Easy Trick To Make Guitar COWBOY Chords Sound PRO

Simple Trick To Make COWBOY Chords Sound PRO

Tommaso Zillio

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Guitar Chord Fill

Seasoned musicians can spot a beginner from 10 miles away. I found this idea terrorizing when I was going around to play my first gigs. “They are going to spot that I am just a n00b!”

(But then again, how are you supposed to gain some experience if you don’t go and play some gigs?)

What I found out is that instead, this idea is one of the most powerful tools that you can use to become a better musician.


Well, here’s what I did. Every time they spotted me, and I heard (or overheard) somebody talking about my lack of experience, I just asked them: “How did you know that?” “How did you spot that I don’t have much experience?”

After the initial surprise (who else asks these questions anyway?), their answer was usually in the form of:

“Because you did (Obvious Beginner Move) rather than playing (Thing That Actually Sounds Good)”

(With “Obvious Beginner Move” and “Thing That Actually Sounds Good” being different things every time)

These answers are incredibly useful because they told me to:

  1. Don’t do Obvious Beginner Move anymore

  2. Learn how to do Thing That Actually Sounds Good

So let me share one of these answers with you.

Obvious Beginner Move = strumming simple cowboy chords with the same rhythm throughout the whole song.

(Yup, that’s a dead giveaway that you are a beginner)

Thing That Actually Sounds Good = here are many things you can do, like:

  • Change rhythm

  • Play your triads up the neck and not just on the first 3 frets of your guitar

  • Use more interesting chords rather than just triads.

And all these things will sound great… but they are not so simple to learn or play! (*)

But there is a super simple thing that even beginners can do, that anybody can apply immediately, and that sounds great.

It’s literally as simple as lifting a finger :-)

It’s a trick called “chord fills”

And despite them being so easy that a beginner can do them… They sound so good that I am still using them all the time. (If something sounds good, I don’t care if it’s “too easy”.)

So here is a video on how you can use “chord fills” on your guitar:

With all this being said, what good are chord fills if you haven’t mastered all of the chords themselves? Check out the Complete Chord Mastery guitar course if you want to master your chords, and play them all over the fretboard.

Video Transcription

Hello, internet, so nice to see you! Let’s read today’s question.

What practice approach would you suggest to playing chord fills smoothly? Also to develop complete fretboard mastery?

Okay, so what are chord fills? If you guys don’t know what chord fills are don’t feel bad, I actually didn’t know either. I mean, I knew how to play them, I didn’t know they were called this way!

So, chord fills are when you play a chord, and you’re strumming a chord, and you change your grip on the chord, to create these variations in the chord.

Okay, some songs became famous for a chord fill, for instance, everybody recognizes this:

Right? Or Everybody knows this:

And it’s interesting that you can recognize a song, from just the very first chord, because it’s played in such a characteristic way.

Okay, how do you play chord fills? And how do you make them smooth? Well, the first thing is that, of course, you need to be able to play your normal chord, smooth. Okay, I would not build on that too fast.

If you’re not smooth with your chords yet, but assuming that you are. Okay, the idea is to first find out what you can do with every chord you know.

And I’m gonna show you a couple of options here, okay, on the most basic chords; but ultimately, you have to take charge of these and experiment, okay, because sometimes, the wrong note can sound right.

If you play them in the right moment. Let’s start seeing some of the basic chords and what you can do with that.

Let’s see what you can do with A and D. Okay, now, A is played this way. D is played this way. Okay, and again, if you don’t know those two chords, well write me an Email so we can start from there.

But if you know those two chords, there are several things you can do with that. Okay, it’s most, the most common thing to do with both of them is to put either a note here, or to use the open string here.

So even here, you can put a note here, or you can use the open string. Okay, so on the top note that you’re fingering, both here and here, to play the open string, it’s very easy: just to lift the finger. Same here, lift the finger.

To play the extra note, here you have two possibilities, you can either use the pinky, or you can shift the ring finger. and typically, you will find one of those two things way more natural than the other, I cannot tell you which one you will find more natural, but you will find one of them more natural than the other, use that, no problem.

Here on D it’s again it’s typical to use just the pinky to fret this extra note here. Okay, and then you can go back and forth between those as many, in any order you want. And as many times as you want.

So what I recommend you do at first, is just you strum those chords down once and change every time, so:

Okay, again, the order doesn’t matter just:

Same for the D. We’re just trying to get used to moving the finger and moving the hand at the same time. Now if then, you know some strumming patterns, it’s even more fun.

Okay, because then you can change between between those three, those three possibilities or just two of them, whatever you want. Anytime you strum.

And you do the same thing over and over, or you can change every time. Okay, the idea again right now is to fool around with this idea, and just keep a strumming pattern up, keep the pulse of the song going, okay, and change those fingers.

Once you have those basic thing under control, you can start with the more advanced things. Okay. What are the more advanced things? Well, we started with the D. And we start fingering the D chord in a different way.

Okay, we’re gonna do this way. What does that mean? Well, most people finger the D chord this way: so they have the index finger here. The middle finger here and the ring finger here, what I’m showing you right now.

But instead I’m telling you finger D chord this way: do a barre with your index finger on the first three strings and use your middle finger here. That’s an alternative way of playing the D chord.

Some people play this naturally, so I’m not even telling you anything new right now. But you see, now I have two free fingers, I have my ring finger and my pinky, and those fingers can reach further up on the fretboard.

So indeed, I may need to have more frets here, even if just for this, because now I can reach this note here and this note here and this note here. And those three notes here are very, very interesting, the D chord, okay, and they still have this one.

I don’t have this one anymore, because it’s hard to lift half I mean, it’s possible, it’s possible to lift half of the barre, but it’s not convenient.

But – this note here is the same as this note here. It’s just that it’s together with other notes.

But, here I can put the pinky here on the second string, or on the first string I can put the ring here on the first string, or I can put the ring here on the third string.

Okay, and by the way, I can put down two or more notes at the same time. So I can put down my ring finger here and my pinky here at the same time. Okay, to create:

It’s a very sweet sound.

And I can lift only one of them, so right now I’m playing the D, and putting down both fingers, then lifting the pinky only, then lifting the ring too.

Okay, now, every time, every time it’s important that you see a D chord written anywhere, you can try one of those.

Will they work literally every single time? No, because it depends on the song. Okay, for instance, sometimes this note here will not work well if this note does not work well, typically this note here will work well.

So rather thsn putting it on fret number three, putting the note on fret number four will work better. When I play it alone it sounds a bit harsh,

Again, harsh.

But if i put it together with this and this,

People who know their modes will recognize the sound of the Lydian mode, but I don’t want to scare anybody here with complex names.

Okay, I’m just saying that if this doesn’t work, and B does work, sometimes some of those notes do not sound well. Because that depends on the song, that depends if what the singer is singing at the time, if there is a solo in that moment, what are the instruments doing, but here’s the thing: you can always try, okay, if you cannot improvise with that, unless you know the sound of all of them.

But you can always try to change, and play any of those, anywhere. Okay, every time as long as (it’s a D chord), you can try one of them.

Now, here’s the thing, it doesn’t need to be more complex than that because you pick one or two of them, and you pick a strumming pattern, and you just lift and put your fingers down on the fret and you lift them, and you hear what’s happening, and then you experiment a little bit. And you will find something you like okay, it’s very fun.

And again, I’m only on D right now.

On A, you can do something similar. There are several things you can do on A. For instance, you can put a note here, or here – that’s a bit hard to do, because if you have three fingers down here, it’s a bit hard to put the pinky here.

But again, I can play this as a barre, trying to leave these first string open, okay, and here too, I can try and play this note here. And let me try also this note here, or this note here. One of those two will work better than the other.

Okay, you can try this note here too, those could be a little bit hard to get some time. But the idea here, you want those extra note on A, you have to play A using a barre, okay. And the barre has to only hit those those three strings and try to let the first string ring open. The trick of doing it is to bend your fingers this way, down.

And then you have:

Then you have all the other fingers. Okay, sometimes it’s very common to get this and this note down at the same time, because

It sounds good.

Okay, again you hear all of them in classic rock, in folk, in pop, it’s kind of part of the language.

Okay, now, I would recommend that if your problem is getting those down fluidly, I would recommend you stay on those two chords for a few days. I mean, not forever, okay, later, you can try with other chords.

And again, the best way to do it is just grab a chord, check what fingers you have free, okay, and see if you can, if you put them down somewhere and if it sounds good or not. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. But you just try to find the position where they sound good.

You need no theory for that, of course, if you know your theory, you can try to hit the notes of the scale or the extension of the chord. But even if you don’t, just try to put it down somewhere it will work sometimes it’ll work, and sometimes it will not.

This will not work. Okay, just go and if it makes, if it makes your nerve, it’s not a good note. Otherwise, it is a good note. Okay, so just, it’s very obvious when it’s good or not.

Just experiment with your fingers. But the important point is you take this slowly, you start with a very simple strumming pattern. And you try to change between those notes slowly, okay. so not don’t go: immediately Okay?

This will be enough at the beginning, okay.

And then add some upstrokes.

Okay, very slowly, it’s just a matter of being able to move those fingers and strum at the same time.

Okay, so today’s lesson was not on the super advanced music theory stuff. But honestly, this little trick here is what I call a trick that makes money, okay, is because inventing something like this, you can get that kind of pop riff sound that people really like.

And you can do this on a normal acoustic guitar with that doesn’t need any other equipment or anything. It’s very simple. And then once you learn it on one song, you can apply it on several other songs. It really, it really multiplies its effectiveness.

Okay, so, and if you want to know more about chords, I do have a course, it’s called complete chord mastery. We go way beyond the simple chord. We play chords all over the fretboard and we see was how they connect.

So if you guys are interested in that, I will recommend you check that course out. If you like these videos, smash that Like button. Don’t forget to subscribe. If you have any questions about this or anything else write down in the comments.

This video was made in response to a question, an answer to a question. Maybe I will answer your question too. So write in the comments, and I’ll be happy to read it and see if I can do a video.

This is Tommaso Zillio, MusicTheoryForGuitar.com. And until next time, enjoy!

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