All about chords, part 5 Online Guitar Lessons
Home > Guitar Music Theory

All About Chords, Part 5

Guest Teacher Series
Darrin Koltow


Free Download - 17 Essential Strum Patterns PDF

All About Chords, Part 5

by Darrin Koltow

Be sure and check out all of the lessons in the "All About Chords" series.

Part 1 - how harmony and chords work
Part 2 - the ii-V-I chord progression.
Part 3
- Arpeggios
Part 4
- The Blues Injection
Part 5 - CAGED - Form E
Part 6 - CAGED 2 - Form A
Part 7 - CAGED 2 - Form A - Arpeggios
Part 8 - CAGED 2 - Form A - Chord Melody
Part 9 - CAGED 2 - Blues Chord Melody

In this lesson we continue working with movable CAGED forms, which we introduced last lesson. Here's a reminder of what CAGED is: it's a system for making the open position chords C, A, G, E, and D into movable chord forms that you can use anywhere on the fretboard. We covered forms C, A, G, and D last lesson. This lesson we're gonna do E.

Before we make the E open position chord movable, do you remember how me made the C major open position chord movable? Slide the C major open position chord up one fret, and then add fingers, change fingers and do whatever else you have to, to turn the open G string into a G#. The point is to create a pattern you can use anywhere on the fretboard. If this quick example is confusing, don't worry. We'll explain the conversion of E major in more detail.

Shapes we've made
Last lesson, we made moveable CAGED forms from these open position shapes: D minor, C major, G7 and A minor. There are lots of other open position chords we could convert to moveable forms, but we're just gonna convert one more for right now, because it's the Big Daddy of moveable chord forms. (In other words, it's super common. It shows up everywhere.) It's the E major CAGED form. Let's create it now, step by step, from the open position E.

Make the E major open position shape. Use the fingering shown, or I'll turn your pick into a slice of pepperoni. The fingers you use are in the right column, and the left column shows the frets you put those fingers on.

* Fingering *
|-0-| |-0-|
|-0-| |-0-|
|-1-| |-1-|
|-2-| |-3-|
|-2-| |-2-|
|-0-| |-0-|

Now, switch the fingering to this:

* Fingering *
|-0-| |-0-|
|-0-| |-0-|
|-1-| |-2-|
|-2-| |-4-|
|-2-| |-3-|
|-0-| |-0-|

Now, slide this shape up so your second finger is on fret 6:

* Fingering *
|-0-| |-0-|
|-0-| |-0-|
|-6-| |-2-|
|-7-| |-4-|
|-7-| |-3-|
|-0-| |-0-|

Now, add the bar with your first finger.

* Fingering *
|-5-| |-1-|
|-5-| |-1-|
|-6-| |-2-|
|-7-| |-4-|
|-7-| |-3-|
|-5-| |-1-|

We now have an A major bar chord, made from the open position E major chord. If you've never made this shape before, or if you're not totally comfortable with making it, give your hand a rest after holding this shape. It can get tiring.

Let's make some music with the A major chord, because we don't practice *anything* new unless we can make music with it, right? Here's the A major in a 16451 in E major:

  Q  Q    Q  Q    Q  Q    Q  Q    W 

Duration Legend
W - whole; H - half; Q - quarter; E - 8th
Duration letters will always appear directly above the note/fret number they represent the duration for. Duration letters with no fret number below them represent rests.


Get the Power Tab and MIDI files for this example here:

Power Tab


Need the free and excellent Power Tab software? Get it here:

This tab we just played shows what to do with your left hand. What do you do with your right hand? You could strum the chords, or you could use the Pick Fingerpick technique. Read about the Pick Fingerpick here:

Play along with the Power Tab on this until you can play it smoothly. Remember that you can change the playback tempo in Power Tab if it's too fast or too slow. Use the Music Symbols->Tempo Marker menu option for this.

Once you feel confident in making the chord changes, you can move on to the next part: arpeggios

Arpeggios around the fifth fret
Let's take a look at playing some arpeggios in the same area we just played the previous progression. We're going to play these arpeggios in a 16251 progression, not the 16451.

Here we go:

   H        H         H       H         
   |        |         |       |   <== Gtr II (rhythm)
   /        /         /       /         

   E  E E E E E E E   E E E E E E E E   <== Gtr I (lead)
     E                F#m 


  H       H         H       H
  |       |         |       |
  /       /         /       /

  E E E E E E E E   E E E E E E E E
  B7/D#             E


Use the Power Tab and MIDI files mentioned above to hear and play this example. This example is for two guitars, so get a buddy to play along, or play with the Power Tab file or the MIDI file.

Remember from a previous lesson that once you can play one pattern smoothly, you want to vary the pattern. With arpeggios, change the pattern so it starts on a different chord degree.

In the example I just gave, we're starting on the 5th degree and descending. You'll want to play a pattern that *ascends*, goes up, from the 5th degree. Then, cover the other chord degrees, 1, 3, and 7, in the same way: ascend and descend. Make a checklist and check off the degrees as you finish 'em.

Aside: why fret 5?
Why are we practicing at fret 5 and not fret 3 or fret 9? What's so special about 5? Well, the most important thing is that we're not playing open position. So, anywhere *but* open position is an improvement, because we want to break out of our open position comfort zone. But, why fret 5?

I chose fret 5 to work these CAGED chords and their arpeggios because it's comfortable for your hands and eyes: if you move too much higher up on the neck, your fingers are getting squashed as you try to fit them into the smaller frets. If you're playing too close to open position, your wrist isn't happy, and your eyes have a tougher time seeing that your fingers get to where they're supposed to -- which is a hard enough task at *any* position. So, we stick with fret 5.

But keep in mind that we can apply all the stuff we're learning at fret 5 to any position. For example, to play the previous one or two tabs in Eb major instead of E major, just slide all the patterns down one fret. If you want to play in D major, slide the patterns down two frets.

How to practice these movable CAGED forms
We know from a previous All About Chords lesson that practicing arpeggios and chords together in what we call *chord melody* tunes and arrangements is an excellent idea, because it teaches our ears and our fingers to see what chords go well with a particular melody note, and what melody notes go well with a particular chord.

Let's dive into a chord melody arrangement for the movable CAGED material we just learned. Take this one slow. There may be some fingerings and movements in here that *seem* new to you. But, after we play this piece and go into an explanation of how it works, you'll recognize a connection to chord forms and patterns you already know. For the following tab, I included a fingering diagram for each set of two bars. So, the first two bars on the left are the frets you play, and the right two bars are the fingers you play those frets with.

  Q Q Q  Q    Q Q Q Q    ** FINGERING **
|----------|-----------| |----------|-----------||
|----------|--5--------| |----------|--2--------||
|-----4--6-|--4-6-4----| |-----1--3-|--1-3-1----||
|---6------|--6------6-| |---2------|--3------3-||
|-7--------|-----------| |-4--------|-----------||
|-7--------|-----------| |-3--------|-----------||

  Q Q Q Q   Q   Q  Q Q    ** FINGERING **
|---------|-------------| |---------|-------------|
|-------5-|-7---5-------| |-------2-|-4---2-------|
|-----6---|-6------6----| |-----3---|-2------3----|
|-4-7-----|-7--------7--| |-1-4-----|-3--------4--|
|-4-------|-------------| |-1-------|-------------|
|-5-------|-------------| |-2-------|-------------|

  Q Q Q Q   Q Q Q  Q    ** FINGERING **
|---------|-----------| |---------|-----------|
|-------4-|-7-4-------| |-------1-|-4-1-------|
|-----4---|-4---4-----| |-----1---|-1---1-----|
|-4-7-----|-7------7--| |-1-4-----|-3------4--|
|-6-------|-6---------| |-3-------|-2---------|
|-5-------|-----------| |-2-------|-----------|

  Q Q Q  Q    Q Q  Q  Q    ** FINGERING **
|-----------|-4----------| |-----------|-1----------|
|--------5--|-5-5--------| |--------1--|-2-2--------|
|---4-6-----|-4----6--4--| |---1-3-----|-1----3--1--|
|-6---------|------------| |-2---------|------------|
|-7---------|------------| |-4---------|------------|
|-7---------|------------| |-4---------|------------|

Get the Power Tab and MIDI files for this tab here:

Power Tab


Take a look at the first bar. What's happening there? Remember our goal: to combine chords and melody into one, smooth piece of music. "I don't see any chords in bar 1" you say. Hang on. There's a *piece* of a chord in there.

Suggesting a chord
Bar 1 shows an E major 6 arpeggio that starts from E and goes up: E, G#, B, C#. You also see another note in there, tucked under the E on beat 1. What's that? That note is B, and it's helping us form the chord in this bar. Since we're starting on that low E note, string 5, fret 7, it's impossible to fit a whole chord with that note as the top melody.

But we can *suggest* a chord. The chord we want to suggest is basically the E major: notes E, G#, and B. We have the E note on string 5. We want to play another note from the E chord on string 6. Which note are you gonna choose, G# or B?

You could go with the G# on string 6, fret 4. But, most chords sound best, most of the time, with either their root or their fifth in the bass. For the E major, that would mean either the B or the E. We already have the E in the melody, so we pick the B to play on the E string.

As you play this chord melody arrangement, you might come across other bits of chords. As strange as these chord fragments or their fingerings seem to you, they *will* make sense if you keep in mind "The Big Picture." The big picture is simply to play a 16251 progression using both arpeggios and chords. We play the chords on the strong beats; wherever we can't fit a complete chord in, we use the most important parts -- the guts -- of the intended chord.

More on practicing
The example progression we just played through is a good start for practicing chords and arps around the fifth fret. Once you can play through the tab smoothly, remember to vary the melodic pattern: start on a different chord degree, and alternate between ascending and descending.

Guitar Chords
That's the end of this All About Chords lesson. In the next lesson, we may explore other CAGED positions, and some Blues chord melody stuff based on this lesson we just did. Man, I gotta tell you what a kick it is to write these lessons. If you're having half as much fun as me with these lessons, I'm having twice as much as you. Plus, we're all gonna need tranquilizers if we keep learning All About Chords.

You don't have to wait to learn more about chords. There are many great lessons all over the Net for learning harmony. One place is at the Guitar Chords page:

In GC we harmonize melodies, play some Blues, and learn how harmony works on the guitar. We do chord substitution, evolution, revolution and noise pollution. Well, we really don't do the noise pollution thing, but we do have fun learning about guitar harmony. So, get your fun quota filled by reading Guitar Chords.

© 2002 Darrin Koltow, All rights reserved

Free Download - 17 Essential Strum Patterns PDF

Guitar Courses

Rhythm Guitar Mastery
How to strum guitar like a pro, master rhythms, and build your vocabulary of essential chords

60s Rock Strumming Songs
Learn how to play 18 classic 60s rock tunes

70s Rock Strumming Songs
Learn how to play 20 classic 70s rock tunes

80s Rock Strumming Songs
Learn how to play 20 classic 80s rock tunes

90s Rock Strumming Songs
Learn how to play 20 classic 90s rock tunes

Modern Country Strumming Songs
Learn how to play 16 modern country songs

Guitar Lick Factory
A system for creating rock & blues guitar licks