Fun With Guitar Chords – 5 Ways To Make Any Chord Sound Great

by Tom Hess


 
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Ever notice how many guitarists prefer to play lead instead of chords?

Why does this happen?

Most say it’s because playing chords feels boring.

I disagree.


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The true reason is:

Most guitarists never learn how to make basic chords sound great.

You can change this today.

(Even if you are not an advanced guitar player yet.)

You can use this skill to write better songs and have more fun being a musician.

And the best part?

The better you are at playing cool chord progressions, the better your guitar solos sound too (you see how below).

Let's get into it!

Watch this video to see how cool your guitar playing sounds when you have fun with chords:
 


Now that you heard a few examples of awesome-sounding chords, here are 5 proven ways to make simple chords sound better:
 

Play Cool Guitar Chords  

Idea #1. Extend Chords With Other Notes From The Scale. Here Is How:

You know how there are 7 notes in the major scale?

You build major and minor chords using only 3 of those notes. (Use notes 1 3 5 of the major scale to build major chords. And use notes 1 b3 and 5 for minor chords).

But what if you added notes 2, 4, 6 or 7 to the triad?

Then your chords sound even more colorful. (And most of these extended chords are very easy to play.)

For example: C major - basic major chord with no notes added.

C Major Chord

Hear It

C major add 9 – this is a C major with an added D note (the 2nd note of the scale). The 2nd note is also called the 9th.

C Major add 9 Chord

Hear It

C major add 11 – this is a C major chord with an added F note (the 4th note of the scale). (The 4th note is also called the 11th).

C Major add 11 Chord

Hear It

C major add 6 – this is a C major chord with an added A note (the 6th note of the scale). The 6th is also called the 13th.

C Major add 6 Chord

Hear It

C major 7 – this is a C major chord with an added B note – the 7th note of the scale.

C Major 7 Chord

Hear It

Try this: Take any chord progression (group of chords) you know well and add other notes from the scale to each chord.


Idea #2. Imply Modes Using Exotic Notes (It’s Easier Than You Think). Here Is How:

Adding other notes from the scale makes chords sound great…

… but what about adding notes from outside the scale?

No problem!

This is how you break out of standard major & minor keys and imply different modes with just 1 chord.

Here are some examples:

Example 1: Bb “Lydian chord”.

Sounds complicated, right?

It’s just a Bb major chord with an added E note (the #4 note of the Bb major scale). Watch the first video on the page (from 3:49) to see how to play this chord.

If you play this chord by itself, you are in the key of Bb Lydian. You can play a Bb Lydian (F major) scale over it.

Example 2: G major add 9 add b6 – this is a G major chord with added notes A and Eb. Watch the first video on this page (from 1:22) to see and hear how to play this chord.

(It implies the 5th mode of melodic minor.)

Example 3: A minor major 7th chord – this is an A minor chord with an added G# note (the raised 7th of the A minor scale).

A Minor Major 7 Chord
 

Question: “Tom Hess, can I also add more than 1 note at the same time?”

Answer: Of course. Watch the video at the top of this page to see and hear several examples of extending chords with several notes.

If you struggle with finding the notes on your guitar neck, watch this video to change this:
 


Tip: Soloing over chords with added notes is a lot of fun. It’s even more fun when you know how to squeeze maximum emotion and drama out of every note. Download this free guitar soloing guide to discover easy ways to express yourself with only a few notes.
 

Idea #3. Imply The 5th Mode Of Harmonic Minor With A Single Major Chord. Here Is How:

Want to know the secret to making simple major chords sound great? Here it is:

Function.

This means: you can treat the major chord as the first chord in a major key. Or you can treat it like the 5th chord in a harmonic minor key.

Here is how to do it:
 


 

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Idea #4. Connect Chords In A Smooth Way. Here Is How:

Most guitarists think of chords as isolated chunks of notes.

Few pay attention to how the notes in one chord move to the notes of another chord.

But believe it or not:

… chords were originally created out of melodies.

This means:

You can think of each note in a chord as a note in a melody. And when you play chords, think of multiple melodies being played at the same time.

This musical technique is called voice leading.

Playing chords with good voice leading makes you sound very advanced (even though the idea is simple to play).

(It also gives your guitar playing a classical sound.)

Watch this video to see how to awesome good voice leading sounds:
 

 

Idea #5. Use Unusual Note Spacing. Here Is How:

You know how most chords on guitar have the lowest notes on the wound strings and the highest notes on the thin strings?

What if you broke this pattern?

Check out these chords:

Unusually Spaced Guitar Chords

Hear It

Notice how the high E string is NOT the highest sounding note in any of these chords. The highest note in these chords is often played on the B string.

This type of playing is very common on piano (but is less common on guitar).

That said:

It is a very simple way to become more creative with chords.

You now know 5 easy ways to be more creative with chords. The next step is to make your lead guitar playing sound better, so you sound awesome when you solo. Download this free guitar soloing guide and discover easy ways to play guitar solos you’ll feel proud to call your own.


Tom HessAbout Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

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