In Unit 3 we really jump up a notch, and enter the world of hip hop fingerstyle! It's so much fun to see just how applicable this style is to a wide range of music, and this track demonstrates that perfectly. In terms of theory, we dive a little deeper into the concept of a "key" and harmonising that key. The focus is to understand why you end up using certain chord progressions more often than others, and then how to use a capo to change key and change the feel of a track. On top of that, and the true icing on the cake, we start to bring in a melody line within our chord picking... Now we're starting to cook on gas! Check out the first video to get started!
When it comes to fingerstyle guitar in most genres (other than virtuoso) we want to be working around open chord shapes as much as possible. There is just more flexibility with these shapes, especially when it comes to embellishments, as we saw in the previous unit. So, the question is, which keys tend to work best in open positions. Each key is built from two concepts:
For example, we could take the C major scale. This has 7 notes: C D E F G A B C. There are no sharps or flats, it is just as it is!
We then take these notes and apply the formula "major, minor, minor, major, major, minor and diminished" (don't worry about diminished for now). This gives us our key!
If you want to understand this in greater depth, check out our Theory Lab courses where we go through it in super high detail!
With that in mind, when we come to see what keys work best in open positions, we are looking for keys that have the least amount of sharps or flats, as typically those types of chords are not easy to play in open positions. So, here are the common keys you'll see for fingerstyle type music (NOTE: We've deliberately left out the 7th degree, as we don't need to be dealing with diminished chords at this point).
With these 3 keys, you can see that there are only two chords that are hard to play in open positions, F#m and Bm. As Thomas explains though, there are ways around that, by using chord inversions to get those notes in there (D/F# or G/B for example). So, let this information sink in for a little bit, and don't worry too much if it goes over the head. As we talk about it more and more and apply it more and more, you'll get there!
The capo is our beautiful gateway to the other keys that we can't access in our open positions. Let's first ask the question: "Why would we need other keys?". Well, there are a few reasons. Firstly, you might want to play a certain song along with the track, using open chords, but the song is not in the key of C, D or G major. The capo can help us do that. Alternatively, you may have a song you've written and struggle to sing in that key. Pop the capo higher up the neck, and voila, we have a different range for your voice. These are just two of the amazing possibilities for the application of a capo.
The main thing we need to know is, is the chord shape major or minor, and what is my new root note. For example, check out this diagram:
This applies to every single chord shape, you simply need to know where the root note is. Notice how we titled the chord "A minor (Capo 5th)" rather than "D Minor". Yes, in theory, it is a D minor, and it's important to know that, but typically this is how it will be titled. We'll be applying all of this wonderful theory to our new song in this unit, so strap in for the next set of lessons!
In this lesson, we will be taking a look at our first full track! Be sure to listen to the track a good few times before starting, and when ready, we'll tackle the A section! This is another step up from the previous unit, so we really need to take our time with this one. Here is the full tab as a reference to come back to as we go through the track.
When you're reading the tab you'll notice a few strange symbols and directions above the music. You can think of these as signposts telling you where to go next in the music. It's very common in music to repeat sections, for example, you would have the same backing for verse 1, verse 2 etc. And, while we can write these all out one after another, we prefer to use these directions to keep the sheet music to as few pages as possible. That way you get all the information you need to play the piece in front of you without having to turn the page (or scroll!). We'll briefly break down the directions and symbols we're using here:
Very often you'll need to change just the last bar of a repeated passage - this is very useful for leading into a new section for example going from a verse to a chorus. To save writing out the entire verse twice you can use alternate endings. The Line 'brackets' the bar (or bars) that will be different on each repeat and the number tells you when you should play it. So, if you see a 1. you play that bar on the first time through, then the section with the 2. on the second time through.
These two navigation instructions are made up of a written direction and a symbolic marker.
We can now get back to the track! Our first task is to get the first two chords together. These are the Am and G shape chords, but remember, the capo is on the 5th fret. So, although they very much look like these shapes, and can definitely be referred to as these shapes for ease, the actual tonality is D minor and C major. Use the tab and follow the video guide to get these two together before the next lesson.
Next up we'll add the next two chords, which are C major and D minor. Once again, these are referred to as C major and D minor with the capo on the 5th fret, but in terms of tonality, the chords are F major and A minor.
try to create the D minor as you get to the specific notes, rather than all at once!
As we start to put this all together with the drums, it is important to let the chord shapes gradually be fretted, rather than trying to fret the chord all at once. Thomas beautifully demos this in the lessons. So here is what we have so far, both as a set of chord shapes and as a chord chart in a 6/8 rhythm (counting 6 in a bar, rather than 4), good luck getting it all together!
We will now add the final set of chords, which are an F and E major chord. Remember, as always, the chords are named this, with capo 5, but the actual tonality is Bb and A major chords. Let's look at those final chord shapes, as well as the whole chord chart now!
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