Just Plain D

by Mark Dvorak

On the guitar, let's say a chord is the sound of two or more strings strummed or plucked at the same time. Placing fingers on the strings at various positions on the fret board in fact, changes the length of those strings. When strummed or plucked, the sounds produced by those strings is now organized in a specific way. Let's learn one of those ways.


Use the middle finger of your fretting hand to hold the first string down at the second fret. Next. use the ring finger to hold the second string down at the third fret.

Now add your index finger to the third string, second fret. When the strings are strummed or plucked while fingering this chord form, your guitar will sound the same organization of tones that was formally named D major, a long, long time ago. But now that you've been introduced, no one will mind if you call this sound just plain D.

More commonly, guitarists (and players of other stringed instruments) use this name when referring to either the sound, or the chord form. And so will we, as in, "Grab a D chord."

Also, place the thumb of your strumming hand on the fourth string somewhere right around the sound hole. Brushing down, towards the floor, across those four strings is making the sound known as D major.

Begin each strum with the thumb of your strumming hand on the fourth string, and do it a bunch of times in a row. Use a stroke that starts from your elbow and is softened with a relaxed and supple wrist.

In music, many things are organized in fours, as in, four beats to the measure. In our case, four strums equals four beats. Count as you strum: One, two, three, four. Stop. Now play for two measures.

Playing fast is never as musical as playing in control. A smooth, steady, flowing motion with your strumming hand produces a smooth, steady, flowing sound. Try it for four measures, counting out the rhythm as you go: ONE, two, three, four, TWO, two, three, four, THREE, two, three, four, FOUR, two, three, four.

Try it for eight measures.

The good news is you now have enough information and skill to play the accompaniment to a dozen or more songs on your guitar. The bad news is most of them are a lot like, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."


MD's beginning guitar class at the Old Town School of Folk Music starts on May 2. Click here for information and enrollment.

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