Guitar chords in G guide
Chords and scales in G
G major is a popular key for guitar songs, for good reason - the open strings available make most chords sound great. In this article I'm trying to expand the use of open strings to give the chords a fuller and more interesting sound. Quick theory - which is covered in detail in my other hubs:
In the key of G we find these chords used together:
G / Am / Bm / C / D / Em / F♯m7b5 / G
- each chord built on a note from the major scale.
The G major scale is G A B C D E F♯ G. Notice that there is one sharp note, reflected in the key signature for this key.
The 2 scales that work with these chords, either as a melody line or a bassline, are G major and Em pentatonic. For playing lead guitar in G - Em pentatonic is the easiest, as there are less notes to worry about, and you can do pull-offs to the open strings. But they both work fine.
Chords and Scales in G
Chord progression 1
This is a full sounding version of G, moving across one string you have C add9, then Dsus4 to D. To play D sus4 (or D with a G note added...) just play your normal D shape and play the top note with your little finger. You can often use C add9 instead of C in this key, it will usually sound better.
Why the key based approach? - because when you learn a new song in the same key you will have a whole bag of tricks and improvements you can use with confidence.
If you play this set of chords backwards, it will be like Sweet Home Alabama by - no, I'm not going to try to spell it.
Green Day's popular song Time of Your Life uses just these chords, plus Em. Check out my hub Guitar Comedy for a great parody of this song.
Chord progression 2
A nice way to play C to D - just slide the shape up 2 frets. Em7 is used in Wish You Were Here, Heart of Gold, Wonderwall etc.
Chord progression 3
Am, D, G is a common progression. Here it is tweaked a little to improve the sound. The D chord is an inversion - with an F sharp note in the bass. This helps to make a smooth transition to G.
Chords on top 4 strings - good for playing with other guitarists, as they complement the low position chords so well. Especially good for recording, a concept used by The Beatles. The G here is just a D shape moved up the fretboard. Also, use the top 2 strings in these chords to play harmony lead parts.
Remember when you're playing lead that the guitar is polyphonic - harmony in 3rds or 6ths sounds great, and can be mixed in with single-note runs at any time. In this key, Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison is a good example of this. Harmonics are also easy to use because they will come out in the right key. If you're in the key of G you can use pull-offs to open strings, which works best on strings 3 and 4, as G and D are both notes in the chords anyway -try playing up the 3rd G string 0 2 4 5 7 9 11 12, with pull-offs to the open string. It's easy, but sounds impressive.
Slash Chords - this uses so-called slash chords. C/D for example, means a C chord over a D bassnote. Actually quite simple, when you start using these chords it will improve your playing instantly.
If you number the chords in G, chords I, IV and V are G, C, D.
Most easy songs, Dylan early period, folk, country and bluegrass, will use these three chords, sometimes with another chord from the sequence added.
The numbers in a chord name describe an interval - that is, the distance of the added note(s) from the starting point, the tonic or bass note of the chord.
So C add9 just means a C chord (CEG) with a D (9th note starting from C)
C D E F G A B C -that's 8, then start again D E F G A....
If we described this chord in numerical terms, it would be 1,3,5,9
It's easier to see this on a piano keyboard.
More by this Author
DADGAD chords for guitar - guitar lesson on playing in DADGAD tuning.
Guitar lesson on jazz chords. Theory of jazz chords and their applications, with practical tips.
Guitar Lesson on guitar chords in Open G tuning. Rolling Stones guitar style, Keith Richards guitar chords. Rolling Stones guitar parts, Guitar and Open G tuning.