Guitar Lessons

"Chka Chkas"

In today's lesson, Franco is giving a bit of a masterclass on how to get your chord changes to sound a bit more professional. The obvious answer is to practice those changes as often as possible to get them smoother and smoother until they are super easy. This is hopefully a given, and it would be a pretty dull video if we just said that! Instead, today we're talking about making more use of your strumming hand, and adding in ghost notes, sometimes known as "Chka Chkas"!

So what exactly is a Chka Chka? I think this phrase was coined due to several famous songs that use it. The most famous for me is Creep by Radiohead. Do you know that part where Johnny Greenwood is just about to play a mega-distorted chord to blow up the whole track? Well, just before he plays that chord, he plays two sets of Chka Chkas! As Franco talks about in the video, this is the process of flattening your hand against the fretboard and muting the strings as you do. It's a very cool sound, and today we'll learn how to use it!

More famous examples…

Before we show you a fantastic, easy way to practice this technique, let's look at a few famous examples of this sound so that you can get a better feel for it. Remember, the main reason for using this technique is to make your chord changes sound more pro, and even have the movement to the next chord become part of the sound. So, let's start with Smells Like Teen Spirit.

As you can see from the arrows marked with an "x", this is where we are muting the strings and hitting them with our strumming hand. If you removed these Chka Chkas, you would lose the essence of this track, and it would sound incredibly dull. How about another one? How about song 2 by Blur?

Once again, notice the 'x' markers underneath certain arrows. These are the ghost notes; the song wouldn't be the same without them. Try for yourself if you are comfortable reading these rhythm patterns, and you will hear the difference. The cool thing is that we can apply this to our playing anytime we like.

Let's practice

So, to jump in with the above tracks, if you've never done this technique before, would be tough! Instead, let's work through a more simple idea that will develop the left and the right hand at the same time. we will start by learning a simple chord progression using powerchords. The progression looks like this:

With that progression learnt, we can start adding the strumming. The most important thing here is to think in 16th notes all the time. With our right hand, we are counting "1 e and a 2 e and a 3 e and a 4 e and a", with your right hand moving alternately. In a strumming pattern, without any Chka Chkas, that would look like this:

With that base very grounded, our next job is to add the Chka Chka to the groove. We will add them to the "2 and a" and "4 and a" beats. You can see it written out below, but it may mean you need to slow down, take a step back, and count through this pattern a few times. Remember that you have Franco playing it nice and slow on the video to help you through this idea.

And there we have it! Before you know it, you are adding these cool ghost notes to your chord changes, and the more comfortable you get with this idea, the more your rhythm playing will sound like a pro. You may even feel like you want to go to the extreme and use all ghost notes for the next few grooves you learn, but then gradually, it's about choosing when to leave space, as that's important too, and when to plug the gaps!

Have fun with these guys, and we'll see you soon for another wonderful lesson with Franco!

Strumming, Powerchords, Rhythm