy and also challenging at the same time, but very rewarding for a tab well liked. And I’m lucky to have a lot of them :)
“Cheatable”– When a barre chord can be successfully played by NOT having to barre. For example the Bm chord  can be cheated like this [xx4432] thus, making it playable for dumb weak fingers. It’s “cheatable” ;)
And as always, the LLG♥ disclaimer still stands for this post- LLG♥ is not responsible for any bad habits and such you may pick up from her self-taught ”H H & T” skills-Because she has many (bad habits, that is) and it’s too late for her to try to take professional lessons to fix those bad habits unfortunately ;)