Easy Ways to Find Interesting Guitar Chords

November 14, 2009

Just a quick post to show you a video I uploaded on the ‘Tube about finding interesting chords on your guitar. I’m a huge fan of open chords (chords that use fretted and unfretted/open strings) and I always use the below technique to find nice replacements for those standard barre/movable chords.

I hope you find it useful…


Guitar Chord Progression #16

November 3, 2009

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last update. Apologies!

Anyway, here we have a progression that makes use of the diminished chord a semitone up from the IV chord (in this case, the IV chord is Amaj7). Take a look and listen first and hear how the diminished 7th chord interacts with the chords either side of it…

E major open chord

E major open chord

A major 7 (Amaj7) open chord

A major 7 (Amaj7) open chord

B flat diminished 7 (Bbdim7) open chord

B flat diminished 7 (Bbdim7) open chord

E major open chord

E major open chord

B 9 suspended 4 (B9sus4) movable chord

B 9 suspended 4 (B9sus4) movable chord

This is actually quite a typical movement used in a lot of pop songwriting. The use of the diminished chord destabalises the progression following the Amaj7 IV chord, which acts as a safe “resting point” away from the E major tonic chord.

This instability is resolved simply by moving back to the tonic.

I just find it more interesting to sometimes use these slightly more tense chords in progressions that would otherwise feel “safe” and “middle of the road”. Of course, sometimes a straightahead E major / Amaj7 (I / IV) yo-yo is effective enough (especially if you want to keep the backing chords simple for some lead improv).

Diminished chords have a fascinating role in music, and I’ll most likely be using them in different contexts in future posts.

Experiment with different combinations…

e.g. Amaj7 | B9sus4/B7 | E major | Bbdim7

 


Guitar Chord Progression #15

September 26, 2009

Today’s progression uses simple “rise and fall” dynamics (or ascend/descend, however you want to phrase it). It’s pretty self explanatory, so first take a listen…

B major added 9 (inversion)

B major added 9 (inversion) (Badd9)

E minor added 6 (Emadd6)

E minor added 6 (Emadd6)

F sharp added 6 / 11 (F#add6/11)

F sharp added 6 / 11 (F#add6/11)

F sharp minor added 6 / 11 (F#madd6/11)

B dominant 7 (inversion) (B7)

E major added 6 (Eadd6)

E major added 6 (Eadd6)

E minor added 6 (Emadd6)

E minor added 6 (Emadd6)

So there’s an initial climb up to that F# V chord before collapsing down, eventually further than the point we started on the fretboard. By using an inversion of that tonic B major chord, rooted on the 3rd of the chord as opposed to the root note, we can bring the opening closer to the rest of the “climb”, giving the sequence more apparent cohesion. Sometimes you may want more disjointed movements, so it’s good to understand that distinction.

For the theory buffs out there, the second chord in the progression, E minor, is a good example of turning the IV chord into an iv – major into minor. It then loses the natural stability of the IV chord, allowing you to create a more tragic expression, which I’m sure you’ll agree is what was accomplished here!

The use of the open B string came in handy as well, as a “drone string”, giving yet more cohesion to the sequence.

Another thing to note is, when the progression descends from its peak F# major chord, the movement on the D string is chromatic, which is useful in giving the progression some intrinsic harmony. Try building chord tones around chromatic sequences, on any of the strings, and you’ll be surprised at how it can guide you through some intricate harmonies.

All this is food for thought of course, and there’ll be times when randomnly plonking your fingers at various places on the fretboard will yield epic results, but you should always be asking yourself “what more can I do with this?”

 


Guitar Chord Progression #14

September 15, 2009

Once again, a simple demonstration of how simply changing the tuning of your guitar can provide you with some fresh voicings for those common open chord shapes down at the first few frets…

D suspended 2 (Dsus2) open chord

D suspended 2 (Dsus2) open chord

E minor 7 added 11 (Em7add11) open chord

E minor 7 added 11 (Em7add11) open chord

C dominant 9 (C9) open chord

C dominant 9 (C9) open chord

A suspended 9 (Asus9) open chord

A suspended 9 (Asus9) open chord

I especially like how this tuning alters that regular open C shape. Really adds colour to it, although it may not be what you always need.

There’s a nice flow to this progression that just grabbed me – because these are open chords, they blend into one another seamlessly, and even though that dominant C major chord pushes it outside the conventions of a standard diatonic progression, there are enough “shared notes” with the other chords for it to not sound too misplaced.

That’s a key point for today – shared notes. You can often use the more jarring, unconventional chord changes if that chord contains tones (or even just one tone) from the previous chord…

 


Guitar Chord Progression #13

September 12, 2009

I’ve been playing around with descending chord shapes over the past few days. Many guitarists know the E and A form barre chords, but few experiment with chord shapes that descend from the root/bass fret. You can get some very nice voicings from these shapes, as demonstrated below…

A major 7 (Amaj7) movable chord shape

A major 7 (Amaj7) movable chord shape

A 7 suspended 4 (A7sus4) (open high e)

A 7 suspended 4 (A7sus4) (open high e)

A major 7 (Amaj7) movable chord shape

A major 7 (Amaj7) movable chord shape

E minor 9 (Em9) (open low E)

E minor 9 (Em9) (open low E)

By alternating the open A bass with an open E bass, this provides us with a convenient way to variate the sound of these shapes. Of course, if you’re playing with a bassist, they will most often define the bass note for you, but on your own it’s something to think about more consciously.

When the open A or E strings are compatible, give them a pick and see what effect they have on those movable shapes. Just by adding a new bass note, you can change the whole feel of the chord.

 


Guitar Chord Progression #12

September 2, 2009

Time for an alternate tuning – E A D G A d (online tuner here)

Probably my favourite tuning for open chord playing, as you can get some really interesting voicings from those familiar chord shapes you might use in standard tuning.

By letting those newly tuned top two strings ring out, we can add some very nice tones to the progression. Take a listen…

G major added 9 (Gadd9) open chord

G major added 9 (Gadd9) open chord

A minor 7 added 11 (Am7add11) open chord

A minor 7 added 11 (Am7add11) open chord

F major added 6 (Fadd6) open chord

F major added 6 (Fadd6) open chord

D dominant 7 (D7) open chord

D dominant 7 (D7) open chord

The ending chord you hear in the audio clip is simply the first chord in the sequence played with a full barre – a voicing you just wouldn’t be able to acheive in standard tuning. A similar thing with that second chord, with a new tone – the 11th – being added to a standard minor 7th barre form.

For some reason, I find it much easier to come up with interesting progressions in this tuning than standard, by experimenting with different open string chords. It’s certainly not a replacement for standard tuning, but it’s a refreshing change.

Have a go.

 


Guitar Chord Progression #11

August 31, 2009

Today, as with a lot of progressions I’ve shown you, I’m using a mixture of movable chord shapes (no open strings) and open “floated” chord shapes (with open strings). The idea is to use the tones that are available simply from the tuning of the guitar.

For example, in the first chord, I chose to leave the D string open, because it added a bassy 9th tone to the chord which gave it more depth. All I did was un-barre my index finger and remove my 4th finger from what would have been a standard barre chord shape…

C major 9 (Cmaj9) open chord

C major 9 (Cmaj9) open chord

C dominant 7 (C7) (inv) movable chord shape

C dominant 7 (C7) (inv) movable chord shape

F major 7 (Fmaj7) movable chord shape

F major 7 (Fmaj7) movable chord shape

F minor major 7 (FmM7) open chord

F minor major 7 (FmM7) open chord

The second chord, an inversion of the tonic C major chord, uses a bass note one semitone down from the following Fmaj7 chord, so it provides that leading movement to carry the progression up to that stable IV chord.

That safe IV chord is then shattered into minor misery using a more tragic minor/major 7th chord (a minor chord with an added major 7th – the major 7th provided conveniently by the open high E string). This is a common transformation of the IV chord, as the resolution back to the tonic I chord becomes all the more satisfying.

So I suppose a good point to come out of today’s progression is to experiment with turning major into minor and vice-versa. You can extract completely different emotions from your music by doing so.

Don’t let the listener get too comfortable!