For this regular feature, I take a common chord progression of the sort you might find in many pop/folk/rock songs and show you some interesting ways to play the chords.  Something other than standard strumming of the basic chords.  This is invaluable for coming up with your own cover versions, or, if you’re a singer/songwriter/guitarist, it’ll give you ideas for making your guitar accompaniment more interesting and vibrant.

Today’s chord progression is

Em D C G        D

Firstly we have the straight chords, the first three strummed 8 times each, the last two 4 times each.  Alternating down and up-strums for an easy going rhythm.  All down-strums for a more dynamic sound.

Variation 1 – Laid back finger-picking

These letters are commonly used in guitar notation to denote the right-hand/plucking fingers and thumb – they are the first letters of the Spanish words for the fingers and thumb.

  • p = thumb (pulgar)
  • i = index finger (indice)
  • m = middle finger (medio)
  • a = third (ring) finger (anular)

This first variation has a laid back feel to it.  You want the notes to continue ringing out till the end of the bar for each chord here.  The chord shapes are standard until the final D, which is actually a D/F#.  This means it’s a D chord with the lowest note being F#.  A D chord would norm ally have a D note as it’s lowest note.  (As an Fm chord would normally have F, G#major a G# note).  When a chord has a low note that is different to the chord name, that’s when you put the oblique stroke in.  C/G is a C major chord with a low G note.  E/G# is an E major chord with G# as the low note.

Variation 2: Descending with drone

The “descending” aspect of this is the chord shape that moves gradually down the frets until the last D chord.  Keep the fingers in place for the duration of each bar, so that the notes can all ring out.

The “drone” part of it refers to the open strings, which are the same for each chord.  To be precise, this alters some of the chords – The D becomes D13 and The C becomes Cmaj7.  The sound of the same open strings ringing out each bar holds it all together nicely.

Variation 3: Altered inversions

A major or minor chord is made up of 3 different notes.  The C chord has C, E and G – if you play the chord with C as the lowest note, this chord is in root position.

With E as the lowest note, it’s in the first inversion (also written as C/E), and

With G as the lowest note, it’s in the second inversion (also written as C/G).

So, in this variation, each chord changes from root position to first inversion.

Variation 4: Latin Feel

This one uses a syncopated rhythm, based on A shape barre chords.

Variation 5 : Adding Extra Notes to chords

This variation adds notes to the straight chords – the little finger is added to the Em, D and C to give the chords some extra character.  The Dsus4 chord just before the final D works like a stepping stone from G to D

Take a look at another post on breathing new life into an ordinary chord progression

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