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A Myriad of Voicings – The Beauty of Open G

As far as chords go, open G is one of my favorites. It's got quite a few variations to fit a myriad of moods that can be used in a variety of styles. In this lesson, we're concentrating mainly on acoustic sounds, with one soft rock riff thrown in for good measure.


Example One


The first example explores an idea one might use to approach the intro to a ballad. The G chord in bar one is probably one the easiest shapes you will ever play, using only the third finger at fret three on the low E string, along with the open strings. Make sure the back of the finger mutes the A string. To check this, simply play the string. It should produce a muted thud as opposed to the pitch of the note.

Pay careful attention to the right hand pattern to ensure you play as efficiently as possible. Although there are no hard and fast rules in fingerpicking, there are certainly better and easier ways to do things.

In bar two, we make a slight change to the voicing by hammering on from the open B string to the first fret, forming a Gsus4 chord. Notice that the right hand pattern for the rest of the bar is identical to bar one.

Fingerstyle Pattern Using Open G to Gsus4

Example Two


The voicing used here is what we used in example one with the addition of the G note at fret three on the high E string. If we break the bar up into two halves, we will see a pattern at work.

Notice that the rhythms are identical. Fingerstyle riffs often do this because the right hand pattern continues whilst the voicing changes. In this case, the right hand focuses on a particular group of strings within the same voicing. This simple technique adds variety to ideas without doing too much.

Open G Fingerstyle Pattern

Example Three


Now we arrive at our first strumming idea. The voicing used here is completed once the first finger hammers on to the second fret from the open A string. The flavor is most definitely Country and has a nice fluid sound about it. This technique was actually introduced to me by my first guitar teacher early on in my development. It can also be used with some other open chords like Em and C. Experiment a bit and see what you can come up with.

Most of the idea uses down picking or strumming, apart from the very end where there's couple of semiquaver strums to take care of.

Be sure to separate the bass notes from the rest of the chord where indicated in the transcription. This is what gives the idea its distinct sound and flavor. Often all it takes to spice up a strumming idea is some interplay between the bass and treble strings.

Country Guitar Rhythm Pattern

Example Four


Whereas last time we focused on separating the bass note from the rest of the chord, this time, we're going to hone in on specific sets of strings as well as introducing a slurred double stop at the end of the riff.

One of the things most students overlook when strumming is what particular area of the strings they are hitting. In my experience, down strums tend towards hitting most, if not all of the strings on the way down, whilst upstrokes tend to clip the first three strings most of the time. It's very to important to learn how to hone in on specific strings when strumming because you're not always going to want to hit all the strings, all the time; that would leave no room for dynamics or subtleties, which are a huge part of playing rhythm guitar.

The key here is to learn to restrict the strumming motion so that you don't hit the strings you aren't aiming for. This is somewhat akin to learning picking accuracy, only you're focusing on a wider area as opposed to just one string.

To produce the slurred double stop at the end of the riff, strum from the G string to the high E string and at the point of articulation, slide quickly to the fifth fret. You should be using your third and fourth fingers to do this. This is another technique that requires some investment of time in order to attain accuracy. Don't be discouraged if you end up traveling too far up the fretboard; just keep practicing with the intent to stop at the fret you're meant to stop at and it will eventually become easy to do so.

Country Guitar Strumming Using Double Stop Slur

Example Five


Now for for the last idea of the bunch. This is a pretty generic sounding rock riff utilizing an open G5 voicing commonly used by AC/DC as well as the softer metal bands from the 80s. Having said that, there are no restrictions to using it in whatever style you choose. Remember, if it sounds good, it is good!

One of the great things about this shape is how easy it is to transform into other voicings within the vicinity. Check out the end of bar one, where we move the middle finger onto the A string below and play an open Csus2 chord. Next, we replace the C note with the B note a semitone lower. Notice how the notes from string three to one don't change? In effect, all we did was shift the bass note around to arrive at the other voicings. The single note ideas in between the chords connect everything and provide a bit of melody to boot.

Classic Rock Riff Using Open G5 Chord

I hope you've enjoyed this lesson. These are a small number of possibilities using the voicings and techniques we looked at. As always, think about the underlying 'formulas' behind every idea you learn, then try to apply it to a creation of your own. In this way, you are actively building your own unique style; something that will provide an endless reservoir of creativity and many hours of fun.