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Campfire Songbook Guitar Lesson
As a beginner guitarist, it’s important to learn basic open chords. Using a campfire songbook or a folk songbook is the best type of book to start with.
When I was a kid, I started with a guitar book by Jerry Snyder. It wasn’t really considered a book of campfire songs, but a lot of the songs were great for campfire singing. I believe it was called the Guitar Sing Book. He is exhausted now. There were a lot of folk-rock songs that were popular in the 70s. I used a lot of those songs around campfires and literally wore them out. So I bought a new one and wore that one too. What was great about this book was that it used mostly easy open chords. It also included a suggested picking or strumming pattern at the start of each song.
As a guitar teacher, I usually spend time teaching chords and reading notes. I also spend time teaching tablature. This article is only about reading chords, so we won’t cover notes or tablature. If you’re interested in learning notes, there are tons of books for beginners on the guitar. I like to use Jay Traylor’s book called Classical Guitar for the Young.
For absolute beginners, I find it best to start with songs that only use 2 chords and don’t change too quickly. Some good songs to start with are:
- chumbara. It only uses C and G7 chords. It’s a fast song, so slow it down as you learn it.
- He has the whole world in his hands. Here’s another two-chord song, using only D and A7. This one is a bit slower than Chumbara; It’s easy to learn; and is a very popular campfire song.
- Michael row the boat ashore. This song uses three chords. He uses G, D and A7. It is also very popular around campfires.
- Crawdad song. A, E and B7 are the three chords in this song. B7 uses the 4 finger so it’s a bit more difficult, but since you’ll be using it a lot with the E and A chords, you should learn it as soon as possible. E and A chords are important to learn, especially if you plan to switch to barre chords. Barre chords are used on the electric guitar in country, rock, jazz, and other styles.
Most songs revolve around two chords that we call the I and V chords. For example; If a song is in the key of C, the I chord is C and the V chord is G or G7. (C is I, D is II, E is III, F is IV, G is V, A is VI and B is VII. This is real basic music theory. Some of these chords are major, some are minor, but that can be taught in another lesson.)
Here are the I, V chord pairs:
- C and G7
- D and A7
- E and B7
- G and D7
- A and E7
- F and C7
These chords are the easiest to learn. These are chords you’ll use a lot for folksongs and campfire songs.
Here are the other I, V pairs:
- Db and Ab7
- Eb and Bb7
- F# and C#7
- Lab and Eb7
- Bb and F7
- B and F#7
Here’s a tip: when learning how to move from one chord to another, pay attention to the patterns. Example; When you go from C to G7 the shape of the hand stays the same, all you do is move the first finger from the 2nd string, 1st fret, onto the 1st string, 1st fret, and you move the 2nd and 3rd fingers from the 4th and 5th strings, up to the 5th and 6th strings.
Here is another example: G to D7. With the G chord, the third finger plays on the first string, 3rd fret. When switching to D7, simply slide that finger to the 2nd fret and bring the 1st and 2nd fingers, as if glued together, from the 5th and 6th strings, to the 2nd and 3rd strings.
Here’s another tip: Below is a great exercise to help you learn how to change chords faster. Do your best to keep a steady pace.
Exercise 1 :
Strum C four beats. Rest four times. Strum G7 four-stroke. Rest four times. Repeat the exercise again and again several times. It should gradually become easier to alternate between C and G7.
Strum C five beats. Rest three times. Strum G7 five strokes. Rest 3 times. Again, repeat it over and over several times. You will notice that you are scratching one more time and resting one less time.
Strum C six beats. Rest twice. Strum G7 six-stroke. Rest twice. Do you see what is happening? As you move on to each new exercise, you have less time to change during rests.
Strum C seven beats. Rest for a while. Strum G7 seven beats. Rest for a while. When playing songs from the Campfire Songbook, you can actually play using this little trick when approaching a chord change. It is more important to start on the first beat with the new chord than to play until the three and four beats before the new chord.
Strum C eight beats. Strum G7 eight beats. When you get to this point, you no longer need a pause between chord changes. This should be your goal.
The idea behind this exercise is to strum four beats, then rest four beats as you move on to the next chords. The next step is to strum five beats, then rest three beats. The next exercise is to scratch six and rest two. The fourth exercise, you strum seven and rest one. Finally, in the last exercise, you strum eight then change with no rest at all.
These are just a few tips that will help you learn to play guitar with a folk songbook or a campfire songbook. I hope that helps you.
Waiting for; good playing and singing! May all your campfires be fun and musical!
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