Insanely Simple 1-Finger Chord Songs for Guitar

By Wayne Erbsen

Following is an excerpt from the book Easy Two-Chord Songs for Guitar.

The thumb is truly the king or queen of all the fingers and deserves our utmost respect. Let’s give the royal thumb the important job of strumming down on the strings. “Down” means toward the floor. While holding down the Small C Chord, strum down with your thumb on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd strings. For G7, strum down on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings. (See chord diagrams at the end of this post.)

Here are some simple songs to practice your Thumb Strum while changing from C to G7. Note: The slash marks over the words tell you where to strum. The xx and xxx on the chord diagrams below the songs means that you don’t play those strings.

Some friendly reminders when playing chords….

  • Use only the very tips of your fingers.
  • Your finger should stay in the middle between the frets, but not touching them.
  • Push down hard enough on the chord so you get a clear sound.
  • Practice going back and forth from Small C to Small G7. Gradually speed up.
  • Keep the fingernails on your left hand fairly short so they won’t get in your way.
  • Keep in mind that we’ll soon be playing larger versions of these “small chords.”
  • Enjoy the simplicity while it lasts!

Allow me to toot my own horn for a moment. After teaching guitar for 50 years, I’ve published three books for beginning guitar. Here’s more about them.

Easy 2-Chord Songs for Guitar, cover

This article was excerpted from my most recent book, Easy Two-Chord Songs for Guitar. If you want to play the guitar, but don’t want to play a zillion chords, this is the book for you! The book includes helpful illustrations plus music, tab, and lyrics to 33 familiar bluegrass, old-time, folk and gospel songs, each with only TWO CHORDS. The book’s spiral binding allows it to lay flat while you play. It comes with an audio CD and a link to download or stream mp3s.

Painless Guitar – A Fun & Easy Guide for the Complete Beginner is for the total and absolute beginner. My co-author Ted Parrish and I call it “painless” because we have simplified learning the guitar down to its most basic level. Frankly, it doesn’t get much simpler than this. You’ll learn how to play the melody and chords to 31 folk, bluegrass, old time and gospel songs. You’ll have access to online audio files so you can hear how things are supposed to sound.

Book cover

If you’re a little further along than a complete novice, I suggest Flatpicking Guitar for the Complete Ignoramus. This 80-page book takes the beginner on a musical adventure that includes more than 40 well-known flatpicking guitar tunes including Arkansas Traveler, Bury Me Beneath the Willow, House of the Rising Sun, In the Pines, Man of Constant Sorrow, Red River Valley, Wildwood Flower, and Will the Circle Be Unbroken. The book has a spiral binding and comes with an audio CD and a link to download or stream mp3s.

Wayne Erbsen has been teaching banjo, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin since dinosaurs roamed the earth (really, about 50 years). Originally from California, he now makes his home in Asheville, North Carolina. He has written 30 songbooks and instruction books for banjo, fiddle, guitar, and mandolin.

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