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  • Writer's pictureJay EuDaly

Cowboy Chords

Hello Fellow Guitarists!

This is Jay from Master Guitar School. I've been a professional guitarist since 1969 and a full-time (80+ students a week) guitar/music instructor since the early '80's. You can read my bio here.

Over the last 15 months I have been giving a lesson series away via the Master Guitar School monthly newsletter called, “Cowboy Chords: A Deep Dive into 1st Position Fingerings and Application.” The lessons are hosted on the “Free Lessons” page of the “Members Only” area of You must be a Site Member and logged in to view them.

There is a multitude of famous, influential (not to mention, RICH) songwriters and performers who use nothing but Cowboy Chords; the same chords I teach you in this series!

Country, Alternative, Rock, Folk, Americana...tons of genres use these chords.

  • Do you want to just be able to play the chords that you see over the words in lyric sheets online?

  • Do you want a vocabulary of chords and chord progressions that you can use for your own songwriting?

  • Do you want to be able to hear the chords to many of your favorite songs - and play them?

The answer to all these questions is - Cowboy Chords!

Now, upon the completion of the series, I'm making the entire lesson series available as a single PDF download!

“Cowboy Chords” are otherwise known as “First-Position Chords” and usually contain open strings. The term, “first-position” indicates they occur within the first 4 frets. These are the typical chords (G, C, D etc) that most guitarists first learn.

You can find them being taught all over the internet and in method books everywhere. The very first method book I had – it came with my first guitar purchase at age 11 (1966) – was a Mel Bay book of first-position chords. That's where I learned them.

Why then, is a guy like me who has all this advanced teaching content interested in teaching beginner-level first-position chords that can be found with a simple search?

Because I don't see them being taught the way I teach them. Furthermore, while some might say “cowboy chords” and the “deep dive” of my subtitle is oxymoronic, such an attitude indicates that person does not really understand music &/or the possibilities contained in the guitar.

My basic approach is to teach one chord at a time, including many possible fingerings and some extensions (mainly 7ths) in a common or cliché order or chord progression. I talk about technique issues which are commonly missing; positioning, optimum finger placement order, minimum force and so on. None of the technique issues were dealt with in the Mel Bay book I mentioned.

These lessons are not exhaustive, they merely present the most commonly used chords. So, while this lesson series is aimed at beginner and lower-intermediate students, there are elements that will appeal to students beyond that categorization.

If you are more advanced, it never hurts to revisit the basics! You never know; you just might come across something you missed the last time around. That's happened to me plenty of times.

Cowboy Chords is one of the things I do with beginner students right off the bat. It provides a lot of gratification because entire songs can be played with just 3 or 4 chords. Heck, I can think of several hit songs that use just one, single chord!

Cowboy Chords a PDF download that contains

  • 15 lessons in 41 pages

  • 8 links to other, related free lessons

  • 197 fretboard diagrams and other graphics

  • 15 video links

Chord progressions are given in the PDF &/or the videos for these songs:

  • Refugee - Tom Petty

  • Born on the Bayou - Creedence Clearwater Revival

  • Proud Mary - Creedence Clearwater Revival

  • What I Like About You - The Romantics

  • Toes - Zac Brown Band

  • Another Saturday Night - Sam Cooke

  • With a Little Help From My Friends - The Beatles

  • Save Tonight - Eagle Eye Cherry

  • Stand by Me - Ben E. King

  • Silhouette - The Four Seasons

  • Dream - The Everly Brothers

  • Every Breath You Take - The Police

Take a Quick Look at the PDF:

Let me give you part of the first lesson here so you can get an idea of what you'll be getting when you download "Cowboy Chords."

We'll start with the typical G Major; we'll start with 2 different fingerings for the same chord. I call it a, “3-fingered G”:

A word about fingerings: fingering is not set in stone; there is no absolute one right way to finger anything, there is only the right way to finger something in a certain situation. What chord are you coming from? What chord follows? Generally, the right way to finger something is that which creates the least amount of movement. This is the principle of economical movement and lies at the heart of good technique. I will emphasize it often:

Less movement = less potential for error!

A word about positioning: place your finger directly behind and as close to the fret as possible: see the demonstration video below.

​There are free lessons on technique in the “Members Only” area of You must be a Site Member and logged in to view.

​The numbers within the colored circles are the voicing. “R” = “root.” “3” = “3rd” and so on. Knowing the voicing is not that critical at this stage, but it's important for the future.

The numbers across the top are fingers;

1 = index 2 = middle 3 = ring 4 = pinky

The fret-hand thumb is not numbered, I notate it with “T” when necessary.

Which fingering of the G above should you use? Ideally? Both. But, for the sake of taking the first step, pick one and work on just that one. You'll have to use the other one soon enough when we start putting chords into progressions.

Check out this video demonstration of all the above:

So you can see now that you don't get just the chords, you get technique guidance as well as links to multiple free lessons.

But we're not done; there's more to this lesson, namely, three more ways to play G!

That will be in the next blog. Watch for it in a couple of days.


P.S. Leave a comment or question; I'll endeavor to answer all questions!


The Launch of the Cowboy Chords lesson series will go out to Site Members only! If you are not a Site Member and have any interest in obtaining this PDF:

It's FREE - no credit card or payment info required. For more info on site membership see, Why Become a Site Member?

The launch for the Cowboy Chords download will be next week so sign up before Monday, Dec 11 if you’re not a member!


How about 5 FREE lessons?

The 5-Lesson Foundational Series teaches the Circle of Keys as an organizational mechanism by which you ensure that whatever you learn is drilled in every key in all possible positions. It also gives you a method to find any note, anywhere, without memorizing note names on every string. That is a beautiful thing!

You can download the 5-Lesson Foundational Series right here for free with no further obligation or commitment. Click on the link or picture below to get your free PDF:

Sign up as a Master Guitar School site member - it's free! - and get access to dozens of free site-based lessons, a monthly newsletter that contains a brand-new free lesson, and DEEP discounts on lesson series downloads - plus more!

For more information on site membership see Why Become a Site Member?

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