PART 3 - G, the D Chord's Other Best Friend
3 Magic Cords, Part 3: G, the D Chord's Other Best Friend
This is a follow up to "3 Magic Chords, Part 2," which encourages you to learn switching back and forth between two easy chords. In this lesson, you should learn the third most important chord in the key of D - one which, you will see later, is important in its own right as well.
This series, in turn, is part of the "VERY Basic Guitar subset of our "How To Folk" articles. In an effort to "jump start" your enjoyment of Folk music and your ability to join in, no matter what instrument you play, we are providing some very basic notes about guitar chords.
Note: - This part of the Folkarama page, which is dedicated to helping beginners "get into" Folk music and join Folk communities as easily as possible, with simple articles and links to resources that provide hands-on instruction in traditional acoustic instruments.
Folkarama, in turn, contains many references to more extensive articles and resources in Paul Race's CreekDontRise.com site, as well as other related pages.
Why do you need to know more than two chords? Because there are literally over a million songs that can be sung with three chords.
And if you're singing in the key of D, the third most important chord is G. In fact, it's so important that musicians call it the "Subdominant" chord of D. (Remember, A7 already claimed the term "Dominant.")
In case you wondered, most chords have names, depending on how they relate to the key of the song. The main chord is the "Tonic." The D chord has been our tonic throughout the lessons so far.
Back to the G chord, to go from D to G, you:
Going back and forth between D and G isn't as easy as going back and forth between G and A7, but every person who is playing guitar today buckled down and practiced until it was second nature.
Lots of folks today are using a version of the G chord that I only started using relatively "late in life." It is still a G chord, but:
If you're playing in D, either version works well for most songs.
To go from D to this version of G, you:
Try both ways of playing G and see which one works the best for you if you're playing songs in D. And when you notice someone playing the G chord the other way, be nice, but be glad you found a way that works for you.
One-Chord Songs You Can Play in G - One you can play in G only is "Amazing Grace." Yes, most people use more chords, and you will, too, eventually. But in many old hymnbooks, it never departs from the G chord. Of course, you can always play "Farmer in the Dell," "Frere Jaques,"and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" with just the G chord as well.
Two-Chord Songs You Can Play in G - To practice going back and forth between G and D7, you can try playing the songs we've already mentioned trying with D and A7, "Buffalo Gals," "'Tis the Gift to be Simple," "Go Tell Aunt Rhody," "Down in the Valley," "Down at the Station," "Tom Dooley," and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."
Learning D7 - We're sneaking one more chord in here: D7. This is the version of D that most people use when they're playing in the key of G (the same way most people use A7 when they're playing in the key of D). Why? Because the extra "flatted seventh" note that gives chords like A7 and D7 their name adds a little extra "tension" that signals to the listener that the song is going to come back to the "tonic." In a sense A7 "wants" to go to D. D7 "wants" to go to G.
That said, if a D7 is written and it's easier to play a D cord in that section, nobody will notice. (You're just leaving one note out, not changing anything else, and most people won't notice the absence.)
Why Play Songs in Different Keys? - You may find that some of these songs are easier to sing in G than D, or vice versa. For example, "Buffalo Gals" is out of my comfortable vocal range when I sing it in G. That's one reason Folk and Country singers learn to play in more than one key. (Bluegrass singers don't seem to care if a song is out of their range; in fact they may prefer it.)
There are hundreds of other 3-chord Folk songs that you can play in the key of D (using D, A7, and G) include: "Sloop John B," "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," "Home on the Range," "You Are my Sunshine," "Down By the Riverside," and "When the Saints Go Marching In."
Countless pop songs use just three chords as well.
The only limit to playing any three-chord song in the key of D is that the melody might be too high or too low for you to sing comfortably. That's one reason we will set you up to play three chord songs in G next. G is a favorite key of Folk and Country musicians, and the favorite key of Bluegrass banjo players.
Where's the Magic?Okay, I promised you magic, and all I've given you so far is a bunch of hard work.
What beginners don't realize at first is just how many songs - millions, literally - you can play with just three chords. We have listed a few more here:
ConclusionThese suggestions are just a start, of course. But for all of its variations and even contradictions, Folk music is a discipline in itself, and a rewarding one of that. The more you play, sing, practice, and hang, the more you'll get out of it, the faster you'll learn in the future, and the better you'll be at whatever you already do have "under your belt."
Other ResourcesThere are plenty of guitar instruction materials, online, of course. But we are working on a few that will help you learn the most basic, but necessary, information quickly.
The current resources we have published are:
For information about other music collections and projects, check the links at the bottom of this page.
And please stay in touch!
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