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Guitar Lesson: Playing Blackbird in G

Updated on March 10, 2022
Jon Green profile image

These articles are based on years of teaching guitar and music theory in college. The Beatles Blackbird is a good example of playing in G.

Chords in G for Guitar

Guitar and keys - due to the nature of guitar tuning, certain keys sound better than others, generally the sharp keys such as G, D, A, E.

B and F sharp if you are feeling really brave.

The key of G gives you many open-string options that can add a lot of ring and tone to songs, and can generally make things easier to play. The major chords in G are : G, C, D7 or D.

The minor chords are : Em, Am, Bm.

Many Neil Young - type songs will go Em7 to D. If you change the other minor chords to Am7 and Bm7 it will often make everything you play sound better.

Chord Diagram

If you play the sequence of eight chords in the diagram you are basically following this chord sequence:

G / F♯m7b5 / Em7 / D / C / Bm7 / Am7 / G.

These are the chords of the G harmonised scale arranged in a descending pattern. Most songs in the key of G can be played with this selection of 7 different chords.

We're not playing the whole chord here, but the two notes we are fretting imply the harmony well. We are using 10th intervals, JS Bach was fond of this sound. It's a less-is-more approach to guitar playing. Notice that the pattern of the chords repeats in sets of 2, making it easy to remember. Just play the middle 4 strings.

The open strings make all the chords sound great - notice that strings 3 and 4 are always open for most of the sequence. Listen to songs like Blackbird by The Beatles and Willin' by Little Feat, and you'll get the idea of how to use these chords for maximum effect.

Why do the open strings work? - as the open strings D,G and B are all notes from the G major scale, they will all sound OK, sometimes they will sound great.

The same applies for harmonics, any harmonic at fret 7 or fret 12 is going to work in the key of G, and I'll often try to add this to a chord shape.

G major scale

You can sing or play the notes of a G major scale over all these chords. That's because a harmonised scale like this is built on the notes of a G major scale.

Next, I've sketched out some harmony in 3rds that will also work well with the chords. Brown-Eyed Girl uses this kind of harmony, though you'll have to extend the pattern up the neck for that. Just play the 2 strings indicated on the diagram.

Hopefully, working through this material will improve your knowledge and confidence on the guitar neck, and understand a little more about music theory and how rhythm and lead guitar parts can be combined.

You can also use the Em pentatonic scale for any song in the key of G, as it's the relative minor scale.

String 1: fret 3, 0

String 2: ditto

String 3, 4, 5 : 2, 0

String 6: 3, 0

In practice this is even easier to use than the G major scale, and shares all but two of the same notes.

Using technology

If you have a 4- Track recorder or even a humble cassette recorder, you can put down some tracks and see how this stuff works and interacts.You can pick or strum all the chords, but just the middle 4 strings for the first few chords.

If you are serious about learning guitar, consider buying a digital recorder like a Boss Micro or similar. These are easy to find secondhand, and that is probably the way to go as resale values are not too good. It's a great way to improve and have some fun at the same time - for songwriters it's an indispensable accessory.


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