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Fingerstyle Guitar:
Open String Chord Voicings


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I've received a number of questions regarding coloring chord voicings with open strings (along with the fretted notes). One of my favorite by-products of this approach is that when using open stringed chord voicings we can often avoid some difficult stretches when incorporating larger intervals. And, in addition, this technique can really add some fresh sound to your music if you've never tried it before.


Bringing open strings into the mix of various fretted tones on the fingerboard can be made much easier by adding in open strings to many of the chords you already know. Using this simplified approach allows you to maintain some basic awareness of the chord quality.

For example, if you played a fifth position D minor chord, but allowed for an open 3rd string to be introduced into the chord, this would maintain the chords minor quality. The open G introduced would produce the extended quality of minor 11th.

D Minor 11




In order to compose songs in a particular key, it is important to be clear on the harmony of the key that you are working within. Likewise, it is just as important to understand the use of possible modulations into other keys.

To do this effectively, you would of course require a solid usderstanding of key center harmony for both major and minor keys. For more information on this, watch my video lesson on Harmonizing the Major Scale. Now, to incorporate open string voicings around this concept, take a harmony based off 5th and 6th string roots and begin incorporating open strings into the chords. For example, if you were harmonizing the key of C Major, try adding open 3rd, 2nd or even 1st guitar string into the harmonized scale. Since the G, B and E notes are all within the key of C, adding any of these open strings into the harmony will work (being added as extensions to the existing chords).

Chord Harmony
Click on the above image to enlarge

All chords can have open strings added into their structure. The open string notes can be a part of the key, or they could be added into the key (possibly creating altered, or diminished chords).

Of course, in the end, everything comes down to how things sound when performed. If things sound really cool, well then, you are more than likely on to something. Hit a sour note, (and you find yourself cringe), then perhaps try again. Much of the songwriting process involves modifications of composed ideas you already know. So, use this as a starting point to take chord changes you a familiar with already and add a few open strings into the shapes.

It does help a great deal if you understand theory and you can name the chords you create, however playing by ear is a lot of fun too! So, have fun with your Open String Chords!


Download a tab chart with the Open String Chord practice melody from the video.
Select from either Power Tab Editor or Adobe PDF file formats (it is the same document).

Open String Chord Tab Chart
(Power Tab editor document)
Open String Chord Tab Chart
(Adobe PDF format)

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