Are you bored of playing the same old boring major and minor chords? I strive to not only teach my students plenty of variations for basic chords, but teach them enough music theory to create their own! Here I'll be posting just a few ideas in some useful keys. Click the images to see in full page view...
These voicings have again been stolen from a few different sources including "Best Of You" by Foo Fighters and offer another great way of playing in the key of E Major. What's really great about these chords is that the notes on the top 4 strings stay the same throughout, creating loads of sustain while only the root note moves. The unison B notes (played on the G and B strings) also help to create ringing, open sounding chords.
When people play in B Major, they are usually using a Capo at the 4th fret, and playing open chords in the key of G. This makes sense because the alternative is to play mostly barre chords, which can be awkward and just sound far too obvious and bland! These chord voicings are based around partials of E shape barre chords, but with the B and E strings open throughout. These chords are also missing their root note (normally on the low E string) making the chord changes quite subtle.
These are some of the most common chord substitutions out there, because they sound great! I originally stole them from the Enrique song Hero, but these voicings are used in every genre for as long as anyone can remember. The reason they work so well is because they are quick and easy to play, but sound really effective because of the two top notes played with the 3rd and 4th fingers. These notes drone through the whole progression, creating sustain while the bass notes provide movement. Try adding in an Asus4 and you’ve got Wonderwall by Oasis!
Barre chords can be tricky, even after you’ve been playing for a while, and it’s even harder to change between barre chords and open chords. Transposing to open chords with a capo will only get you so far, so you need to master them! Once you have mastered them you will discover that open chords actually sound better, and less obvious than barre chords. You can create your own, but this Bm11 is a great example to replace a Bm barre chord. This voicing also helps it to link in well with the other chords and create the same “sustain” idea as before.
Here's another quick lesson with more ideas on how to take your boring old open chords and make them sound a little more interesting. Using Sus2 chords is a great way to soften chord changes, and they can replace almost any minor and major chord because they are neither! In this case they also allow you to use more open strings, allowing parts of the chord to sustain while you change. I've also gotten rid of the horrible F#m barre chord in favour of a more open chord. Click on the image to see the diagram at full size.
The first of the "Interesting Chords" lessons is here! These chord voicings are based around the Power Chord shape, but with the B and E strings played open instead of being muted out of the chord. Simply slide the same shape around the neck to the suggested frets, or even see how they sound elsewhere. The Bsus4/D# is what's known as a slash chord, and is simply just a regular chord but the lowest note has been swopped for something different, in this case a D#. Click the diagram to enlarge.