The Great American Campfire Songbook is an excellent resource and aid for beginning guitarists. It’s also a great resource for guitar instructors seeking for a variety of familiar tunes with simple chords.
When I initially started learning to play guitar, I utilised a Jerry Snyder book. It was called the Guitar Sing Book, I believe. It is no longer in print. It was jam-packed with popular folk-rock tracks. Many of the tunes were fantastic camp songs. Several of the songs in the book have been used at boy scout, girl scout, and cub scout campfires. I wore out the book, as well as the second version I purchased. One of the things I loved most about it was that it utilised primarily simple, open chords and showed a recommended strumming or picking technique for each tune.
When I teach guitar, I divide my time between 1) note reading and 2) chords. I won’t go into detail regarding note reading except to say that I prefer to use Jay Traylor’s Classical Guitar for the Young. There are several wonderful books available that teach classical guitar and note reading, so look around.
Jamorama is an excellent resource for aspiring young guitarists. Check it out if you want to take your guitar playing to the next level.
I generally simply copy chords from my campfire songbook and go from there. I think it’s best to start with songs that simply utilise two chords and don’t change too quickly. Here are some tracks to get you started:
- Chumbara. It only makes use of C and G7. It travels quickly, but you may slow it down while learning it.
- He owns the whole world. This song likewise only employs two chords: D and A7. This one isn’t as quick as Chumbara, but it’s simple to learn and a popular campfire song.
- Michael is rowing the boat ashore. This tune has three chords. It employs the letters D, G, and A7. It is also a well-known campfire song.
- The Crawdad Song This makes use of the letters E, A, and B7. B7 is a four-finger chord, so it’s a bit more challenging, but it’ll come in handy with the E and A chords. The E and A chords are essential to master if you wish to proceed to bar chords.
The I and V chords are used in the majority of two chord tunes. For instance, if a song is written in the key of C, the I chord is C and the V chord is G or G7. (C equals I, D equals II, E equals III, F equals IV, and G equals V.)
Here are the I and V chord pairs:
- C and G7
- D and A7
- E and B7
- G and D7
- A and E7
Here are the others:
- Db and Ab7
- Eb and Bb7
- F and C7
- F# and C#7
- Ab and Eb7
- Bb and F7
- B and F#7
Look for patterns as you learn to switch from one chord to another. For instance, moving from C to G7. The hand form remains the same; you only change the first finger from the second string, first fret, to the first string, first fret, and the second and third fingers from the fourth and fifth strings to the fifth and sixth strings.
G to D7 is another example. The third finger for the G chord is on the first string, 3rd fret. When you get to the D7, just slide that finger back to the 2nd fret and bring the 1st and 2nd fingers up to the 2nd and 3rd strings as though they were soldered together from the 5th and 6th strings.
Another tip: Here’s a fantastic practise for learning to change chords quickly. Each slash represents a strum. The other squiggly line serves as a break.
In exercise 1, you strum for four beats and rest for four beats. You switch to the next chord during the rest. In exercise 2, you strum for 5 beats and then rest for 3 beats. In exercise 3, you strum 6 times and rest 2 times. You strum 7 and rest 1 in exercise 4. Finally, in exercise 5, you strum 8 times and rest 0 times. As you move through the exercises, you will have less time to relax, so that by the end, you should be able to shift without taking any breaks.
These are just a few suggestions for using The Great American Campfire Songbook to help you learn to play guitar.
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