Reading Chord Boxes

Recently, I've been posting a series of chord boxes on my Instagram feed in a series I'm calling 'Chord of the Day'.  Go check it out if you haven't done so already.

I've had questions from a few people asking how exactly chord boxes are read, so here is an explanation.

  1. The title indicates the name of the chord.
  2. The strings are ordered (from left to right): 654321 or EADGBe.
  3. A thick line on the top of the chord box represents the guitar nut and indicates that the chord is played in the open position (frets 1-4).
  4. Black circles on the diagram tell you which frets and strings to play.
  5. Numbers inside the black circles indicate fretting hand fingerings.
  6. An 'X' on the top line indicates that a string should not be played.
  7. An 'O' on the top line indicates an open string that is played.
  8. Numbers may appear on the left of the chord box to indicate fret numbers to help identify where on the fretboard the chord is played.
  9. The notes within the chord may appear below the chord box.

I have a free PDF handout to download here.

Learning The Fretboard - Octave Shapes

Octaves are super useful when you want to learn the notes on the fretboard and they are used a lot in many different genres.  In the video I will show you all the octave shapes that exist on the fretboard. 

I cover the following:

  • What an octave is;
  • How many frets make an octave on one string;
  • An octave on adjacent strings (e.g. string 6-5) and how that changes across the string pairs;
  • An octave shape skipping over one string (e.g. string 6-4) and how that changes across the string pairs;
  • An octave shape skipping over two strings (e.g. string 6-3) and how that changes across the string pairs; and
  • A two octave shape between strings 6 and 1.

How to Play 'Run' by Daughter

Here's a recent song lesson on 'Run' by Daughter.  This was the B-side of the band's single 'Smother', although the version I cover is an acoustic demo version that was suggested to me by a viewer.

This song uses the bass note strumming pattern that I introduced in my previous post. You can find the tabs below.  Click on the image for a .pdf to download.

How to Play 'Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution' by Tracy Chapman

Here is another classic strumming tune.  The opening cut to Tracy Chapman's debut album has a great tied strum and a repeating chord progression that sounds awesome.

The challenge here is when the chord change occurs on the 'up' strum in each measure (namely the G to Cadd9 and the Em to D).  Take your time with it, and make sure your strumming hand never stops moving! 

The chord progression and strumming pattern throughout the song.

The chord progression and strumming pattern throughout the song.

How to Play 'Hey Ya!' by Outkast

'Hey Ya!' is an absolute classic of a tune, and it's one that I often get out for students to work on a tied strumming pattern at a fast tempo.

It was presenting this to a student last week that prompted me to come up with the idea of a new series of videos for my YouTube channel, entitled (very unoriginally I know) 'Strumming Songs'.  This will be a series of songs that have one or two chord progressions with beginner chords but a great vibe to them.  There'll probably be lots of tied strumming patterns going on.

Below is a copy of the chord progression to download.  This is the progression throughout the song (although I still can't decide whether the E chord becomes an Em sometimes).

Good luck with it.

How to Play 'Sense of Home' by Harrison Storm

Here is my new song lesson on how to play 'Sense of Home' by Harrison Storm.  This was a request from one of my viewers, Danny.  This song has been added to my growing collection of fingerstyle songs that can be found on my YouTube channel.

You will find the tabs below.  Click on the image for a .pdf to download.

'Square Hammer' by Ghost Playthrough

I was asked by a Skype student to look at the main riff to the new song by Ghost, 'Square Hammer'.  I love the band and the song, so decided to transcribe the whole thing and upload a playthrough video.

The band has two guitarists, and so I wanted to perform what I think are the two parts, with solos.

The official video for the song can be found below.

How to Play 'Low Life' by Jamie N Commons

Here is my new song lesson on 'Low Life' by Jamie N Commons.  This was a request from one of my subscribers, Shaun Gimbitt.

There is a lot of chord embellishment in the original version with hammer ons and sus chords.  My lesson here presents the chord progressions and then a 16th note strumming pattern that closely resembles the feel of the song.

You will find the chord progressions below.  Click on the image for a .pdf to download.

How to Play 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' by Green Day

Here's a lesson from my archives on how you can play 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' by Green Day from their hugely successful 2004 album 'American Idiot'.

The main verse progression is particularly interesting as, with the chord fingerings I suggest, it allows us to work on the idea of anchor fingers.  This is when we are changing chords and one or more fingers stay in exactly the same position as we change chord.  With some focused practice, this can really help us with the speed of our chord changing.

You can find a song sheet with the chords and lyrics here.

How to Play 'Skinny Love' by Bon Iver

Here's a tutorial from my archives on how to play 'Skinny Love' by Bon Iver. Tabs can be found below.  Click on the image to download a .pdf.

I based my transcription on the original recording and this live performance:

The song is from Bon Iver’s 2007 debut album ‘For Emma Forever Ago’.  In the original recording (and when played live) the song is played on a resonator guitar.  I am using my trusty Yamaha folk guitar with steel strings.  I would definitely recommend steel strings for this.  Avoid doing it on a classical or electric guitar.

The guitar is tuned to an open C tuning (i.e. the open strings give the sound of a C major chord).  The tuning of the guitar though is slightly lower than the notes that I tell you to tune to.  That’s why it might sound pretty horrible if you tune to 440 Hz and try to play along to the song.  Have a listen to the song and reference the open C chord if you want to try and make the adjustment to play along to the original. 

To get into the tuning for the song, you need to do as follows:

E (string 6) tunes DOWN two tones/whole steps to C
A (string 5) tunes DOWN a tone/whole step to G
D (string 4) tunes UP a tone/whole step to E (always be careful when tuning strings up!)
G (string 3) STAYS the same :o)
B (string 2) tunes UP a semitone/half step to C
E (string 1) tunes DOWN two tones/whole steps to C

Note that both strings 1 and 2 are tuned to the same note.

There is a pretty consistent tied strumming pattern throughout the song, but we are in a shuffle feel here.  Simply put, if we are strumming 8th notes down and up, the down strum is longer in length than the up strum.  You can split the beat into a count of 3 (or triplets).  You strum down on the 1 and back up on the 3 count.