Beautifully Simple Guitar Chords Using "Shell" Shapes
Certain guitar parts are better suited to simple chord structures.
One example is if you're using a lot of gain or distortion and need
more clarity and punch in your chord playing, or just some more
intricate alternatives to the standard power chord forms.
Another is if you're using percussive strumming rhythms (hear example) or picked rolls
and you want a tighter sound.
this lesson we'll explore some cut down chord shapes, often called
shell chords or closed harmony,
that allow for quicker, more tightly voiced chord playing. It'll show
you how even the simplest chords can sound colourful. Let's start
with an overview by watching the presentation below...
What Are Shell Chords?
Simply put, shell chords are a form of economising whereby we use
chord shapes that consist of only the most important tones of
with major and minor triads, for example, we'd only need three strings
to make the chord.
With seventh chords, we might leave out the 5th so we're still only
using three strings. It's about cutting down the chord as far as
possible whilst retaining its recognisable quality (major, minor,
diminished, dominant 7th etc.)
There are several uses for shell chords, from simply economising one's
fingering to creating a "tighter" sound.
jazz, the rhythm part will typically involve comping using shell chords
to allow the soloist the freedom to build a number of different
harmonies and melodies. The idea is that, the fewer the notes in the
background, the more creative room the lead instrumentalist has to
express their interpretation of the piece.
But generally speaking, shell chords are just simplified chords that
have their own specific sound.
Shell Guitar Chord Charts
Remember, these shapes are movable, so you can position them at any
fret, just like barre chords.
Power Chord Extensions
As demonstrated in the video, we can add a 9th or major 7th to the
basic root-5th power chord shape for some distortion-friendly colour...
Simple Guitar Chord Ideas
I've tabbed out the examples I used in the video. You can use these as
exercises or just inspiration for coming up with your own ideas.
Starting with a simple exercise moving between E and A string shell
forms (click the tab to hear)...
These shell forms are great for sliding. I've marked the slides in blue
= up slide \
= down slide)...
Here I alternate between suspended 4th and major shell forms...
Try finger plucking these alternative shell forms for more understated
Here I alternate between power chord extensions...
I loved this diminished 9th power chord sound. Eery...
And something similar using an augmented 5th...
Finally, I introduce chromatic movements to some of the shell forms
we've learned. Great for phrased picking...
I hope you've enjoyed this lesson! Of course, you should spend time
coming up with your own ideas. Once you're confident with the shapes,
it's just a case of combining them through trial and error. As always,
let your ears be the judge.