The Guitar Chords That Work Together and Why They Work

Some guitar chords sound great when played next to each other whilst other combinations (of perfectly good chords) can sound horrible? As our students progress they will notice this more and more and our job as guitar teachers is to help them to find out why this is the case without overwhelming them with the maths of the whole thing?

Introducing our guitar students to music theory  can be a bit of a tricky area for more than one reason. If we involve theory too early we run the risk of over complicating the subject while our students are struggling with the task of aquiring a basic technique but too late can mean that they come to regard guitar playing solely as a physical/gymnastic activity and are likely to see progression in terms of getting their fingers to do ever more complicated things rather than getting their brain to understand what they are doing and why they are doing it?

The world does not need any more guitar guitar players who can fly all over the neck at bewidering speed but who have not got the first clue about how all of the notes and chords that they are playing are likely to affect the harmony and melody of the music that they are producing?

I find that a gentle introduction to the idea that there is a logical framework underpinning guitar playing is to ask them to play a chord sequence using three of the open guitar chords from the CAGED System (the best chords for a beginner to learn). I usually use the chords to “Wild Thing” in the key of G (two strums on G – two strums on C- two strums on D and finish by playing two strums on C again)

When they have mastered this I get them to play the same sequence transposed into the key of A (two strums on A – two strums on D- two strums on E and finish by playing two more strums on D again). I invite them to notice  the fact that even though they are playing two sets of completely different chords the two sequences sound the same (but in different keys)?

I tell them that this is because the chords are built on the first, fourth and fifth notes of the major scale of the key that they are in and to illustrate this I ask them to count up the alphabet starting from G (and giving that note the number 1) through to C as the fourth note and D as the fifth.

I then ask them to do the same starting from a note of A and to see how the root notes of the A D and E chords again correspond to this formulae.

Of course you and I know that no mention was made of the C#(rather than the C) contained in the A scale but that is something that can be dealt with in the next guitar theory lesson when Major Scales will be introduced

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Easy Chord Songs For Guitar and why they’re the “best” ones to learn?

Songs featuring “easy” chords are essential when it comes to teaching guitar.

When a guitar player is just starting out the biggest thing that we have on our side as guitar teachers is their enthusiasm.  Our students believe that (with our help) they will be able to make noises that they like on the guitar. It is a good idea to make that happen as quickly as possible.

The first chords that a beginner should learn on the guitar?

The chords of the basic CAGED Guitar system

The first guitar lessons that a novice guitar player has with us should concern themselves with encouraging the development of motor skills (the physical ability to press down on the strings with one hand while strumming  chords with the other). It’s as simple as that really and I’ve found that by far the best way to make that happen is to teach them songs (or more likely fragments of songs) that they are already familiar with. This is not to denigrate the role of music theory but that can wait for the simple reason that from our student’s point of view there is very little point in knowing that a chord is made up of the root, third and fifth notes of a relevant major or minor scale if you cant physically play it?

Follow this link to a whole bunch of songs (or recognisable fragments of songs) that can be played using only the chords of G Em C and D which are the four chords fetaured in the “First Guitar Lesson”

Why These Particular Chords?

It is a fairly widely established practice with professional guitar instructors to teach the open chords of the basic “Caged Guitar System” first

The chords of C A Am G E Em D and Dm offer the possibility of playing thousands of songs whilst never having to do anything too difficult (like holding down two strings with a single finger to make an “F” chord shape for example) with the fretting hand

Closer study of the chords above will reveal that they are particularly effective when it comes to working on songs that can be presented in the keys of G or A but we (and more importantly our students) don’t have to think about it at this stage we just need some stuff that they recognise to get them playing the guitar

Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix

Two strums (half a bar) on C

two strums on G

Two Strums on D

Two strums on A

Eight strums (two full bars)  on E

Wild Thing

Two strums on A

Two strums on D

Two Strums on E

Two strums on D

It can be a good idea to have a library of easy chord songs for guitar  pre-prepared (scanned or photocopied?) for your students? Follow this link to another article looking at a range of blank guitar tab and chord grids which form ideal templates for your guitar chord teaching materials?

In the meantime here is a list of songs (or fragments of songs) that can be played using just the four chords (G Em C and D)  taken from our first guitar lesson

“His latest Flame” G to Em

“Itchycoo Park” G to Em (Chorus)

“The Locomotion” G to Em (verse:1 bar each chord)

“Shout” G to Em

“Hallelujah” G to Em (ok I know its Em7 but it still works?)

“You Really Got A Hold On Me” (G to Em)

“Stand By Me” (All four chords in the order presented)

“Every Breath You Take” (All four chords in the order presented)

“Simply The Best” (ditto)

“Blue Moon” (ditto)

“Crocodile Rock (ditto)

“Hungry Heart” (and again?)

This list is really just  intended to help the student to realise that they are capable of making reasonably rapid progress. Some of the songs detailed above are not in the original keys of the recorded versions and there are occasionally some simplifications going on there but the idea is to encourage the student to believe that they will get better with a little work.?

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Guitar Teachers who give first lesson free? Big Mistake!

Guitar Teachers who promote their business by giving the “First Lesson Free” may not be sending out the right message to customers?

One the one hand they may think that by allowing someone to try their (hopefully wonderful?) services on a single occasion as a freebie they will encourage them to come back and pay for a similar experience on a regular basis but when viewed from another direction maybe it looks a bit desperate?

If someone is so poor (or so mean!)  that they find themselves unable (or unwilling) to pay for a single lesson then the chances of their returning to cross our palms with silver week after week may be a little slim anyway?

If you spend some time thinking about what our students want from a guitar teacher it probably does not include a willingness to work for nothing because they can’t get enough people to pay them to teach?

Try asking any other skilled service providers (which is what we are and how we need to appear to our customers?) to work on this “first job free” basis and see what reaction you get. “If you plumb me a toilet in for free and I like it then maybe I’ll allow you to come back and fit an entire bathroom?” or “Fix my front teeth and I may (or may not) call you back later and have you work on the back ones” (if you ask the wrong dentist and you might need more work on the front ones than you thought anyway)?

You would not ask because you know that these people are professionals and that (if they are good at what they do – and why would you want to employ them otherwise?) they don’t need to work for nothing.

As  guitar instructors we need to foster the impression that we are more than happy to occasionally take time out of our busy lives (and practice schedules) to teach guitar just so long as our services and our skills are respected? If we do not regard ourselves as professional people with a skillset that should be valued then how can we expect our guitar students to take what we say seriously. We need to set ourselves apart from the (many) people who “play a bit of guitar”

There are loads of other ways to promote a guitar teaching business without having to resort to working for nothing. and if you click this link you will be able to check out a range of business cards for guitar teachers that can also be used as the basis for artwork for advertising in printed media or for website purposes.

If you are going to teach guitar and do not respect your own profession to the same extent that you do a dentist or a plumber then maybe it’s not the job for you?

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Don’t introduce Guitar Music Theory too Early!

Music Theory For Guitar Teachers

It’s a good idea not to introduce guitar music theory to your students too early?

Introduce Guitar Music theory at the right time?Music theory is very important but to focus on it in the early stages of teaching guitar to a complete beginner  is not neccesarily the best way to help someone to become able to play the instrument?

In the early stages of study aspiring guitar players  need to be encouraged by developing their physical and technical abilities rather than be discouraged because they are introduced to a body of knowledge that (if we as guitar teachers are not careful?) can appear to be so complicated that it may even put them off playing.

Music theory is not complicated and your students should study it but not neccesarily within the first few months of a their  “journey”. They need to first feel that they are becoming guitar players. Imagine the frustration that they will experience if after a few months spent developing an understanding of the “nuts and bolts” of music theory as it applies to a guitar player (scale and chord construction?)  to suddenly realise that they are not really a great deal closer to making a noise like a musician than they were when they first came to you for guitar lessons? Such a realisation will most likely lead to one of two results?

1: They will become discouraged and give up playing the guitar?

2: They will find a guitar teacher who makes them feel that they are making progress?

For obvious reasons neither of the two options presented above are what we are looking for either as effective educators or as people who put bread on the table using money that we earn by helping people to become guitarists?

We should develop an awareness of just when aquiring a knowledge of music theory will become a tool that our guitar students can use rather than a hurdle that they have to get over and that point is (for me) when they have developed the dexterity to play and change between the eight chords in the basic CAGED System.

The chords (C A Am G E Em D and Dm) represent the easiest shapes for a novice guitarist to learn and mastering the ability to change between them using a few basic strumming patterns will just about put a guitar student in the place where he or she can derive benefit from knowing how it works (rather than just that it works).

At around about this stage (during a small section of each lesson – we are still spending most of each session continuing to develop physical skills) I introduce the concept of intervals of a whole and a half step on the guitar. I then go on to  use these intervals to construct a scale of C major (naming the notes as we go).

When my students undestand this we look at using the first, third and fifth notes of the C Major scale to construct a C Major chord. Following on from there we look at constructing a couple of other major scales and chords (G and D since you ask?) using the same series of intervals. Next up its minor scale and minor chord construction and the differences (the flattened third) and similarities (the root and the fifth) between the two chord types.

From this point it is to be hoped and expected that the world of music theory as it applies to guitar hopefully does not seem so scarey to a novice player?



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What Guitar Teachers think of The Teachwombat Resources?


guitar teacher's testimonials

When you buy my resources I will (within 24 hours and usually a lot quicker than that!) send an email to the email address on the order just to make sure that you were able to download all of the materials with no problem . In the (rare) event of someone being unable to download the materials I’ll drop it onto a disc and “snail mail” to you. I don’t use “auto responder” software or anything like that so if you are unable to get the stuff I will know about it and will be able to put things right straight away.


What Guitar Teachers have said about the Teachwombat Resources

Anyway, about the customer testimonials thing? People with way more experience of how all this internet malarkey works have been bugging me to include testimonials from satisfied customers on the site. I have been a bit resistant to it up until this point because to be perfectly honest the whole area seems a bit “cheesy”?

All of that “I was a seven stone weakling and they used to bus girls in from other states to laugh at me but now I employ a team of Navy Seals to beat them off me with a dung encrusted stick” kind of thing makes me feel a little bit “dirty”? It smells of snake-oil and I just don’t like it.

Having said that loads of the people who buy my stuff rave about it in emails and when looked at from a purely practical angle it makes sense to have the people who are thinking about purchasing my materials aware of how those who have already bought them feel about he whole thing?

If you add the fact that Mrs Wombat has decreed that we have to go on a holiday this year that does not involve hitch hiking and sleeping in a tent then maybe you can see why I have weakened?

The stuff below is feedback taken straight from the emails of people who bought my guitar and bass teacher’s materials. I did not in any way solicit the comments or ask anyone to say nice things just so that I could show them to you. I could have just made it up but that would just be grubby and anyway luckily there was no need to.

Here is the text of an email that fell into my in-tray near the end of May 2013…..

“I’ve just stared teaching beginner guitar here and wanted something I could give my students.

I found what you said about being a good teacher very helpful, as I am definitely more of a singer and songwriter who has used  rhythm guitar to compose, rather than a great guitar player. This has at times made me reluctant to teach yet I am finding I have a lot to offer beginners, and my playing is improving too.

Distance is certainly no barrier with the internet that’s for sure

Many Thanks and best wishes with your business.


“Hi Rob,

I checked the TeachWombat site out a few times whilst preparing to give my first paid group lessons at the school I work in. Eventually, 3 weeks in, I found it was taking up loads of time trying to find or make good resources to show chords/scales etc… and so I thought I’d bite the bullet and invest in the deluxe package. I’m glad I did.

It makes such a difference having clear tab sheets to write on and already the giant chord grids have proved a hit. I teach groups of 5 children (aged 7-11) for half an hour at a time. As such, time is of the essence and being able to photocopy a giant chord and hand it out frees me up to move around and help out 1-1. One boy said straight away – “this is so much easier to understand than having lots of chords on one page with tiny dots everywhere.” I found that giving each chord a colour helps even more (i.e. circling the E in green) to lodge it in their mind.

As we are currently at the complete beginner stage it may be a while before we get to use the bulk of the material in the pack but we’re having a bash at playing with one or two of the backing tracks.

Anyways, I’m rambling. Thanks for taking the time to put together a great product, which I know will help no end with future lessons. The articles on the website are really useful too. Keep up the good work!

All the best,

Joe (Brighton UK)

“Thank you so much Rob, really really appreciated. the backing tracks with the big grids go down so well with some of my students, I’d be lost without them!”


“I think your resources are just fantastic! I’ve already used your lesson one ideas and resources with a class of 13-14 yr olds and they had a ball. They felt a sense of challenge and purpose, something that can be hard to come by in the classroom! Thank you so much!”

Sonja (Adelaide Australia)

“I made 5 times what I spent on the deluxe package the very next day! (I’m serious)”

Mark Marxon (Guitar and Bass Teacher – Australia)

“I have been teaching piano, guitar, bass and drums for many years, and your package will certainly enhance my guitar and bass lessons. I’m also by nature a very disorganized guy, so it’s great to have all these handouts in one place on my Mac, where I can just hit the print button and voila…”

“Thanks for creating such a wonderful, comprehensive package!”

Eugene (Ontario- Canada)

“Thank you so much for your email. Thanks for having such great resources online. I was happy to be able to invest in your charts and tracks. I’m a professional musician but breaking into the teaching game is something I have waited a long time to embark on. I teach my first guitar lesson tomorrow. Your materials will keep me from getting too nervous!”

Nicole (Oregon)
Hi Rob, these are wonderful resources that will help me greatly.
Ricky (East Los Angeles CA)


“What an amazing group of resources for guitar teachers – I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve drawn a chart of a chord or a music staff… what a time saver these resources are for me!”

Craig (British Columbia)


“I have been looking high and low for resources like yours…at the pricepoint you offer.  I am VERY impressed with the backing tracks as I often find them to be too short and too fast.  These are a nice balance.  I look forward to using these resources in my upcoming year.”

Roxy (British Columbia- Canada)

The above quotes etc are just a selection taken from genuine emails from people who bought my stuff. I did not save them up until I had enough to look respectable (there are loads more than the ones presented above which are every bit as positive hidden within the emails that customers have sent to me. I put the ones above together in just a few minutes by typing phrases like “wonderful resources” and “time saver” into the search box of my saved emails to see what popped out? There are loads of other ones in there that I could have used instead or as well but I’m sure you get the idea?

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Teaching Guitar Requires No patience At All!


Learning to play the guitar takes a little patience but teaching it requres only understanding. Understanding and patience are two completely different things.

I have (almost) no patience (you can ask my wife?). I will not even queue for beer and I like beer (again you can ask my wife?). If we decide that we need a new sofa I refuse to entertain the notion that the bloke in the furniture shop has to drum up a special order from a factory on the other side of the planet and that once nailed together my stuff must be loaded onto a ship and dragged halfway around the globe before I can sit on it and drink a beer (did I mention that I like beer?). I want the one in the window and I want it to be delivered tomorrow and If I can’t have it I’ll go to the shop next door and buy a different one.

Patience, in my book is in no way a virtue, it’s a way of justifying inactivity. So how come I get to make my living teaching people to play the guitar, an activity that most people think requires industrial quantities of patience?

Let’s take a look at this whole opatience thing? It is understandable (and desirable) for a guitar player to be impatient to get better. It is a disaster if the teacher shares this impatience.

If you spend an entire lesson willing your student to be able to play the thing that you have just shown to them then you (and they) will achieve nothing. Looking at another person’s fingers while they try to play music that is (at the moment) beyond them and investing any great emotion into it will hurl you headlong into an early grave.

Staring bug eyed at someone elses hands trying to do things that they are not  capable of doing because they have not yet had the time to work on it will lead to you to a life of wearing odd socks, weeping uncontrollably and shouting at traffic!
Allright, maybe I’m laying it on with a trowel here but you get the picture?

The point of a guitar lesson is not that the student goes away from it able to play something that they could not when they walked into the room an hour earlier. The objective is that they go away with something to practice which will mean that they are better when they next walk into the room. Understand that and you will see that (for the teacher anyway) patience plays no part in the process.

If students find everything that you show them easy don’t kid youself that it’s because you are a fantastic guitar teacher. Your guitar teaching most probably (to use the modern vernacular) sucks? Why should somebody pay you to show them things that they can do already (they already have tribes of internet tab monkeys for that)?

If however, at the end of a lesson with you they go away with a few things to work on that they understand and can almost play then you are doing it right. If they then return able to play those things then they are doing it right (remember that teaching is about learning and that the most important role in the process is that of the learner and not that of the teacher).

The job of teaching guitar is largely about three things

  1. Developing Technical Ability
  2. Helping the student to develop a workable theoretical framework
  3. Developing Repertoire

If you spend an hour paying attention to those three areas you won’t need to watch your students practicing (I love teaching guitar but I refuse to waste my life and other peoples money watching someone practice it – once they understand what they need to practice by themselves it’s time to move on with the lesson).

Our guitar students do not pay us for our patience, they pay us for a plan. I’m off to lie down on my sofa (possibly via the fridge?)

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Guitar Chord Shapes for Kids: Don’t teach to many “cheater’s” chords?

There are loads of guitar chord shapes for Kids but the reality for me is that if you teach them too many “cheater’s” chords at the beginning then you run the risk of confusing them (never a good idea?) after just a few weeks of study when they are ready for the full versions of the shapes in question.

Below you can take a look at a guitar teacher’s video that I put up on youtube. It explains an approach to teaching chord shapes for children that will prevent them from having to stretch too far during the early stages of playing. Although as I said earlier there are lods of these three and four note chord shapes I have found that I only really feel comfortable teaching three of them (G Em and C)? This is because that (hopefully) after a few weeks of study a teacher is obliged to teach the “full” shapes and students have to “unlearn” the “cheaters” versions? This can be confusing for children as they then have to forget some of the stuff that you just taught them?

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The Pentatonic Minor Scale: Why it’s the Guitar Teachers Favourite Scale?

The Pentatonic Minor Scale for Guitar Teachers

The Pentatonic Minor is perhaps the guitar teacher’s favourite scale as it can provide an easy gateway to soloing for our students?

minor pentatonic guitar teaching handouts
guitar pentatonic minor scale for guitar teachersFor Guitar Teachers the Pentatonic Minor Scale is one of our “bread and butter” resources.
It is perhaps the scale that we can most easily use to introduce the concepts and principles of improvisation (particularly in rock/blues styles) on the guitar as it contains notes that lend themselves readily to techniques such as string bending and vibrato etc.

The minor pentatonic scale is in some ways a little bit dangerous because it sounds so (maybe even too?) good? Once beginners start to develop a bit of a facility with it? Many (even quite experienced) guitar players can sound pretty professional in some circumstances without much more than the ability to wander around the scale and bend a few notes here and there.

That said the use of the minor pentatonic is a great way to help our guitar students believe that they are capable of developing the facility to solo and improvise on the instrument.

The scale formulae for the pentatonic minor scale is as follows


Of those note the 4th and the b7th are particularly suited to being “bent”

The guitar fretboard diagram (above to the right) is taken from one of our guitar teacher’s printable handouts and shows the minor pentatonic scale formulae along with information relating to which notes can be “good to bend” in a blues or rock situation?

Below you can also see some other guitar teacher’s student handouts relating to the minor pentatonic scale. They show the A minor pentatonic scale extended to cover several areas of the guitar fretboard

minor pentatonic guitar teaching handouts
For more stuff dealing with how a guitar teacher might choose to  teach soloing using the pentatonic minor scale see our page looking at how to use guitar backing tracks and the minor pentatonic scale extended to cover the entire neck of the guitar


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Halloween Guitar for Kids? The “Monster Mash” Chords

The “Monster Mash”

G, Em, C and D. The first four chords that a beginner should learn played for two bars each. It’s as simple as that!

Great for Teaching Kids Guitar?

kids guitar halloween chords

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