1. Ska StrummingBefore we get into chord formations, we need to talk about strumming. (Isn't it reminiscent of the first week of guitar lessons?) Ska does have its own unique strum pattern, believe it or not. In order to properly "ska strum" [I will just call it skanking to save time], one must palm mute on the downstrokes and play open on the upstroke:
In the previous diagram, V = downstroke, ^ = upstroke, and * = palm mute
* * * * * * * *
Before we even get to the chords, make sure you have this down. Most ska guitarists skank with 16th notes around 65-80 beats per minute. It's harder than it sounds - it took me almost 2 months to learn this technique.
DO NOT event think about continuing on until you can play the previous exercise (see diagram) in 16th notes at 75 bpm [beats per minute]... you'll thank me later.
2. Chord FormationsAssuming you hopefully mastered the concept of skanking, we can now move onto the chord formations.
In ska, there are a few main chord formations used:
The F-shape moveable pattern:
Partial A-based barre chord pattern:
The inverted chord patterns:
And, finally, the pattern that looks like a C7 chord:
The final key is this: when skanking, just make the chord formation on your fret board but DO NOT press down. Do the previous on the downstroke but press down on the upstroke to get that slightly muted look. For this style, I recommend a clean channel set to a neck pickup with slight delay/reverb with the volume pot set to 10 (or whatever your highest setting on the dial is).
Anyways, this is about it - there is not much to it. This is one of those minute to learn, millenia to master things. For some ska insight, just look up your favorite ska band on YouTube and find their chords here on UG (or look at some of my Five Iron Frenzy tabs). You'll do great! Don't give up! Please comment I would love to hear from you :-)