Alright electric players*, this is a good place to start, especially if you're looking to break out of first position and move up the neck. Be sure to check out the acoustic posts on CAGED families as a lot of that will apply to you as well but I wanted to start with something that would be pretty immediately useful (though you can go really deep with this too): chord triads. Fancy name for very useful little chord voicings. You may go to some of these already. In fact, if you play any chords at all you already do play them, either way, you're hearing these particular voicings of chords ALL the time. We'll look at examples in songs soon but for the next couple of posts we'll talk about what they are, how to use them, and how practice them.
What They Are:A triad is the raw material of a chord stripped down to its basics. Just like the name implies, it has three things going on. In this case, notes. 3 notes to be specific: the Root (R), the third (3), and the fifth (5). That's what makes up a chord at its basic level. Ok, enough theory, lets move on to the chords:
Consider the example to the right (Figure 1), Triads in C major (if the term triads freaks you out, just think "little chords").
If you're not familiar with these they might look a little strange but the example shows you two things: First, there are three shapes, and second, they move up the neck.
So, for one C chord, you have 3 choices that move from the bottom of the neck all the way up to the twelfth fret (even more if you keep repeating the shapes). That's a lot of distance and will help you not be stuck on only one zone of the neck.. Again, as I've mentioned before this stuff is like building your musical vocabulary. You want to have options and be able to be as creative as possible. These will help you loads and is absolutely essential for an electric player (really any guitarist).
The diagram is a representation of the guitar neck starting at the first fret (top of the pic) moving all the way to the 12th fret. Certain frets are numbered for guidance. The chords are also labeled with R, 3 and 5 for root, third, and fifth. The black dots are for your fingers and the open circle is the root. Finger them however it makes sense. OK, so check the chords. Play each one. Don't just strum through them but play the notes one by one. Try playing the notes in different orders. Move them around. Chances are it will start sounding like something you've heard before. You might even start getting a creative idea.
If you have something to play against, even better. A looper works well. If you don't have that, check out these ambient pads in all 12 keys. Play the one in C for about 8 minutes of washed out C majory goodness. Its waaaay more interesting and fun to play/practice this stuff in some sort of musical context. Now you have to get these into your fingers. We'll hit that up in another post but quickly:
1. Get used to the shapes.
2. Notice where the roots are. These are all moveable chords so they become whatever chord you want them to be depending on where you move them.
3. Practice with a simple chord chart. Can you move these around to become other chords? It helps to get to know the notes on the neck, but well talk about that soon if you're unfamiliar with that.
So, dig in to these. Start becoming familiar with them and check out part 2 here.
Practice up, let me know if you have questions and thanks again for serving your local church!
*This is great stuff for any guitarist, not just electric players, though they will tend to use these more than open chords like and acoustic player would in this style.