One of the easiest ways to spice up your open chord progressions is to add and subtract notes to and from your basic major and minor guitar chords. You can do this while you are strumming or arpeggiating chords, and by going back and forth between these different notes, you’ll create little melodies and motifs within the chord progression.
This makes it sound as if you’re playing two things at the same time, and it adds a whole new element to your rhythm guitar playing.
Let’s take a closer look at what I mean as it relates to our most common open chords. You can always use a guitar chord chart to help you with these embellishments.
In the case of A or A minor, we can let go of the finger on the B string to get the open B string instead. This gives us an Asus2. Or, we can add the 3rd fret on the B string to get an A sus4.
With a D or D minor chord, we can do the same exact thing but using the open high E string for Dsus2 and the 3rd fret on the high E string for Dsus4. We can freely go between the sus2, the regular chord, and the sus4 to create little melodies! Using a chord finder is a great way to better understand these concepts.
C CHORD MAGIC
With a C chord, we can easily create a C major7 by letting go of our index finger to get the open B string, or we can put down our little finger on the 3rd fret of the B string to get a Cadd9. Again, we can cycle between these options very quickly to create little melodies! It also sounds nice with the C, to add the 3rd fret of the high E string with our little finger, which is just another version of a basic C major chord.
One embellishment of the C chord that I first learned in the intro of “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix is a C6, which is just to move the middle finger from the 2nd fret of the D string to the 2nd fret of the G string, and to use the tip of that finger to mute the D string. Again, we can switch from one variation to another to create mini melodies while we play the chords.
E CHORD EMBELLISHMENTS
With an E minor chord, we can add the 3rd fret of the B string with our little finger to create an Em7, or the 3rd fret of the high E string to create another variation of a basic E minor chord by doubling the 3rd. Cycling between open B and open E, and then the 3rd fret of the B string and the 3rd fret of the E string gives us lots of options for cool pentatonic-sounding embellishments while we are strumming!
With an E major chord, we can add the 3rd fret of the B string for an E7, and the 3rd fret of the A string for an Esus4! That last one isn’t mentioned in the video lesson, but is a great embellishment!
G MAJOR CHORD
And finally, with a G major chord, we can let go of the high E string for a G6, we can add the 2nd fret on the G string for a Gadd9, and we can replace the 3rd fret of the high E string, with the 1st fret of the high E string for a G7! If you want a Gmaj7 sound, play the 2nd fret of the high E string. The G7 and Gmaj7 are also only mentioned in this blog post as an added bonus, but there are dozens and dozens of variations, and I only mentioned some of my favorites in the 11-minute video lesson. Again, we can cycle freely through these options to see what we like and what fits the song we are playing.
Watch the video link above to see an example of me touching on many of these options in my original chord progression performance!
These are just some suggestions of common embellishments that I like to use. I encourage you to experiment on your own with this and see if you can find some sounds you like by adding and subtracting notes from the chords that you know! You can then find new chords to play or little melodies you can access while you are strumming or arpeggiating your chords!
Have fun, and happy playing!