A Simple Trick to Creating More Tasty Rhythms
I’ve never understood why one would skin a cat, I just know there’s more than one to do it. The same holds true for playing any chord on guitar. There are lots of ways to do it. And unlike skinning a cat, there’s a very good reason to vary how you play your chords: It adds dynamics to your tune without compromising the overarching melody. In other words, it makes the song you’re playing sound more interesting.
Let’s use the E major chord as an example. The standard position is open 6th string, 5th string 2nd fret, 4th string 2nd fret, 3rd string 1st fret, and open 2nd and 1st strings. Here the focus is on the E note: you have three of them in different octaves in your chord. The notes from bottom up are E B E G# B E.
The next most common fingering for an E major chord would be a completely barred 7th fret, and the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd string barred with your ring finger at the 9th fret. Here your notes from bottom up are B E B E G# B. Same chord? Yes, but the different note configuration, this time with 3 B notes instead of E notes, gives a slightly different sound.
Here’s another variation: Open 6th string, 5th string 7th fret, 4th string 6th fret, 3rd string 4th fret, 2nd string 5th fret, 1st string 4th fret. Now your notes are E E G# B E G#. Here we’re back to the emphasis on the E note with 3 E’s in the chord. But with G# as your highest note it’s still going to be a different sound than your standard or barred E major chord.
Even if you use the exact same notes, like playing your E major chord by completely barring the 12 fret and playing your 5th and 4th strings on the 14th fret, and 3rd string on the 13th, being up 2 octaves is going to add variety. Here your notes are identical to the first chord we examined, E B E G# B E. But try playing them back to back and you’ll hear the difference.
Don’t get stuck in the rut of playing the same chord the same way throughout a song. Every chord has several possible variations and each one has the potential to make your rhythm that much more interesting.
I used this technique of varying a chord’s note configuration to add dynamics to the bridge of the Stone Mob anthem “First Day.” I play a G – A chord progression in four different configurations, starting with the most standard position and ending two octaves higher and with an emphasis on different notes.
Watch the video for “First Day” and then the accompanying instructional video in which I’ll show you exactly what I did. You’ll learn some tasty ways to play G and A major chords, and get an idea how to add the technique of varying chord configurations into your own songs.
Cheers and keep those fingers reconfiguring!