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Chords In G Tuning

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Before we get into figuring out chord positions it might be helpful to learn something other than barre and three-finger chords. When we get into The Nashville Number System in the next chapter we will be discussing minor chords and chord progressions. Let's go over some of the chord forms used in open G tuning.

Early on in this book we talked about how the barre chord in G tuning follows the chromatic scale. Staring with open G you get G#/Ab with a barre at the first fret, A at the second fret and so on.

g-or A position chords

The barre chord is not the only chord form that follows this pattern. Every chord is going to follow the chromatic scale up and down the fretboard. This is kind of neat because you only have to learn a few chord forms to learn all of the chords.

Major Chord Positions

All of the chords that we have been working with so far have been major chords. A major chord is made up of the 1st , 3rd and 5th notes in the scale.

A G major chord is made up of the notes G-B-D. If you play those three notes together anywhere on the fretboard you have a G major chord.

There are two types of chord positions. Open position chords have one or more open strings and closed position chords don't. That's easy to remember, isn't it?

In some of the chord forms shown in this and subsequent chapters you may notice a white dot marking one of the strings. That white dot indicates an optional string. You can fret it if you want to or you can just think of that string as being crossed out for that chord form.

The first form that we are going to look at is called the F position because its first position on the fretboard is an F chord.

F position chords

There isn't any need to write out every single F position chord on the fretboard because it follows the same idea as barre chords. The chord one fret up the fretboard (towards the bridge- I know it seems like going down, but we call it going "up" the neck because the notes are getting higher in pitch). . .where was I? Oh yeah, the chord one fret up from the F position A chord at the seventh fret has to be A#/Bb. It can't be anything else because it follows the chromatic scale.

It also works the other way around. The E chord is an F position chord "cut off" by the nut. The next chord position is called the C or D position depending on who you talk to. Some folks call it the C position because the first chord we use is the C chord, other folks call it the D position because D is the first closed position chord using this form.

D-or C- position chords

After E at the sixth fret you get and F chord at the seventh fret and so on.

Minor Chord Positions

Minor chords are made up of the same three notes as a major chord, but in a minor chord we flat the third note. That means we lower the pitch of the third note of the chord by a half step. So, a G minor chord would be G-Bb-D.

Minor chords have a dark, moody sound. Sometimes people will say that minor chords are sad or spooky, but that's really something that depends on how you use them. The best way to describe them is that they just sound different from major chords.

There are three main minor chord positions. All of them continue along with the chromatic scale.

The E Minor Position
Em position

The D Minor Position
Dm position

The A Minor Position
Am position

Seventh Chord Positions

A seventh chord is a major chord with one extra note. The extra note is the flatted seventh note of the scale. A G7 chord would be G-B-D-F.

Seventh chords have a variety of uses. In folk music you often see seventh chords tossed into a chord progression just before a chord change. This works because seventh chords have this funny way of creating a feeling of tension that leads into a chord change.

The three most common seventh chord positions are diagrammed below.

seventh chords

Any barre or G position chord can be made into a seventh by dropping your pinky on the first string three frets below the barred fret.

In other words, if your barre at the second fret with your index finger and put your pinky on the first string at the fifth fret you would get an A7 chord. Barre across the fourth fret and place your pinky on the first string at the seventh fret and you get a B7 chord.

A7 and B7 chords

One seventh chord form that is kind of a redheaded stepchild in open G tuning is the D7 chord.

D7 chord

It is moveable, but it's kind of awkward so most players don't treat this as a moveable position.

Using A Capo

Think of your capo as an extra finger playing a barre chord for you. The cool thing about that is you can play in just about any key with a few simple chords. For example, if you capo at the second fret and play a C chord you wind up playing a D chord.

C and D

It's easy to understand using the capo if you look at your chord positions. The C and D chords both use the same chord form at different positions on the fretboard. Using a capo lets you play with those relationships to make transposing songs into new keys easier.

Capo at the second fret and play as if you were in G and you wind up playing in A. Capo at the second fret and play in C and you wind up playing in D.

Capos can be a lot of fun because you can take a simple song and try it in a whole bunch of keys until you find something comfortable to sing in.

Now, if we capoed at the fourth fret and played as if we were in G we would wind up playing in B. What would we be playing in if we capoed at the fourth fret and played as if we were in C? If you said, "E" you've got it!

The Limitations Of Open G Tuning

You may have noticed that once you get past the first couple of frets in open G tuning chords there are a lot of strings marked with an "x" because there isn't a feasible way to play them. That's kind of the big drawback to this tuning. Open G is a great way to start out on the guitar, but like any other open tuning it starts to get shaky when you add in more advanced chording.

That is why you will find chord diagrams for standard tuning near the end of this book. One of the reasons standard tuning (E A D G B E from the sixth string to the first) became the most common tuning is that it lends itself to an amazing variety of chord forms that make use of all six strings. The drawback to standard tuning is that some of the chord forms are fairly demanding on the left hand. Working in open G for the time being will give you a chance to build up your hand strength before you dive into standard tuning.

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