Guitar Lesson: Expanding Your Chord Shapes

  • Written By 
  • Jordan Holt

In a previous blog post, I outlined some basic shapes that would empower guitarists of any skill level to be able to play rhythm in any key.

In this post, I want to outline some more “advanced”, for lack of a better term, chord shapes that I use frequently in my playing. For the sake of time, I want to stay within the keys of D and G. They are both common keys that are significant steps apart, can apply to many other keys when transposed or using a capo, and every open string in standard tuning can be utilized.

For each chord, I will show a variety of chords that I play on top of the base chord in the progression. My choice of a chord always varies depending on the song, part, and chords that are paired with them.

I’m not going to get into the technicalities of the names of each chord as I am going to assume that you already know the theory around that. If you don’t, you can still use these shapes in your playing and make decisions based on what sounds good to you.

With the chord options, I will simply place the corresponding Nashville number above.

Mid-range chords. (Shown in the key of D)

I usually think of chords in a low, middle and higher octave. These ones below are in the middle but can transpose to be higher in certain keys (i.e. key of A played around the 14th fret). With any chord in this article, feel free to only play some of the notes and experiment. Use your ear and see what works in the context you’re playing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some more chords around the same area, but a slightly different position.

Feel free to add in the open D string and/or not play high E.

  

 

 

 

High-range chords (Key of D)

I like to arpeggiate these chords a lot.

Feel free to add in the open high E string or make the D string open.

 

 

 

Low-range chords (Key of D)

I hybrid pick these a lot and many times just play the low E and G strings. Also, remember that only playing single notes on the low E string is a great option in many cases.

 

Mid-range chords (Key of G)

Similar to the low-range chords in the key of D, but shifted. Again, I will many times only play the A and B strings here.

 

Low-range chords (Key of G)

I arpeggiate these chords a lot rather than fully strumming them. Many times I’ll just play the fretted lower 2 notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chords below are similar to the key of D chords, but I usually just hybrid pick them without open strings. Sometimes adding an open D string is nice as it’s the 5th of the key.

   

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