The 30-Day Guitar Challenge Week 2

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Day 8: Chords, Scales, Keys

Main Task: Learn what the words “scale”, “key”, and “chord” mean.

Today is an in-betweener lesson to clear up some jargon and give you an extra day to practice moving your D and A chords back and forth from yesterday’s lesson.

Chord – Three or more notes played at the same time.

Scale – A scale is a set of notes used to create a piece of music, most commonly with 7 notes.  The notes can be played individually to create melodies or stacked in different ways to create chords.
Example:  C Major Scale – C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

Key – When a song is written using a particular scale, we say it’s “in the key of” that scale.  So a song written with the C Major scale above would be in the key of C Major.


Day 9: Strumming Eighth Notes

Main Task: Strum eighth notes on your D Major and A Major chords.

Eighth notes are a half beat each.  That means there are two eighth notes in every beat.  They are counted “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and” as in the notation above.

The numbers (1,2,3,4) are called the “downbeat” and should match your foot taps or metronome click.  You’ll hit those with a down stroke – your picking heading towards the floor just like with your quarter notes.

The &’s are called the “upbeat”.  These go evenly between your foot taps and will be hit with an up stroke – your pick heading back up towards the ceiling.

  1. Grab your D Major chord and start by strumming quarter notes, just like in Lesson 5. Tap your foot on each beat.
  2. Now, still hitting all the down strokes, start hitting the strings on the upstroke in between each beat. You’ve got eighth notes!

- Make sure your downbeats and upbeats are even.  All the eighth notes should be the same length.
- Keep counting out loud the whole time.


Day 10: ‘Dead Flowers’ Strum Pattern

Main Task: Learn the strum pattern for ‘Dead Flowers’.

The strum pattern for ‘Dead Flowers’ is a slight change from what you did yesterday.  Instead of a full measure of eighth notes, we’ll use a quarter note at the beginning of the measure.

Essentially it’s the same exact movement as playing all eighth notes like yesterday, except you’ll miss the strings on the “and” of beat 1.

  1. Try strumming the pattern on your D Major chord and your A Major chord separately.
  2. Alternate one measure each between D Major and A Major without pausing or missing any beats.

Reminder: Keep your strumming hand moving.  If you mangle some of the chord changes, that’s fine.  That will cure itself with more playing.  But never let the rhythm drop.


Day 11: Nashville Notation

Main Task: Understand Nashville Notation for chord progressions.

Nashville (or Roman Numeral) Notation is a numbering system for chord progressions.  It helps us use chord combinations that we know work, in different keys.

‘Dead Flowers’ is in the key of D Major.  These are the chords of D Major.  Don’t worry. You don’t need to learn all of them right now.  This is just to illustrate what we’re working with.

D  Em  F#m  G   A  Bm  C#dim
I    ii      iii      IV  V   vi       vii

Tip: The letter by itself means a major chord.  The little “m” means “minor”.  The “dim” stands for “diminished”.  We’ll learn about minor and diminished chords later.

You can see that we’ve numbered the chords 1-7 using Roman numerals.  Uppercase for major, lowercase for minor.

In ‘Dead Flowers’ we’re using D and A so far.  That’s a I-V chord progression.  Tomorrow we’ll be adding a G Major chord giving us a I-V-IV chord progression.

Why is this useful?

This gives us a way to generalize chord progressions for different keys.  It also lets musicians communicate efficiently, as in “The tune is a ii-V-I in C major.”


Day 12: The G Major Chord

Main Task: Learn the G Major chord.

Today we’ll learn the last chord we need for ‘Dead Flowers’, G Major.

Do these two things to learn the G Major chord:

  1. Memorize the fingering.
  2. Pick each of the six strings in the chord to make sure they’re all coming out clean and clear.

If a string isn’t coming out clean:

  1. Move your finger closer to the fret wire. You should be just behind, but not on top of it for the best sound.
  2. Press down harder on the string.
  3. A finger on the string next to it could be rubbing on and damping the sound. Figure out which finger is the culprit and move its position slightly to get it out of the way.

Day 13: Moving Between G Major and D Major

Main Task: Strum the ‘Dead Flowers’ pattern on G Major and D Major.

Use the strum pattern you learned on Day 10 (pictured above), and strum alternating measures of G Major to D Major back and forth.

  • Keep your strumming hand moving and don’t pause between chord changes.
  • Keep tapping your foot and counting the rhythm out loud.

Day 14: ‘Dead Flowers’ Verse

Main Task: Learn the whole verse of ‘Dead Flowers’.

Today we’ll combine our three chords and our strum pattern to make up the verse of ‘Dead Flowers’.

Play the chord progression above four times for each verse.  This same progression is played three times for the song’s introduction.


Watch your email for your Week 3 tasks!