Today, I’m looking at movable chord shapes on the 3 thinnest strings.  These shapes are really useful when:-

  • you want to create high versions of chords to fill out/add higher voicing to the sound of the lower open chords
  • you want more control over the sound – it’s easy to mute and dampen the chords when all notes are fretted
  • you want to create funky, choppy rhythm guitar parts, in the style of Nile Rogers or John Frusciante, to name just two.

The most common shapes for these chords derive from the standard D, A and E chords.  First, let’s look at D.

Here’s standard D (no 4th, 5th and 6th strings used).  The lowest fret used in the this shape is the 2nd fret, so this shape can be described as based on the 2nd fret.

Slide all three fingers up one fret, and you get D sharp or E flat. This is based on the 3rd fret.

Base the shape on the 4th fret and you get E

Here are all the possible chords you get with this shape.  I’ve gone as far as the 17th fret – it gets a bit cramped after that!  Column 1 shows the fret on which the chord is based, and column 2 shows the resulting chord:

When using these shapes, you won’t want to hear the three thicker strings (although sometimes it might sound good – there’s no rule against it).  The 4th (D) string is the most likely to be played accidentally, so a good rule is to have the first finger of the left hand lightly touching this string in order to muffle it.  This finger will still be pressing down the third (G) string note – it just needs to be in a position to rest against the 4th string, not pressing it down and not letting it ring out.

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