Are you bored of the sound of standard chords? Then, using open guitar chords is a way to pimp up your playing and boring chord progressions. There are thousands of open guitar chords and millions of ways to use them creatively. In this post I introduce you to the world of open chords with a brief introduction, a library of 210 open guitar chords and some ideas on how to use them properly.
What are open chords for guitar?
Open chords are chords that have at least one open string like this shape of E-minor x7x087. Within this definition standard chords like C-major x32010 are also open chords because of their open strings. The special features of open guitar chords though is that you can move up their shape up and down the neck of your guitar whereby the open strings remain the same. With every new position, the relation between the open strings and the notes of you shape changes. In that way you come across interesting sounding combinations that you would never have found using only regular chords.
The open guitar chord library
Below you find five din-A4 pages full of guitar chords. 210 to be precise, I counted them. Each page is dedicated to a certain shape like the E-shape, A-shape, D-shape and so on. I notated the chords in tablature and also added the root note and the character of the basis triad of the open chord to it. The extensions of the open chords are not specified. That wouldn’t be practical right here.
Each row contains a scale or collection of open guitar chords that have the same shape moved around the neck. Only the third of the chord changes to major or minor.
Not every open chord sounds even beautiful. Some chords work better with the open strings than others. It is up to you to decide which chord you would like to use.
- Open E major scale: Here the basis shape of the E major chord is moved up and down the neck to form the E major scale in chords. Sometimes it is a bit tricky to play the E minor shape perfectly. Practice to stretch your finger and succeed.
- Open E major scale variation 1: This variation is an inversion of the E major shape. Feel free to combine all variations of E major scales. It brings new color to your playing and makes it harder for other people to figure out what you are actually playing.
- Open E major scale variation 2: This variation is another inversion of the E major shape. Feel free to combine all variations of E major scales. It brings new color to your playing.
- E-shape only major chords version 1: This shape is often used to play the guitar with a Spanish feel.
- E-shape only major chords version 2: You can create some very interesting and nice sounding chord progressions with this scale. For example: 12 14 14 13 0 0 – 10 12 12 11 0 0 – 5 7 7 6 0 0
- Open A major scale: This is the same scale as E major just one string or a fifth higher.
- Open A major scale variation 1: Again an inversion of the basis A major shape.
- Open A major scale variation 2: Again an inversion of the basis A major shape.It is a bit of work to get used to this chords. You don’t need to learn them all perfectly. Just use them when you write a song to add some flavour to your progressions.
- A-shape only major chords version 1: This is more of a chord collection than an actuall scale. You don’t need to use all of this chords in your composition. For this purpose, I tried to make the collections as complete as possible.
- A-shape only major chords version 2: Same as above. These chords sounds so beautiful! x57770 – x79990
- Open D major scale: These open guitar chords have only one open string. They still sound nice but a bit more closed. For the rest it is the same as E major and A major.
- Open D major scale variation 1: Inversion of the D major shape.
- Open D major scale variation 2: Inversion of the D major shape.
- Open D major scale variation 2 more open: Here, I made the high E string an open string. It creates a nice sounding chords.
- Open D major scale variation 2 more open with bass note: But it really sounds great as recently as you put the bass note of the chord on the low E string.
- Open power chords E-string: Adding open strings to power chords can really sound great if used correctly. Not all of the open chords sound equally good.
- Open power chords A-string: Same as above, beginning on the D-string. At some of the chords I raised the fifth of the chord. Played in succession, this chord with its following chord give a ti do feeling. Read this if you don’t know what ti do is. Example: x47600 – x57700
- Open power chords D-string: Same as above beginning on the D-string.
- Open power 9 chords E-string: Some of these add 9 chords sound really great together with the open strings.
- Open power 9 chords A-string: I love the sound of add 9 chords. So sweet.
- A7-shape: A very nice sounding collection. If you replace the octave of A major with a seventh on the G-string and move up the neck the seventh becomes a sixth then a fifth, fourth, third and so on. You can also use the Am7-shape in place of the A7-shape and the other way round.
- Open C major scale: The C-shape is quite hard to move around but its worth it.
- Open G major scale: I actually never played around with this chord before I made this open guitar chord library. I think it sounds absolutely awesome!
- Blackbird-shape in G: I love the song Blackbird by The Beatles and surprise, surprise they use open chords. It is much easier to play these chords with your fingers and not a pick. For this collection I added some interesting sounding chords to the main G major scale.
- Open octaves in D: Octaves are used in Jazz but also in Punk Rock. Adding an open string to the octave a nice sounding effect appears as you move the octave up and down the neck. Every octave sounds different in combination with your pedal note. You can also play octaves on the E and D string. Check out Not Now by Blink 182 to see how it sounds in action.
How to use the 210 open guitar chords
In order to use the chords creatively and correctly follow one or more of these steps:
- Capo: If you want to play a song that is not in A G D or C simply use a capo to “transpose” your playing. Don’t what a capo is? Have a look at this image and click on it for more details.
- Stay in shape: Sometimes it is nice if you stick with the same shape. A good example of that is the song Blackbird by The Beatles. You can also use one shape in the verse and different in the chorus.
- Use chords of different scales and collections: I added the symbol of the basis triad to each and every one of the 210 chords. You can use these information to interchange chords. For example: You want to write a song in A major. Write down the chords of this scale: A Bm C#m D E F#m G#dim A. Now, as you know the chords of the scale you can look for chords of different scales and collection you could use. For example the C#m of the open E major scale or the F#m of the open D major scale variation 1. You get the point. If needed you could also change a chord from major to minor or the other way round.
- Experiment: The most important thing is to experiment. Don’t always think too deep about every chord you want to play. Sometimes it is inspiring to just play around with the different shapes and enjoy their sounds.
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