Blues Guitar Lesson: D Chord Guitar

The D chord guitar is one of the most widely known chords as it is basically required for any guitarist. It is rooted in many classical composers' work and is still widely used in music today. Just turn on your radio and you are sure to find a song in which the D chord is being played. In this article, we will go in depth on the history of the D chord guitar; the chord shapes, scale, and popularity; and go over a blues guitar lesson.

What Is the D Chord Guitar?

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The D chord guitar is one of the most common chords and, as such, a must know for all guitar players. The full name of D is actually ‘D Major', but it is standard to just call this chord ‘D'. The D chord guitar has amazing character and is responsible for many uplifting songs that make you want to sing along. Beyond being an integral part of most popular songs, the D chord is one of the easiest chords to sing along to without straining your voice.

D Chord: An Exploration of Shapes, Scale, and Popularity

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Chord Shapes

When compared to other chords, like the C Major chord, the D chord guitar has a more uplifting sound. The D chord guitar is also a bit easier to play because it does not require you to stretch your hand like some other chords.

With that said, the position of the D chord can be difficult for beginners. This is because you have to use three ‘split' fingers and you need to avoid playing two of the strings when you strum. It generally takes around two to four weeks of regular practice to be able to consistently play this chord. Over time it will become more natural and enjoyable for you.

Making the Chord

When you begin learning this chord, make sure you keep your thumb placed behind the neck of the guitar. It should be about three quarters of the way across the neck. Your palm should not be touching the neck of the guitar at all. This is a small but important detail to note before moving on.

To position this chord, place your first finger on the third string, on the second fret. Your second finger should be on the first string on the second fret. Your third finger should be on the second string on the third fret.

Make sure that your fingers are placed just behind the fret. If you neglect to do this and just one of your fingers happens to be touching the fret, the note will sound distorted. Also, if your finger is too far back from the fret, you will produce an unappealing buzzing sound.

Try to pay attention to what angle your fingers are at. They are all usually pointing up as opposed to horizontal. Check to make sure that your fingers are rounded. The position of your fingers should be similar to gripping a ball. Each joint should have at least a little angle to it.

For the D chord guitar, you should not be playing the two thickest strings at all. When you strum, pay attention to where you begin the strum. It might be tempting to strum away without regard to the strings you are hitting. If you pluck all six strings, the sound produced will not be good, and the chord will sound muddy and unclear.

Playing Clearly

Make sure that you play your chords clearly. Strum, then pick each string, then strum again. This will help you check your chords to make sure that each string is correct. This method will be useful in testing all of the chords you learn over time.

Strum the chord, then play each note individually. Begin with the thickest string that you should be playing. Then, adjust as needed and strum the chord again, making sure that it is clear. Take a break, then try again. This may take some time, but practice is vital to learning this chord.

Expect this to be uncomfortable in the beginning. The thin metal strings may hurt against your fingers, but this will pass in time as your fingers build calluses. Remember to take breaks so that you don't wear out the skin on your fingers. Play until they get sore, but then rest and come back to practicing when you feel that you are ready. It usually takes about a month for your fingers to get used to the strings. However, you should find that it is much less painful after only a couple of weeks.

Major Scale

If you have studied anything about music theory, you will probably recall interval sequences. The interval sequences in a major key are:
whole tone, whole tone, half tone, whole tone, whole tone, whole tone, half tone. From this sequence, we can decipher that at the third and seventh places in the scale, there is a half tone. Also, between all the other notes are whole tones.

The D Major chord can be fairly easy to play on the guitar due to the string positions (E, A, D, G, B, E), so two of the notes on the D chord - D and A - are already available in the open strings. This means that a basic D chord requires just three fingers. The D Major chord is made up of the following notes: D, F#, and A. These are the first, third, and fifth notes of the key of D.

Popularity

The D chord is widely known and quite popular. In fact, D is the third most popular key used in all Spotify songs. In the Baroque period, the key of D Major was referred to as the ‘key of glory' and soon became one of the most popular keys for classical composers. The tuning of the violin's strings compliment the key of D, making it an attractive choice for many historical composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky who wrote violin concertos in this key.

The D Major chord is well known from the Romantic Period and has been used for several ‘triumphant' final movements of several D Minor symphonies like Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The reason for this is the character of the cord. The listener can't help but feel moved by its melodic qualities.

Another reason that the key of D Major is quite popular is because most tin whistles used to be playable only in D, which means that if you wanted to play the guitar along with the sound of a whistle, you had to play in D. Back in the day, if you were listening to someone playing a tin whistle and wanted to join in on the guitar, the D chord was the best chord to play along with.

Due to its popularity, the D chord is recognizable in most well-known songs and compositions. Once you know what you are listening for, identifying this chord will become easy. Some popular hits which use the D chord include: 

  • Paul McCartney's “Maybe I'm Amazed” 
  • Jimmy Cliff's “I Can See Clearly Now”
  • Thin Lizzy's “The Boys Are Back In Town”
  • Taylor Swift's “Love Story”
  • Nirvana's “All Apologies” 
  • Rage Against the Machines's “Wake Up”
  • Mozart's No. 2 and No. 4
  • Beethoven's No. 2 

As you can see, the popularity of the D chord in songs spans over several centuries and genres. It has a playable tune and bluesy tendencies that appeal to many, and that is probably why you are reading this article. The D chord is loved by many, and it is easy to see why it is so necessary for any guitar player to know how to play it. Let's take a look at how you might be able to learn this chord and apply it to a blues sound.

Blues Guitar Lesson: D Chord Guitar

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The blues is similar to a hybrid of major and minor tones, so it is sort of its own world. If you, like so many of us, want to go for that blues sound, it takes a little more refinement rather than just strumming in D. In blues, it is important to stick to the dominant seventh chords. Rather than making the fourth string (this is the D string) the lowest note in the chord, you will want to play the F# note on the sixth string.

Instead of playing the bass note on the sixth string with your middle finger, you will want to play that note with your thumb. This is a pretty common way to play the D7 chord in acoustic blues. You will find that you need to do this to ensure that your fingers are free to move around when you fret the chord with your thumb. This may feel a bit awkward in the beginning, but as with most things while learning the guitar, practice over time will help this to feel quite natural.

As you progress while learning and practicing, you will be able to move on and explore different chords. The ninth and thirteenth chords are regularly found in blues music. These chords give a little bit of extra flavor to a chord progression. You will hear a little bit of jazz flavor when incorporating these chords together.

Conclusion

The D chord guitar is such a staple in music and is important to every musician. We hope that this article leaves you better prepared to start practicing the D chord guitar and mastering that bluesy sound on your own.

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