Power at Your Fingertips

One of the Easiest Ways to Start Playing Guitar

When I was teaching guitar classes at the university level, I came up with a relatively easy way to start playing chords right away. It involves the use of open position power chords. Shown below is Rock 101, a document which diagrams these power chords in the upper left corner. (There is a lot of other useful information on this sheet, but we're going to concentrate on open position power chords in this article.)

Click here to get a pdf version of Rock 101 below. Please don't distribute this pdf by photocopying or posting it on the internet. You may print out one copy for your own use. If you know someone who wants a copy, simply refer them to this website. Please help me protect my intellectual property by respecting my rights.

Rock 101 copyright Jeff Anvinson www.jlamusic.com

Let's use these three chords in some relatively simple exercises called Power at Your Fingertips. The music is pictured below. Notice that only three chords are used: E5, A5, and D5. You can listen to the audio clips to hear what they should sound like when you play them.

These chords require only one fretting-hand finger. You need to pluck only two strings - the one fretted by your index finger (that's what the number "1" means next to the dot), and the open string above it. For example, for the "E5" chord, you pluck the top string open as well as the string below it, which is fretted at the second fret by your index finger.

You should use a pick to play these chords. Use a short, quick, choppy plucking stroke to sweep through the two strings at once. This will make it sound as if they're plucked simultaneously. Grip the pick more firmly to play louder, but try starting with a loose grip. Try to pluck as if the pick is skimming across the strings, like skating on ice, just barely hitting the strings. If you dig in too hard while plucking, the pick will get stuck on each individual string, making it hard to pluck two strings at once with a single stroke.

It may be difficult to pluck the correct strings at first. Don't be afraid to look at your picking hand at first to help guide it and limit it to plucking only two strings at a time. Eventually your plucking hand will be able to instinctively find the correct strings to pluck and limit it's range of motion to only two adjacent strings. When you have reached this point after practicing effectively, use your ear to guide your plucking hand and your eyes to help your fretting hand. If you've ever watched good guitar players, they rarely look at their plucking hands, instead fixing their vision upon the fretting hand or, more rarely, closing their eyes completely as if in a trance.

To learn to listen to your picking hand while looking at your fretting hand, try correctly plucking the E5 open position power chord while looking elsewhere. Purposely and methodically move the pick down to the lower strings (the thinner, higher-pitched ones) and listen to how it sounds compared to when you correctly plucked the top two, lower-pitched ones. Can you hear the difference between the sound of a correctly plucked E5 chord and plucking the wrong strings? Next start plucking the wrong strings and gradually move the pick upwards until it sounds like an E5 chord. I bet that after a little bit of practice listening to your plucking hand, you'll be able to join the ranks of the more proficient guitarists who guide their picks with their ears.

If you want more detailed information about plucking, check out the article on using radial and ulnar deviation on this website: Guitar Strumming Technique - Radial and Ulnar Deviation

Jeff Anvinson, owner/operator of JLA Music

Click here to get a pdf version of the sheet below. Please don't distribute this pdf by photocopying or posting it on the internet. You may print out one copy for your own use. If you know someone who wants a copy, simply refer them to this website. Please help me protect my intellectual property by respecting my rights.)

Power at Your Fingertips copyright Jeff Anvinson www.jlamusic.com

Audio Clips

Exercise One
Exercise Two
Exercise Three
Exercise Four
Exercise Five

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