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The Best Way to Play the Big Open D Major Chord

Updated on September 14, 2011

The chord you're about to learn is really an open D Major chord with an F# in the bass. If your open D is shaky, go to my hub on it. Now, the difference between the two chords--Open D and Big Open D--might seem simple, but that F# bass note changes the entire fingering of the chord.

Of course, these differences have no bearing whatsoever on the note-formula for a D Major chord. That formula is: D F# A. Ok, let's play Big D.

Big Open D Maj, Step 1.
Big Open D Maj, Step 1.
...Step 2.
...Step 2.
...Step 3.
...Step 3.'re done!'re done!

Read + Play

The first thing to do to play Big D is to put your SECOND finger on the 2nd fret of the G string.

Next, place your pinky--the fourth finger--on the 3rd fret of the D string.

Next, put your third finger on the 2nd fret of the high E string. If successful, you have by now acquired the notes A, D, and F#, in that order. Make sure your second finger does not nudge the open D string.

The final step towards chordal acquisition is the most difficult: the placing of one's first finger on the 2nd fret of the low E string. I know it probably feels awkward, but it is not impossible. Your fret-hand is just not used to it yet.

You must make sure of two main things:

  • the upper portion of the chord (the A, D, and F# notes played by your second, third, and fourth fingers respectively) stays clear, and
  • the open D and A strings are not touched as you reach for the low F# with your first finger.

When you get all six notes of this chord to ring clearly for at least 5 minutes, you're 'in there', as the phrase goes. Repeat that 10x and Big D has been bested!

Compositional Considerations

Big Open D is not for every song. It is known in some circles as an orchestral chord, which are full-bodied / have many notes and often not suitable for a quick strum (doesn't mean you can't try though).

A good example of Big Open D in action is the following chord progression: Em to Big D to G(all having six notes). As opposed to Em to "normal" D to G, the first progression (with Big D) features this movement, note-wise, in the bass: E F# G.

The opposite effect works well also. Simply reverse the progression to to Big D to Em, making the bass movement (did I say that?) G F# E.

Now, If You're a Rebel Thumb-Over-the-Neck Type of Player

THERE ARE two more ways to play Big Open D, but they're, well, black-hat if you know whudeyemeen. They require placing your fret-hand thumb--that's right, the digit that's not supposed to go above 'neck level'--over the neck and onto--GASP!--the low E string. People, I could get into serious trouble for telling you this. But here goes:

Alt Fingerings for Big Open D

Alternative fingering #1
Alternative fingering #1
Alternative fingering #2
Alternative fingering #2

1. Make an Open D Major chord. Forgot how? Enter cyber wormhole now. Simply place that illegal thumb on the low E, 2nd fret and presto: illegal full-neck Open D Major chord.

2. Act like your going to make a Big Open D Major (with the second, third, and fourth fingers replacing the first, second, and third from the 'normal' Open D), but right when the applause is starting in anticipation of that legal low F#, shock the traditionalists and politically correct by placing that thumb ever so boldly on your accomplice's 2nd fret. Who's your accomplice? The ever-accommodating low E, of course. Oh, and be sure to smile as you thumb the F#.

So, how did it go? Do you like that 'extra' F# note? Tricky, fingering-wise, but well worth it in the appropriate situations. By the way, which fingering for Big Open D Major works best for you?


If That Was Worth the Trouble for One Note, Take This Quiz

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