Beginner Guitar: New Chords from Old

guitar for beginners

When you first start out on guitar it can seem that there are endless chords to remember (which there are, I won’t lie to you) and not enough hours in the day. A very useful technique, particularly when learning chords, is to take chords you already know and make minor alterations to create new chords so as to build on what you’ve already internalized instead of slaving away over pages and pages of new chords. In this lesson we’ll be using the chords from the article 8 Open Chords All Beginning Guitarists Should Know in order to spawn a bunch of new ones which should be a whole lot easier to remember.

1. C Major. Play the C Major chord below but this time take your first finger off.

What you get is instant access to a dreamy sounding C major 7 chord. I won’t go into chord theory in this lesson as the idea here is get used to these new sounds and be creative with them.

2. A Major. There are a couple of ways to finger an A major chord (the numbers at the bottom of the diagram are for finger placement).

In the first chord box use your first finger to play all the notes in the chord. This requires a little more strength in the first finger to hold down all the notes, plus if you want the open top E string to ring out, you’ll have to lift or curve it slightly. The second fingering allows the top E to ring out and also facilitates the shift to the following two chords:
There’s that dreamy major 7 sound again, this time in the form of A major 7, and if you remove your first finger completely you’ve got an A7 chord.

3. G Major. Here are a couple of other variations of G major that you may like the sound of:

In the first one rest your second finger on the A string so that it doesn’t sound for a cleaner, brighter sounding G chord. The second one includes the first finger on the B note on the A string for a fuller sounding chord. The next step is to take the original G chord and move the whole thing inwards as follows, and you have Cadd9.
4. E Major. Surely one of the most common guitar chords of all time and used in literally thousands of songs. Add your fourth finger just below your third as follows and you’ll get Esus4, and an introduction to the suspended fourth sound. You don’t have to take your first finger off the fretboard, it can rest behind your fourth finger.
5. D Major. The D major chord has spawned many a guitar classic, Here Comes the Sun by the Beatles and Led Zep’s Thank You to name a few. Play around with the following alterations and see what you can come up with.
For the Dsus2 chord simply lift your second finger off of the fretboard, and for the Dsus4 chord use your fourth finger; again, you don’t have to lift your second finger off the fretboard.

6. E Minor. There are a couple of tricks we can do with the E minor open chord to form some new chords. Take your third finger off and you have E minor 7, or move the whole thing across the fretboard to get a lush sounding Asus2 chord. Go back and forth between the E minor and the Asus2 for some Pink Floyd-esque sounds.

7. A Minor. Another extremely useful open chord to have under your belt which can be turned into an A minor 7 chord by simply removing your third finger as follows:
8. D Minor. Once you’ve mastered the D minor chord, it’s a quick jump to a D minor 7 chord:
For the D minor 7 chord use your first finger to barre the notes on the B and E strings.

You should find the above chords much easier to incorporate into your chord vocabulary, and be sure to practice them creatively by combining them with the chords from the previous article to reinforce the learning process.


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