In the 1st
we expanded on the idea of using open
strings in guitar chords,
moving cut-down chord shapes up the neck and effectively "floating"
them among the open strings. We learned some interesting and unique
chord voicings this technique allows us to create.
Let's experiment a bit more with this idea.
Floating other familiar guitar chord shapes
Without wanting to throw out
any kind of structure to
our learning, it was a good idea to start with floating those familiar
chord shapes we learned in previous lessons by cutting them down to
allow certain open strings to ring out.
In the 1st part we looked
specifically at the cut down E shape, but the
floating technique also works for other shapes.
Take the basic C
shape barre chord for example:
Now, like we've done in the
previous lesson, let's cut that barre shape down to make the
top 2 strings open.
This is what we're left with:
So, like before, let's try
floating that cut down shape
up the fretboard with those top 2 strings left open. I find the
following positions most
Click the diagram to hear example.
Interesting! We know from
earlier lessons that the A string root note in the
C shape tells us the key of the chord. For example, the
fret 5 position would be an alteration
of D major. The fret 8
position would be an alteration of
F major. Including the open strings
modifies what would be the regular C shape barre chord at those
similar to above, you could also
use the cut down minor C shape, including the top 2 strings open, and
investigate which positions up the fretboard would be compatible.
In that shape, the G,
B and high E
strings are played
let's try moving that shape up the fretboard, keeping those open
How about the minor 7th shape?
Here's the standard, A barre form
for that (which again, you should be familiar with!):
I find even just leaving the
high E string open,
we can use the first 4 strings of that shape and get some interesting
voicings up the fretboard. For example,
Dm7 at fret 5 can
become a more interesting Dm9
(the open high E providing the 9th):
Or leaving the G
and high E strings
open from the shape at the 2nd fret:
Include the low E string in
that shape above and you
get an Em7 variation (Em7add9 to be exact), as the Low E becomes the
main root note:
This is how you should
experiment and discover new chords! Don't
just copy me, there are tons of these "hidden" chords waiting to be
Diads are basically two notes
played together, as opposed to a chord which is 3 (triad) or more notes.
Apart from the root-5th diad
there is a major diad
(root + major 3rd). This is also
known as a major 3rd
And a minor
diad (root + minor
3rd), also known as a minor
Notice how in both diagrams,
the diad shapes can sit on
any of the 3 main root strings - E, A and D. The red dot
represents the root note
diad. When floating these shapes, you don't have to always use all 6
especially when using the low E string diad.
So play around with those
shapes, moving them up and
down, mixing major and minor, and of course trying different open
strings in the mix. I find
picking the strings rather than
strumming works most effectively with this type of chord, as this
allows you to skip over
unwanted open strings. You might be
surprised at what you come out with.
If you want to get really
creative, try adding and
removing fretted strings to those basic diad shapes, to see how you can
interact with any open strings. Also, try widening the gap between
fretted notes, like so...
With the root note in place to
define the key of the
chord you're playing, the other fretted note blends in with the rest of
the chord as an addition. In the above case, if you're interested, the
yellow dot is an added 9th.
Floating other guitar chord shapes
Previously, we've been using
the top 2 or 3 open
strings in our floating shapes, but we can also effectively "sandwich"
open strings in between chord shapes. Let's take a quick
To show you the creative
process behind this technique, I'll be
playing a simple sequence using a modified A shape barre chord. First,
it has been modified:
So just the G string has been
unfretted to leave it open
within the shape. You could do the same with the minor A shape...
Now it's just a case of
finding some "compatible" positions for these two shapes. The below tab
is a nice
example (click the tab to hear):
See, even just using a
single open string, we
can create some interesting movements. The open string merges through
chord changes as a sort of drone
note, so it never becomes an overbearing tone.
a little with open strings in your chords - the worst that can happen
is you'll learn which positions to avoid!
for a well deserved break...
We could spend hours just
exploring this one technique,
but I think you get the idea... and you can now use this knowledge to
explore the fretboard independently.
Of course, this type of chord is not supposed to replace
the use of the more basic chord shapes. Sometimes a simple major chord
in its regular form is the best option for the emotion you're trying
to convey in the music. In other words, you don't always need to use
"big sounding chords" to make your music sound good.
What we can be confident with is that we have yet another creative
to think about and draw from when writing our chord progressions. So,
as always, use it wisely!