Chords are composed of tones that combine to produce an orchestral-sounding chord. By adding one or two extra notes, you can get numerous variations to an otherwise standard chord progression.
Consider, for example, an F Major chord; by adding a bass note to this structure you will achieve a more substantial lower voicing.
Major chords form the backbone of many songs, often used to express positive emotions through music. Beginners will likely learn these chords first.
There are various variations of an A major chord. Some can be challenging for finger placement with closer string spacing and larger fingers; try out different hand positions until you find what best works for you.
A traditional barre chord version can be daunting at first, but once mastered it can open up a world of guitar melodies. Additionally, variations such as three string open versions that don’t require your pinky to move and second inversions with high root notes on strings 2 and 3. Furthermore, adding ninths such as Dmaj9 or Cmaj7 chords to straight major scale chords creates chords with jazzier overtones than its source major scale chord.
Minor chords tend to create a much more melancholic and emotionally charged sound than major ones, which makes them an invaluable tool for songwriters and guitarists to manipulate emotions within music – either leading listeners into new emotional territory, or reinforcing those emotions already present within it.
A major and minor chords differ primarily in terms of the third degree of their scales: for a major chord, this note should be a natural note; while for minor chords it must be flattened.
Here are six open minor chord variations to help your rhythm guitar playing. Practice each in its own key before exploring them across chord progressions to see how well they work.
These first two inversions of m7 chords contain bass notes on the sixth string, making the pattern somewhat challenging to memorize at first. Once learned however, it becomes simpler and quicker.
Have you spent any time studying scales or chords? If so, you will have likely come to recognize that their typical structures contain three notes; either Root, 3rd, 5th and 6th for triads or Root 3rd 5th seventh 7th for seventh chords – providing their signature major or minor sound respectively.
To determine whether an interval is major or minor, simply count up by either three or four frets until reaching your new note and add any sharps or flats needed to meet requirements for either major or minor thirds.
The second pattern demonstrates how to build a major seventh chord by adding the seventh note of the major scale to a C chord fundamental, in this instance also creating a G suspended chord which may also be considered major-flatted-seventh as its seventh note is flattened with an “m” for minor sounding chord.
A minor chord consists of three musical alphabet letters which are spaced one full step and half step apart (or one fret horizontally on a string). Moving down by one semitone turns major intervals into minor ones; flattening sharp notes makes them natural notes.
This trick works for any interval up to and including an octave. After an octave is reached, the following interval is considered a perfect fifth; also known as ‘perfect consonants’.
Ex. 7 is an interesting pattern which combines ascending and descending broken thirds on both strings in order to build and descend in C Dorian mode. It provides great fingering practice for both fretting and picking hands, providing an engaging way of playing modal chord progressions. Of course, this technique can also be applied to other modes or chord types; just be sure to take your time and avoid buzzing on the fretboard!
Chord variations involve changing one or more notes within a basic chord pattern. Most commonly, ascending third intervals (two non-consecutive scale notes) work well as variations.
Adding bass notes can turn a traditional C open chord into its first inversion voicing an octave lower for a chunkier sound that works great as rhythm parts.
1. C Major Scale
This chord shape is one of the most frequently seen major chord structures. It is constructed using an E major open string chord with eight frets added onto it and moved higher by one string. What’s important about this shape is that it contains all notes from a C major scale – this means playing ascending and descending moves is required in order to get maximum effect from this shape.
This chord variation is very popular in rock, and can produce impressive results with a distorted tone. When using such a distortion tone, palm-muting is highly recommended to reduce the amount of sound coming through from other strings and create more percussive effects.
Try playing this shape along with a bassist, to see how it sounds with two notes from the low E and A strings missing from the mix – it may add more of a punk feel!
2. C Minor Scale
C Minor Scale is another commonly learned scale among musicians, often in combination with major scale. It serves as an excellent foundation for other types of minor scales such as melodic minor and harmonic minor scales.
This scale comprises seven degrees and is derived from Aeolian mode. To learn this scale successfully, it is important to remember that its notes have different names for ascending and descending movements.
There are various variations of the C Minor scale, all featuring distinct fingering and tones. One variation uses only three fingers for easier playability by beginner guitar players. While sounding similar to barre chords, this variation allows more advanced players to use Aeolian songs such as I-bVII-bVII as part of their musical progressions.
3. C Blues Scale
Numerous songs in the blues genre utilize the minor blues scale, including classics by Robert Johnson and Cream such as “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Crossroads”. You can also use the major blues scale – which contains flat 3rd and 7th tones of dominant seventh chords – when playing riffs and solos using it.
Hexatonic blues scale is another popular variation on the blues scale that often adds an additional note – usually major sixth – that adds its own distinctive sound. Be wary when overusing this note as excessive use could create dissonant and disresolved sounds in your music – a little goes a long way!
4. G Major Scale
G major’s open chord variations offer plenty of energy-packed variations that can add some spark to progressions. One such variation involves duplicating its fifth rather than its third tone and creating what’s known as a G suspended chord (sometimes also known as an F#dim7b5) voicing. While tricky at first, once mastering it can really add tension and drama to progressions.
Add a bass note to this voicing for a choppy rhythm feel that can be useful in certain styles of music such as hard rock or grunge. As always, experiment with various voicings of these shapes until you find what works for you best.
5. G Minor Scale
Though G minor scale patterns can be complex for novice guitarists, they provide an ideal platform to practice on. Through consistent practice and using your thumb to mute the low E string while playing other strings simultaneously will soon allow you to master this shape without ever needing your pinky finger!
Alternately, another way of using this shape would be to shift it up one octave on the fretboard for higher pitched notes that would work perfectly for funk music.
As you can see, CAGED provides much more than simply learning new chord shapes. Experiment with variations to find an individual tone that suits the song you are playing.