Let's jump into some BASIC Music Theory.
MANY of the musicians in this area, know the chords they are supposed to play, when playing along to their favorite songs; but they don't know why, OR they don't know how to transpose the song into the key that would better suit their voice.
Here's a great example- Assuming you are in standard tuning- If I want to play "Toes" by ZBB, I could just play "Brown-Eyed Girl" and change the words. ZBB plays it in the key of "A"- (so that means putting a capo on the second fret) but it's basically the same song. (BTW-There are literally thousands of these.)
To understand what I'm getting at, let's dive in to some very basic music theory. Don't be skeered~ It's not going to hurt.
First there are only 12 notes in music. They are:
C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B and then repeats forever...
The # means 'sharp'. I will not be using it here, but that position would also be called 'flat' for the next note. For example...
C sharp is the same as D flat, G sharp is the same as A flat and so on.....
Now, there is a step pattern you need to know....
W W H W W W H
This means whole, whole, half, whole,whole,whole,half
A whole step is 2 notes, and of course, a half step is 1
So if I start this step pattern with the A note, and write down each note I land on, I will get...
C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# BA B C# D E F# G#
These are all the notes in the key of A.
Everything in the key of A is done with combinations or manipulations of these notes. To make it easier to understand let's number them...
A B C# D E F# G#
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
One very popular chord progression is referred to as 1 4 5. Sometimes it is written as... I IV V.
For the key of A, that chord progression will be ...A D E. You are just using combinations of the first chord, the 4th chord and then the 5th chord of that particular key.
Try to divide the other keys as well. Seriously- sit down with a sheet of paper and write them down. ~KEEP IT NEAT!~ I suggest you begin with C.
Which will look like...
C D E F G A B
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
and then the next key you should do will be the one numbered '5'.
Which will be ...
G A B C D E F#
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
and next would start with D... and so on. Play around with this, and we will add to this in future posts. Go through all 12 keys until you get back to C. You will notice a really cool couple of patterns.
If you are a beginner at this whole music thing, you could certainly use some helpful tricks of the trade.
The greatest 'trick' a guitar player has in his arsenal is the lowly capo.
The capo changes the pitch of the guitar. It acts the same way the "nut" does, in that it is the point where the string stops.
If you have a guitar in standard tuning, and you play an E minor chord you will be playing something commonly drawn like this....
O 2 2 OOO The O means 'open'.
If you place the capo on the first fret, you will effectively be changing the pitch of the guitar. Play an E minor RELATIVE TO THE CAPO it will BE this...
1 3 3 1 1 1
But Look like this...O 2 2 O O O
You'll notice that it is similar to a 'barre chord'; But, you don't have to 'barre'. The capo does that for you. And you are playing an ' Fminor' without having to learn a new chord.
What makes the capo such a wonderful trick; is that with it, you can play one chord progression in many different keys without having to learn new chords! This makes some songs easier to sing, or it may make a song sound a little different. The capo has the ability to inspire creativity, or encourage growth in your set list.
If the capo is on the 2nd fret, but your hand plays a "G" chord...you'll be playing an "A" to the rest of the worlds ear.
If the capo is on the 4th fret, but your hand plays a "G" ....you're playing a "B" to the rest of the worlds ear.
By learning theory, you will open yourself up to a ton of songs that you didn't know you could play. It will also help you put "your flavor" on old classics, or to play songs in a key that you can sing with comfortably.
I hope this helps somebody.