For this article, I take a common chord progression of the sort you might find in many pop/folk/rock songs and show you some exciting ways to breathe new life into them.  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

Am  C  G  D

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

Variation 1 – Latin Feel

A syncopated rhythm, with two distinct components.  The bass note (the three thick strings of the guitar are known as the bass notes – nothing to do with bass guitar – just the three lowest sounding strings on the guitar), and the short, snappy chords (staccato is the technical term for short and snappy) on the treble strings.  Same chord shapes as the first strumming example, but a very different sound.

Incidentally, the bass note is usually the root note of the corresponding chord, but not always.  The third bar, which is a G chord is played here with the bass note B.

Variation 2: Folky Fingerpicking

This has the same chord shapes as the previous variation, but the rhythm is more regular.  The strings are plucked alternately by the right hand thumb and finger.  This is shown in the music with the p i p m p I p m above the tab. These letters are commonly used in guitar notation – 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)

Variation 3: Gentle and light fingerpicking

This is similar to the previous variation, but higher up.  Also, the picking alternates between the thumb and index finger.

Variation 4: Chunky

Here, the chords are converted into power chords.  Play this palm-muted or non-palm-muted / on electric or acoustic for varying results.

Variation 5 : Plinky

High inversions here.  Notice how:

  • the Am looks like a Dm, but is based on the 8th fret
  • the G looks like a D but is based on the 7th fret
  • the C chord is taken from an E shape barre chord on the 8th fret, and
  • the D is taken from an A shape barre chord on the 5th

This information is enlarged upon in my other articles on movable chords.

For more ideas on breathing new life into ordinary chord progressions, see this post

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