Beginners Guide to enhancing guitar chords (part 6).     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 ElmoreMusic.Com ), these are just a few basic ideas to spruce up that clunky sound I remember only too well.   Let's look at the A chord.

A major chord     002220   

Features in most songs which are in the key of A,  D  or E.   The 1st, 5th and 6th strings are played open, while the 2nd frets of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings are held, usually with the ring, middle and index finger, respectively(1).   Many people find this is bit of a tight squeeze and use the pinky, ring and middle fingers instead(2).  I've always found the latter method works best for ease of chord change, but that's just a personal preference.   It can also be played   with the index finger covering all three strings(3), but it takes a bit of practice to get the finger flexible enough to do this without 'damping' the 1st string.   Whichever your preference, you should practice format (2) - this forms the structure for all major 'barre' chords that have the A shape.

If you're playing a bluesy song, the A chord is usually embellished by adding a 7th note ( A7 = 002223 or 002020 ).  While the first A7 format gives a fuller sound, the second allows for an easy little riff.  Just try playing a slowish down, down, down-UP-down-up, DOWN, down, down-UP-down-up strum, hammering off ( i.e. removing the finger ) the 3rd string on the UP, and hammering on ( replacing the finger ) on the DOWN.    You could try this on Bob Dylan's 'Meet me in the Morning', as an example.



Two other variants of the A chord which are really useful, and much used, are:

Asus2 =  002200    and   Asus4 = 002230

With a DOWN, down-up, DOWN, down-up strum,  play the A chord. On the DOWN strum, alternately play the basic A chord, then Asus2 (remove the finger), then  A again, and then Asus4 (slide finger from 2nd to 3rd fret ).  So the complete phrase, or riff will be:

DOWN (A), down-up, DOWN (Asus2), down-up, DOWN (A), down-up, DOWN (Asus4), down-up .... repeat till you get the feel of it, or get bored, whichever comes first!   Try varying the strumming pattern to a song you like that includes this kind of riff.

Each of these variants ( Asus2, Asus4 ) can be used to embellish the A chord independently.  Hammering off / on the 3rd fret ( i.e.  A, Asus2, A, Asus2 etc ) can relieve the monotony of a song that features several bars of just the A chord.   These chords also add a little kick during a chord change by just hitting one strum of the 'sus' chord before making the change.  For example, changing from A to D, just remove the finger from the 3rd fret on the last strum of the A chord and then play D.   The little extra note (B) between chords gives the transition a little something extra.

Another sequence you'll often see is the A ( 002220 ), Amaj7 (x02120), A7 ( x002020 ), D ( x00232 ) sequence.    Play the A chord with  middle finger on 2nd fret, 4th string;  ring finger on 2nd fret, 3rd string; pinky on 2nd fret, 2nd string.   Place the index finger on the 1st fret, 3rd string, while removing the ring finger from the second fret ( Amaj7 ). Remove the index finger, leaving 3rd string open (A7). Then play the D chord as normal.


More next time!

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



Other articles in this series:

Chords1     Chords2     Chords3    Chords4     Chords5     Transposition