3 February 2010

5 Reasons Chord Progressions Help You Learn to Play Guitar

When you learn to play guitar you will often come across talk of chord progressions. But you may be wondering just what they are and why you should learn them. A reader recently asked me this question, "Why learn chord progressions? If the chords for each song I want to play are given on the tab for those songs why bother learning about chord progressions?" Let's take a look at five good reasons why knowledge of chord progressions helps you as you learn to play guitar.

1. More Songs with Less Effort

Makes it easier to memorize songs so you can play without the tab sheets. You can think in terms of families of songs belonging to the same progression. Instead of memorizing each song and its various chords you simply remember the progression and the key you usually play it in.

2. Learn New Songs

Makes learning new songs easier - once you recognize a progression you know already by ear or by reading through the tab you'll be able to memorize and play it more easily. With knowledge of how progressions are constructed and common progressions you can identify the most likely candidates for chords in a song you are trying to figure out by ear.

3. Change Key

You can use your knowledge of progressions to easily change songs to other keys (this is called transposing). You can transpose a song to make it easier to play using chord positions that you know, open chords for example, or to adapt it to the singer's voice, which might be you.

4. Make Up Your Own Songs

When you understand how chord progressions are made you'll be able to make up songs of your own quite easily. You can pick the right kind of progression to create the sound and mood you want in your song and you'll know how to create good sounding verses, choruses and bridges so your song will sound really professional.

5. Play Without Tab

Sometimes the tabs for a song you need to play might not be to hand. When you're at a jam session or playing with someone else, for example, they may call a song that you don't know. But with your knowledge of chord progressions you'll understand exactly what to do when someone calls to you "It's a I-IV-V in the key of A", you instantly know the song's chords. So your chord knowledge helps you to communicate with other musicians.

In summary, building your knowledge of chord progressions will help you to play better guitar and be a more accomplished musician.

As the reader's question stated you don't strictly have to learn chord progressions. You can learn to play a lot of songs simply by following what's written down and this might be sufficient for your aims. But even if you don't aim to become a high-level musician the practical benefits of learning and playing more songs with confidence and reduced brain overload could well be a good investment of your learning time.

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1 comment:

Andrew diaz said...

These reasons are satisfying. I was also under a wrong impression that I can learn guitar without chord progression. Thanks for telling me the importance of chord progression.

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