Guitarlincs - Free Guitar Music

Moveable Chords

I was brought up in the days when it was common for teachers and some players to insist there was a proper way to play a C chord - one way - their way.... There are still some so-called teachers who preach that ignorance. My teacher fortunately was a jazzer - and very musically literate. First he taught us how to read and play fingerstyle then chords were taught fitting in to the theory.

Soon I found there were not one or two ways to play each chord, but literally dozens! One of the secrets was voicings (more later) the other was using MOVEABLE shapes.

Four string moveable major and minor chords

Actually, there are dozens of moveable four string shapes to get your teeth into, but tonight here are the most basic. Groups like the Offspring and RHCP will intersperse these with power chords. (Buy the TAB books or check out some top quality transcribers if you don't believe me, TAB site members are notorious for missing out major and minor thirds!)

 

This one has a barre in it, but you only have to put pressure on strings 4 and 6 ie, the first two joints of the index finger will do! The base of your index finger will then damp strings 1 and 2. Never put too much pressure on any barre chord, most of it is not necessary. If you buzz notes you are probably slightly off position, that's all!

 

 

OK, so you now know the other reason why you use 1, 3 and 4 for power chords. Check out the second finger in the root 6 major and root 5 minor shapes!

You are probably asking why F and Bb are important to learn? The simple answer is those shapes give you all 12 chords just by moving around. That's why I didn't put note names in, but Root, 3rd, 5th and 8ve. They are interchangeable and if you learn your note charts you can check the position of each one of those 12 chords!

Sometimes you will want to play with the root on string 5 or string 6 to avoid huge jumps and slides. The only way to get on top of these is to try some different chord progressions out. More later on that one because I am sure you can find chord charts of your own to try first!

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Moveable Barre Chords

Probably the first moveable chords we all learn!

Don't forget each shape gives you 12 chords, just as the power chords did, that is why you need to learn your note names especially on strings 5 and 6!!! 

Be careful not to exert too much pressure (most people do and it can cause injury!) If it hurts, you are not ready or your hand position is wrong! Check it with your teacher. Tendon strains can ruin careers permanently! Also, remember, you don't have to depress all six strings, only those without a supplementary finger 2, 3 or 4. Classical guitarists often angle the pressure to where it is most needed, usually at the finger tip and/or base joints.

Just strumming these chords as block chords can be really boring to listen to though, just as relentless power chords can be. Experiment with partial chords (hitting bass, then treble or mid-range).

 

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Moveable Minor Chords

 

Here are the minor equivalents. Listen up for the darker, sadder sound....

This is actually an F minor (Fm) chord:

 

This is actually a B flat minor (Bbm) chord:

Dominant Seventh Chords

The next two shapes are dominant sevenths, sometimes called blues sevenths. They have a flattened leading note in them which gives the interesting combination of a major (bright sounding) chord with a minor (bluesy) seventh. Classical composers uses dominant sevenths a lot in modulation (changing key), particularly when moving around the Cycle of 5ths.

The first example has its root on string 6. If the barre were at fret 5 it would be A7, if at fret 7 it would be B7, if at 8 it would be C7 etc.... If you don't already know those note names go back a paragraph or two on this page and check them out again! They really are important!

The second shape has its root on string 5. Therefore if the barre were at fret 5 you would get D7, at fret 7 you would have E7 and at 8 you would get F7 etc...

 

There are other important forms of seventh chords I will deal with next when you have had a chance to learn these, but for now here are some examples of dominant sevenths in modulation on the Cycle of 5ths. One technical exercise I used to do is start at C# and work all the way through to Cb.

One very famous Hendrix song moves through the Cycle of 5ths (though not quite like the exercise above ) Do you know what it is? I might tell you next week

  E  | E7  | A | A  | A7  | D | D  | D7  | G | G  | G7  | C  |

 C  | C7  | F | F  | F7 | Bb  | Bb | Bb7  | Eb | Eb7  | Ab etc

 

Minor Sevenths

The next two shapes are minor sevenths. These chords are minor (dark/sad) chords with a minor seventh added which makes them mellow and very slightly dissonant. They are common in jazz and more adventurous rock and pop charts. The root six version involves a barre across all six strings pressing down five of them. this is probably the hardest barre chord to get just right. If a note buzzes it is probably in the crease of a finger joint, adjust your finger position to stop buzzing. Pressing harder will not get you anywhere if your finger position is wrong (and it varies from person to person too!) If an electric guitar book tells you to press harder throw it away. If anyone tells you to press harder without first checking out your hand position they are not teaching you correctly!

Major Seventh Chords

I used to think of these as jazz chords and in fact had some "metalhead" students dismiss them because they were jazz chords and therefore not hard enough or cheezy - but they are not just for jazz! Check out indie rock band Manic Street Preachers for creative use of major sevenths! Design for life and other songs.... They are more common than you might think in punk (although they happen by accident between chords and vocals!) This doesn't for one minute include the real guitar gods out there like Steve Vai who appreciate their unique sound!

A major seventh is a major (bright and happy sounding) chord with a major seventh (bold, brash and dissonant!) It has an incredibly satisfying crunch to it at times although it can also sound lush!

The first fingering is a root 6 version I only use for RGT exams:

This would be a nicer way to play it if you can cope with string muting!

My favourite has to be the root 5 version. It is lush and user-friendly. I wrote so many songs using this when I was gigging!