Beginners Guide to enhancing guitar chords (part 2).     P.J. Murphy, webmaster,

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If you are a learning guitar player, in the early stages of the process, fingers still smarting, air still turning blue from the swearing as you miss that chord change, these few tips may be of use.  I'm no guitar virtuoso, and certainly not qualified to give guitar lessons ( I leave that to site's like Chris Elmore's ), these are just a few basic ideas to spruce up that clunky sound I remember only too well. Last time we looked at some things to do with the C and D major chords ( ). Let's have a look at a few more

E major chord     022100  

You'll be playing the E chord with middle finger on the 2nd fret, 5th string;   ring finger on the 2nd fret, and index finger on the 1st fret, 3rd string, all other strings open. This gives you options for hammer off-on on all three held strings, and also leaves you with your pinky hanging in the air, waiting for something useful to do!

(a) For a folksy sound, a-la Leonard Cohen, play the E chord, with a slow,  down, down-up; down, down-up rhythm - remove (hammer off) [022000]  the index finger on the up strokes, and replace it (hammer on) for the next down stroke. Die-hard Cohen fans might recognize strains of 'The Butcher' here. 

(b) For a more bluesy sound, try the same thing, but with the ring finger, hammering off/on the 4th fret [020100].  Use a 'down, down, down-up, down-up' rhythm, hammering off for the last down- stroke, and hammering on for the last -up stroke.  For songs like Dylan's 'New Pony', this relieves the monotony of playing eight bars of  just the E chord.   If you want to be really adventurous, (c)  try the same thing, but also hammering on and off the middle finger (5th string) [002100] for the middle 'down-up' bit.  (i.e. you'll play the first two down strokes normally, hammer on/off the middle finger for the first 'down-up' strum, and hammer on/off the ring finger for the second 'down-up' strum).

Now for that pinky.  (d) Using the previous strum pattern, try hitting the 3rd fret, 6th string on the last 'down-' stroke. [322100] Ok, it's a bit of a stretch at first, just try it slowly.  It adds a nice bluesy bass note to the E chord.  You can even try alternating this with the middle finger hammer on/off  - (b).

(e) The Esus4 chord [022200] can be used to embellish E, in the same way as Dsus4 is used to add a little something to the D chord.  Basically, you continue to play the E chord, and add the little finger to the 3rd fret.  Again, hammering on/off with the little finger is a usual technique. Try this with a slow strum and you'll get ( once again! ) a Leonard Cohen 'Suzanne' sound. 

Shifting from E major to E7th always gives a nice bluesy sound.  The easiest way, of course, is to just remove the ring finger ( as in (b) above ), playing 020100,   but you can also play the full E chord, and add that now-overworked little finger to the 3rd fret, second string, giving a much fuller E7 sound [ 022130 ]  In the early learning stages, this version of E7 can be difficult to switch to from another chord ( say G, or A7 ), but it's not so hard when you're already playing the E, and it's good practice for the little finger, which tends to prefer to sit at the back and watch!


More next time!

P.J. Murphy
PJ's Guitar Chords & Lyrics Site ( )


Other articles in this series:

Chords1     Chords3     Chords4    Chords5     Chords6     Transposition