G-D-C-D: Living Off of the Beaten Path

G-D-C-D, is the base for a large variety of songs people enjoy playing. Using the tools in this article, you can quickly learn to play in a variety of styles on guitar - i.e. folk, country, rock, alt, jazz - those used by artists such as: Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Jewel, Dave Matthews, and Chris Cornell. Most artists will have at least one song that goes, G-D-C-D.

G-D-C-D: Living Off of the Beaten Path
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G-D-C-D, is the base for a large variety of songs people enjoy playing. You may encounter scenarios where you don't know the song you are about to jam with someone but, after studying this section, you will begin to see that not only can you play along without knowing the song, you can also unite everyone through harmony.

You don't have to do much to accomplish a lot, just use your ears and try to glue everyone together to make one cohesive unit. Having heard the song before would be helpful, however hundreds of songs are nearly identical; one can simply equate your current quandry to one you solved previously.

The progression and chords here will develop more efficient left-hand movements and, train the brain to follow more than one chain of events. Essentially, your fingers do not stray far. The ring finger is anchored to the B string at the third fret for almost every chord, and the bass note is lead with the middle finger. The index finger works the first, second, and third frets, and the pinky works the third and fourth frets. You can strum the rhythm however you feel in the moment, but you will live on each chord for an equal amount of time. Every string is played. Make sure you can hear every note on every string ring out; however, just because notes are there, it doesn't mean you need them all at the same time and volume. Spread out the notes, try strumming them backwards, try making some strums really quiet, and always let the ear guide the overall sound.

Before you start, count it in. If a measure has 4 beats, then each chord shall receive one measure of time. Try to make the top three strings live in a different world than the bottom three strings. Think of it like: bass strum strum, bass strummy strum, etc. If using fingers, the thumb would lead the bass line, the ring and pinky fingers would respond with a strum, the index and middle fingers playing lead melody. If using a pick, make the very first movement an up stroke, going up-down-up-down instead of down-up-down-up. When you play like this, you begin to feel the space for the guitar in an ensemble open up. We guitarists lead off-beat lives.

The first two groupings of the progression play out at as a, part A and part B, call-and-response type of melody.

Part A


Part B


So now that we have our fictitious eight bar loop, what do we do now?

After only a few cycles, a little itch in our stream of consciousness begins to anticipate a change that will eventually need to occur to successfully give movement to the progression, fitting it inside of a song structure. A song is merely a series of small progressions that are linked together in various ways. Sort of how one would use paragraphs as a writer to draw a small conclusion and move a story forward to draw another conclusion, compounding with the last.

One method for setting up a change to another progression and/or feel, would be to foreshadow the change with another smaller change. Europeans and dance music afficionados refer to these transitional sections as "the rise," or, "the lift." North Americans songwriters, who are a bit more structure-oriented with nomenclature, will often label it as a "pre-chorus."

If we carry on with our G-D-C-D progression, we can actually create change without changing. The possibilities become endless after getting familiar with a few core ideas. Below is a variation for creating a stagnant change. As you go farther down the rabbit hole, you will begin to see how one chord is actually three chords at the same time. Through wise choices, you can predict the future. It's all about being in the right place at the right time. It is often said that luck is when preparation meets timing. Flukes should not be confused with luck.

Pre-Chorus Part A


Breaking away from the open position, we can move up to the IV without changing the core of, G-D-C-D, by leading with the bass note, focusing on counterpoint. When moving away from the open position, it may become more necessary to use the exact chord formulas in order to maintain the flow. Part B of the pre-chorus responds to the previous melody with a descending line, on the high E string, from the seventh fret down to the second.

Pre-Chorus Part B


At this point, you might choose to move in another direction. You might drag out the last chord, D/G, for a little extra time and then follow that with a D7 chord in the open position to lead the change to the next part, or, just go back to the beginning and do another verse. There are options, but a lot of times, the song will tell you where it needs to go.

To get a better look at all of the chords together, download the one page containing the 16 chords in this lesson by clicking here.

Until next time, happy jamming!

Upcoming chapters include, "D-A-G-A: The Other G-D-C-D"

About the Author:
Dealey is a Vancouver, Canada based guitarist, songwriter, recording engineer and producer. He is the author of the forthcoming independent book, The Relative Nature Of Chords: A street-smart field guide for guitar. Watch for exclusive excerpts on Ultimate-Guitar! You can support his ventures by buying his music here - or talk to him about collaborating on your project by email to: info(a.t.)aurora-studios.ca

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