More Chords and Improvising in A Minor

First position notes on all strings

If you have followed all of the lessons up to here, you will have learnt all of the first position notes, minus the sharps and flats. Here is a reminder:

First Position Notes

The top G lasts for four beats. This is shown using a Semibreve, a note with an empty circle and no tail.

More Chords

G Major

This is the full version of the chord you first played in a previous lesson. The G on the top string could be played either with your 3rd or 4th finger. Use whichever is more comfortable for you.

G Major Chord

F Major

F major introduces the technique of 'barring', which is pressing down more than one string with the same (usually the first) finger. It can take a bit of practice before you can get all of the notes in the chord to sound clearly. Experiment with the position and angle of your first finger.

F Major Chord

E Major

E Major Chord

Here are a couple of chord sequences using these chords.

Sequence 1

A Minor Chord Sequence - 1

Sequence 2

A Minor Chord Sequence - 2

Improvising with A minor

Both of the chord sequences above are in the key of A minor*. A couple of lessons ago we learnt the Natural A minor scale. Try playing that scale along with either of these patterns and you should find that the two go together.

Improvising is the art of making up tunes and melodic patterns as you go along, usually to a repeated sequence of chords. It can seem a bit daunting at first. Where do you start? Try the following steps:

  1. Just play up and down the scale, one note per beat.
  2. Do the same thing, but sometimes leave a note ringing for two beats,or play half-beats. Mix these different rhythms up.
  3. Now try playing around with the sequence of notes. Instead of playing all of the notes, miss every second one out. Try playing simple repeated patterns of two or three notes. A lot of improvisation is finding a pattern or rhythm that you like the sound of, and repeating it, maybe changing it slightly each time.

* When someone says a piece is in a certain 'Key', it means that the tune, chords etc. are built around the scale with the same name. For instance a song in the key of C Major would be built around the C Major scale. To get your ear tuned in to this, try listening to a song and imagine what note you think it should end on. That is usually the root note of the key.