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Contemporary Chord Voicings

In this guitar lesson we are going to take a look at some of the more common chord voicings in contemporary praise music. First we will learn a simple chord shape that you can use in order to play a 1564 progression in the key of E major. The next few chords are just a couple of variations on some common open chords. Finally we will play a 145 progression in the key of G with some chord shapes that use just the top four strings of the guitar.

Let’s learn a common shape for an E major chord that you can move around the fretboard to make several other different chords. Put your 1st finger on the 7th fret of 5th string, 3rd finger 9th fret 4th string and 4th finger on 9th fret of 3rd string. That’s the basic shape. It is kind of like a power chord but you will be playing all of the open strings too. Strum all six strings. Now we will move this basic shape around the fretboard a bit to play three other chords. When it’s all said and done you will have played a 1564 progression in the key of E using only one chord shape.

If you are in the key of E you could play a 5 chord by sliding this shape down to where your 1st finger is on 2nd fret of 5th string. Your 3rd finger should be on the 4th fret of the 4th string and your 4th finger should be on the 4th fret of the 3rd string. That is a Bsus4 chord, the 5 chord in the key of E major.

Slide the shape up to where your 1st finger is on the 4th fret of the 5th string, 3rd finger is on the 6th fret of the 4th string and 4th finger is on the 6th fret of the 3rd string. Strum all six strings. This is your 6 chord, a C# minor 7.

For the 4, or A2, chord I like to slide my 3rd and 4th fingers down to the 2nd fret of the 4th and 3rd strings. You don’t have to use your 1st finger on this chord because you have the open A string. I usually leave out the 6th string on this chord. The sound that you get by moving this basic shape around to play these four chords has really become a signature sound of contemporary church music.

For the next group of common voicings we will be learning variations of our open G major and C major chords. Make a regular open G chord by placing your 2nd finger on the 3rd fret of the 6th string, 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string and 4th finger on the 3rd fret of the 1st string. Now add your 3rd finger to the 3rd fret of the 2nd string. Basically you are just replacing the open B string with a D on the 3rd fret. Pretty simple chord but it is used all of the time in Praise and Worship style music.

Leave your 3rd and 4th fingers on the 3rd fret of the 2nd and 1st strings. Now move your 1st finger to the 2nd fret of the 4th string and your 2nd finger to the 3rd fret of the 5th string. You can use this Cadd9 chord in place of a more traditional open C major chord.

For our last group of chord voicings we will be learning how to play our G, C and D chords higher up the neck using just the top four strings of the guitar. Place your 1st finger on the 5th fret of the 4th string, 3rd finger on the 7th fret of the 3rd string and 4th finger on the 8th fret of the 2nd string. Play just those three notes. That is a G chord based off of a D chord shape.

To make your C chord place a bar over the top four strings on the 5th fret using your 1st finger. Now make another bar on the 1st and 2nd strings on the 8th fret using your 4th finger. Play just the top four strings.

For your D chord place your 1st finger on the 5th fret of the 4th string, 3rd finger on the 7th fret of the 3rd string and 4th finger on the 7th fret of the 2nd string. This is really a Dsus4 chord.

Playing chords with just the top few strings of the guitar can keep the sound of the music from getting muddy, especially if you are playing with a keyboard or another guitar player.

Work on these chords and apply them to some of the contemporary church songs that you already know or are currently working on learning.

Contemporary Chord Voicings

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