25. Variety in your chord voicings

So is there like a shopping alley where we can get different varieties of chords?

1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial, we’re going to discuss about the possibility of there beings chords outside of the CAGED system. So, let’s have some fun.

2. Escaping the CAGED system

During these tutorials, we’ve used the CAGED system a lot, and I mean a lot. However, while very useful when playing different chords using different shapes, it’s best to learn how to look beyond that system, in order to be able to expand your chord playing abilities.

As we’ve learned so far and will still be learning in tutorials to come, each and every chord is characterized by a formula. And if you want to play chords your way, without being bound to certain shapes, you need to start at the basics, which is the formula of each chord.

Let’s take C major as an example. We know that the C major triad is C-E-G. If we don’t want to use the CAGED system, then the other way we can start playing the chord is to simply look up where each note of a triad is located on the guitar. The most basic way in which we can play this triad is:

E|-----|
B|-----|
G|--0--|
D|--2--|
A|--3--|
E|-----|

However, let’s say we don’t want the G note there, for whatever reason. Let’s also say that we want to add some higher notes to that C chord. Well, here’s how we can achieve this (you may encounter this as notated C(no5), since the C is missing):

E|-----|
B|--5--|
G|--5--|
D|--2--|
A|--3--|
E|-----|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, here’s how we play this chord:

C(no5)

Let’s say that we want to get a bit festive and play a Csus4 chord in a funky way, based on the voicing above. Well, this can be obtained in this fashion:

E|--3--|
B|--6--|
G|--5--|
D|--3--|
A|--3--|
E|-----|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, here’s how we play this chord:

Csus4_variety

Notice the F note has appeared on the D string, 3rd fret and on the B string, 6th fret.

We can also transform that Csus4 voicing in a Csus2 one, like this:

E|--3--|
B|--3--|
G|--5--|
D|--0--|
A|--3--|
E|-----|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, here’s how we play this chord:

Csus2_variety

Seventh chords function in the same manner. As you know, 7th chords are formed by adding a variation of the 7th note of a major scale on top of a triad. An example on how you can play the Cmaj7 without the CAGED system is this:

E|-----|
B|--1--|
G|--4--|
D|--2--|
A|--3--|
E|-----|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, here’s how we play this chord:

Cmaj7_variety

Of course, if we play the G string on the 3rd fret, we get a C7 chord. We can also get a bit festive (and stretch our hands a little bit), by playing the C7 chord in this manner:

E|-----|
B|--5--|
G|--3--|
D|--2--|
A|--3--|
E|-----|

Here it is played back:

Finger wise, here’s how we play this chord:

C7_variety

These are just a few examples of how you can get creative with chord playing. What I am trying to say is that, even if I use the CAGED system to show you how a chord can be played, it is not required of you to be bound to that particular chord form. Experiment as you wish based on each chord formula and create your own unique sound.

That about covers it for this tutorial. Next time, we are going to do another wrap-up of what we’ve learned in the intermediate chords section of this series and also take a short look at what is next. See you then.

Chord charts generated using this chord generator

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