We’re back with the simplest explanation of the basic chords that you have to learn to play anyway. Last week you learned how to jam an A major in three steps. This time we turn our attention to its sad brother: the A minor.
Remember that everything comes with a price, including mastering your instrument. Do your fingers start to hurt due to pressing down the strings? Read this blog post for tips. Okay, eyes on the prize now. After this week you’ll have expanded your arsenal of basic chords to not one, not two, but four! We already discussed the E, the Em, and the A in previous posts. Today’s first prize is the Am. Do you know what second prize is? Grab your guitar quickly and tune it to standard tuning, that’s the second prize.
Step 1 – Tune your guitar
As always, the first step is tuning your guitar. This applies to both pros and beginners. An out-of-tune guitar displeases the audience. For a standard tuning you can use a tuner, or an application for your phone like KARANG.
Step 2 – Observe the diagram of the A minor
To learn how to play a chord, you first need to know what it looks like. We have a chord diagram for that. A chord what?! Look at the picture below, on which a part of the guitar neck is drawn. The vertical lines from left to right are the strings E, A, D, G, B, e (strings are counted from bottom to top, so the high e is the first string and the low E the sixth).
You can also see transparent circles at the top. These indicate which strings are played open. The number one indicates the fret on which the chord is located. Useful, because you need to know exactly where to work on the guitar neck. As you can see, in this case the Am is at the very top of the neck at the first fret.
Step 3 – Put your fingers in the right position
The fingering you have to use to play an Am is indicated by the numbers in the thick black circles. Here is some extra clarification: 1 indicates your index finger, 2 your middle finger, 3 your ring finger, and 4 your little finger. Easy, isn’t it? Nice. Time to grab your guitar.
Before you start, here’s a mnemonic device for your fingers: do you remember the E-Major? Position your fingers in that chord. All set? Now move the exact same fingering one string higher. So, now your middle finger and your ring finger are placed next to each other on the second fret. The middle finger on the second fret of the fourth string (the D string) and the ring finger on the third string (the G string).
Now it’s time to position your index finger on the first fret of the second string (the B string) and press hard. Give all the strings a good ring starting from the A string down. So this is the sound of the Am. Congratulations, you’ve added another chord to your basic skills!
Step 4 (bonus) – What does an Am chord consist of?
So now you know how to play an Am. The question is: what are you going to do next? Click here and start applying your new knowledge to tracks written in Am? Or read on to understand why an Am chord is played according to the music theory that you just learned. Whatever you choose, there are no wrong answers here.
Ha! You haven’t dropped out yet. That’s it. Hold on, because here comes the theory roller coaster. Each basic chord we discuss consists of a number of basic elements: the root, the third note (third), the fifth note (fifth) and the eighth note (octave).
The octave and the root are the same tone, only they differ in height. The fifth provides the power in the triad by supporting it harmonically. The third indicates whether a chord is major or minor. This says something about the mood the chord is in — major often sounds cheerful and minor sounds a little less happy.
Step 5 (bonus) – The scale of Am
Why do we give the tones within a chord such strange numbers? Well, that’s because these tones come from the scale of the relevant key. For example, the scale of the Am is made up of A (1), B (2), C (3), D (4), E (5), F (6), G (7) and A (8). Note the numbers behind the tones. The 1 is the root, the 3 is the third, the 5 is your fifth and the 8 is the root played higher, which we also call — as already explained — the octave.
Now take another look at the Am chord diagram. Which tones do you actually use from the scale? You strum an A, an E, an A and a C — so root, fifth, octave and third. Makes sense, right? For more complex chord constructions see this blog post. Do you find this theory section hard to wrap your head around? Don’t worry about that right now and play along with tracks from Deep Purple and Chic written in Am. Happy jamming!
How to play an A chord in three simple steps
How to play an E chord in three simple steps