Movable Chords, Part 2

No doubt you’re having fun practicing your barring, getting that index (1st) finger anchored just right. Good news — moving on to 5- and 4-string forms, it definitely gets easier, as far as how much barring is required to make complete chords.

We’re going to stay in the 5th position, but we’ll be leaving the low E out for these chord forms. Root notes will be on the 5th fret of the 5th (A) string, so all chords in this post will have D for the root.

Here is the D major chord:

D(barre) D(barre)

Most people will find the “bunching” of the 2nd/3rd/4th fingers to be a hassle. This is one of those instances where bending the “rules” a bit is strongly encouraged. It’s still a good idea to practice your barring, and holding your other fingers so that none of the notes get choked out by inadvertent contact. But the note barred on the high E string is redundant, another A note, which is the perfect fifth (P5) of the scale. (Check the appropriate cheat sheet on the Free Resources page for more in-depth discussions on the interrelationships between intervals, scales, and chord construction.)

Especially if you’re using a lot of distortion, it can simpler and more effective to just play this chord as the classic Jimmy Page “flip-off” chord, barring the 1st and 3rd fingers:

D(barre)(alt.)D(barre) (2)

For this alternate formation, consider that A note on the high E string optional. It is possible to barre the 3rd finger in such a way that you can still play the A “underneath it”, with the 1st-finger barre, but it is difficult even for intermediate players to do it so that all five notes ring out like they should. Definitely try both styles, and in an actual playing situation, let the song determine which one to use.

The other four chords are more simple and straightforward. Let’s check out the minor formation:

Dm(barre) Dm(barre)

Should be no problems with this one, including shifting from or to another chord.

The dominant 7th chord requires a bit of stretching, but not too bad:

D7(barre) D7(barre)

The m7 chord is just like the minor chord, with the 4th finger lifted:

Dm7(barre) Dm7(barre)_

As with the 6-string chords, play back and forth between the m7 and minor chords, pressing and lifting the 4th finger, but not moving any other fingers.

Finally the M7 chord, which is the dominant 7th with the 2nd (middle) finger applied:

DM7(barre)_ DM7(barre)

You know the drill by now — play back and forth between the M7 and dom. 7th chords, moving only the 2nd finger. Practice shifting through various combinations of all five chords, in various positions along the neck, using different strum combinations. Except for the alternate major “flip-off” form, make sure all five notes ring clear.

On Tuesday we’ll wind up this series, and there will be several follow-up posts showing various chord progressions and picking (including fingerpicking) exercises to practice.

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