How Do I Play Chords In Alternate Tunings?

Are you a curious musician looking to explore the world of alternate tunings? If so, you may be wondering how to navigate the intricate art of playing chords in these unique settings. Well, fret no more! In this article, you will find practical tips and techniques that will guide you through the process of playing chords in alternate tunings. So grab your guitar, tune it up, and get ready to unlock a whole new realm of musical possibilities!

How Do I Play Chords In Alternate Tunings?

Table of Contents

Understanding Alternate Tunings

What are alternate tunings?

Alternate tunings refer to a different arrangement of the strings on a guitar, resulting in non-standard pitches for each string. In standard tuning, the guitar strings are usually tuned to E, A, D, G, B, and E from low to high. In alternate tunings, however, the strings can be adjusted to different pitches, allowing for unique and diverse sounds.

Why use alternate tunings?

Using alternate tunings can greatly expand your creative possibilities on the guitar. It allows you to achieve different sounds and explore various musical genres more easily. Alternate tunings offer a fresh perspective and can inspire new songwriting ideas. They can also help you unlock unique chord shapes and voicings that may not be possible in standard tuning.

Common alternate tunings

There are numerous alternate tunings to choose from, each with its own distinctive qualities and characteristics. Some popular alternate tunings include Open D, Open G, Drop D, and DADGAD. Open tunings, in particular, have gained popularity in styles like blues and slide guitar playing. Experimenting with different tunings can open up a whole new world of creativity and musical exploration.

How to tune your guitar to alternate tunings

To tune your guitar to alternate tunings, you can use a combination of electronic tuners, online tuning resources, or even tune by ear. It’s important to note that not all tunings are created equal, and some may require specific adjustments to individual strings. You can also utilize capos or specialized tools to make the process easier. Take your time to familiarize yourself with the tuning process for each alternate tuning you want to explore.

Adapting Chord Shapes

Understanding chord shapes

Chord shapes are the fingerings that you use to play different chords on the guitar. In standard tuning, you may be accustomed to certain chord shapes that you can move around the fretboard to play different chords. When using alternate tunings, however, these familiar chord shapes may need to be adjusted or adapted to fit the new tuning.

Transposing chord shapes to alternate tunings

To adapt chord shapes to alternate tunings, you’ll need to understand the relationship between the standard tuning and the alternate tuning you’re using. This involves identifying the pitches of the strings in the new tuning and translating the finger placement accordingly. It may take some practice and experimentation to find the best chord shapes that work in a specific alternate tuning.

Common chord shapes and their alternate tuning equivalents

Certain chord shapes can be transformed to work in different alternate tunings. For example, a common open chord like the E major chord shape (022100) in standard tuning can be used in Open D tuning by simply barring the entire fret. Similarly, the A major chord shape (x02220) can be transposed to Open G tuning by moving the shape up the fretboard. By understanding these relationships, you can unlock a wide range of chord possibilities in alternate tunings.

Open Tunings and Chords

What are open tunings?

Open tunings are specific alternate tunings where the guitar strings are tuned to form a specific chord when played open (without fretting any notes). This creates a rich and resonant sound that lends itself well to slide guitar playing and fingerstyle techniques. Open tunings provide a unique harmonic foundation and allow for easier exploration of chords and melodies in specific keys.

Popular open tunings

Some commonly used open tunings include Open D (DADF#AD), Open G (DGDGBD), and Open C (CGCGCE). These tunings offer a distinct tonal palette and are favored by many renowned guitarists. Open tunings can be particularly useful when playing blues, folk, or country music, as they provide rich and full-sounding chords with just the strum of an open string.

Exploring open chords in different open tunings

When using an open tuning, you can experiment with various open chord shapes, taking advantage of the resonating open strings. For example, in Open D tuning, strumming all the open strings forms a D major chord, so you can explore different voicings and variations of this chord shape across the fretboard. Open tunings offer a unique opportunity to create lush, open-sounding chords that can add depth and complexity to your playing.

Re-imagining Standard Chords

Modifying standard chords for alternate tunings

In alternate tunings, some standard chord shapes may not work as expected. However, you can modify these chords to fit the new tuning. This can involve omitting certain notes, adding additional fingerings, or shifting the finger placement. By re-imagining standard chords, you can retain familiar shapes while incorporating the unique tonalities of the alternate tuning.

Finding voicings for altered chords

Altered chords, such as suspended chords, extended chords, or diminished chords, can be challenging to play in alternate tunings using standard fingerings. Nevertheless, experimenting with different finger positions and exploring the unique resonance of the open strings can lead to captivating voicings and inversions of these chords. Embrace the unconventional and discover fresh ways to express musical ideas through altered chord voicings.

Understanding chord substitutions in alternate tunings

Chord substitutions involve replacing a chord with another that shares similar tonal qualities. In alternate tunings, the possibilities for chord substitutions can be even more vast. By understanding the relationship between different chords in a particular tuning, you can explore interesting and unexpected chord progressions that can add intrigue and originality to your playing.

How Do I Play Chords In Alternate Tunings?

Learning Chord Progressions in Alternate Tunings

Understanding chord progressions

Chord progressions are the sequence of chords played in a specific order and rhythm. They form the backbone of many songs and help convey different emotions and moods. Understanding chord progressions is essential for developing your musicality and songwriting skills, regardless of the tuning you’re using.

Transposing and creating progressions in alternate tunings

To transpose chord progressions to alternate tunings, you’ll need to apply the same principles used when transposing individual chords. Identify the root note of each chord and translate it to the appropriate pitch in the new tuning. Once you’ve mastered transposing, you can also experiment with creating your own progressions that take advantage of the unique qualities of the alternate tuning.

Analyzing popular songs for chord progressions in alternate tunings

Studying and analyzing popular songs played in alternate tunings can provide valuable insight into the chord progressions used. Take the time to dissect and understand the choices made by other musicians, as this can enhance your understanding of the relationships between chords in a specific tuning. This knowledge can then inform your own songwriting and chord progression exploration.

Working with Capos

How capos can be used in alternate tunings

Capos are versatile tools that allow you to change the pitch of your guitar without altering the tuning. When using a capo in alternate tunings, you can experiment with different capo positions to achieve different keys or create unique chord voicings. Capos can provide additional flexibility and open up a wealth of new possibilities for chord playing in alternate tunings.

Transposing chord shapes with capos

Using a capo in conjunction with an alternate tuning requires transposing your chord shapes to accommodate the new pitch. By placing the capo at a specific fret, you can change the key of the guitar to match the desired tonality. This can be particularly useful when playing with other musicians or when wanting to explore different variations of a chord progression in a specific alternate tuning.

Creative capo techniques in alternate tunings

Capos can be employed creatively in alternate tunings to achieve unique sounds and effects. Placing the capo at different positions along the fretboard can produce harmonically rich voicings, open string drones, or even emulate the sound of different instruments like a mandolin or ukulele. Experimenting with capo techniques in alternate tunings can ignite your creativity and bring an extra level of diversity to your playing.

How Do I Play Chords In Alternate Tunings?

Exploring Unique Chord Voicings

Finding new chord voicings in alternate tunings

Alternate tunings provide an excellent opportunity to discover fresh and innovative chord voicings. Experiment with incorporating open strings into your chord shapes and explore how the altered pitches of the strings interact. By embracing the unique tonalities of the alternate tuning, you can uncover intriguing chord voicings that are not easily achievable in standard tuning.

Experimenting with open string combinations

Open strings play a crucial role in alternate tunings, as they can be used to enhance and embellish chords. Experiment with different combinations of open strings and incorporate them into your chord voicings. These open string combinations can create lush, resonant sounds and add a layer of complexity to your playing. Use your ear to guide you and let your creativity flow as you explore the possibilities.

Expanding your chord vocabulary with alternate tunings

By delving into alternate tunings, you can expand your chord repertoire and develop a deeper understanding of the guitar’s harmonic possibilities. Each alternate tuning brings forth its own set of chords, inversions, and voicings that can enrich your musical vocabulary. Embrace the challenge of learning new chord shapes and let the exploration of alternate tunings broaden your musical horizons.

Using Thumb Over Technique

What is the thumb over technique?

The thumb over technique involves using the thumb of the fretting hand to fret notes on the low E string. This technique allows for easy access to bass notes and enables the player to create richer, fuller chords. The thumb over technique is particularly useful when playing in alternate tunings, as it can provide a more solid foundation and facilitate the execution of complex chord shapes.

Applying the thumb over technique to chord playing

To use the thumb over technique in chord playing, simply position your thumb on the back of the guitar neck and use it to fret the low E string when necessary. This frees up the remaining fingers to navigate the higher strings and play other notes or chords. Experiment with incorporating the thumb over technique into your chord playing and notice the added depth and dimension it brings to your sound.

Advantages and disadvantages of thumb over technique in alternate tunings

The thumb over technique offers several advantages when playing chords in alternate tunings. It allows for easier access to bass notes and provides a fuller sound. However, it may take some time to develop the dexterity and strength required to execute the technique comfortably. Additionally, not all chord shapes lend themselves well to the thumb over technique, so it’s important to find the right balance between using the thumb and other fingers.

Incorporating Fingerpicking Patterns

Choosing appropriate fingerpicking patterns for alternate tunings

Fingerpicking patterns can add complexity and texture to your chord playing in alternate tunings. When selecting fingerpicking patterns, consider the unique tonality and resonance of the alternate tuning you’re using. Experiment with different patterns and explore how they interact with the open strings and altered chord shapes. Let your ear be your guide and choose patterns that complement the mood and style of the music you’re playing.

Adapting existing fingerpicking patterns to alternate tunings

If you’re already familiar with fingerpicking patterns in standard tuning, adapting them to alternate tunings can be a rewarding exercise. Although the fingerings may change, the underlying pattern and technique can often be transferred to the new tuning. Take the time to experiment and adjust the patterns to fit the feel and tonality of the alternate tuning. This will allow you to retain the essence of the pattern while exploring new and exciting sounds.

Creating unique fingerpicking patterns in alternate tunings

Alternate tunings provide an excellent opportunity to create your own unique fingerpicking patterns. Explore the open strings, altered chord shapes, and tonal possibilities of the alternate tuning. Experiment with different combinations of finger movements, arpeggios, and melodic lines. By creating your own fingerpicking patterns, you can add a personal touch to your playing and further develop your musical style.

Practicing and Experimenting

Developing a practice routine for chord playing in alternate tunings

When incorporating alternate tunings into your practice routine, it’s important to set aside dedicated time to explore and develop your skills. Begin by practicing the basics, such as tuning your guitar to the desired alternate tuning and familiarizing yourself with the new fingerings. Gradually introduce chord progressions, strumming patterns, and fingerpicking exercises into your practice routine. Consistency and patience are key when mastering chord playing in alternate tunings.

Exploring unconventional chord progressions

Alternate tunings offer a wealth of possibilities for unconventional chord progressions. Take the opportunity to experiment with unique chord combinations, progressions, and harmonic ideas. Consider stepping outside traditional major and minor chords and explore more complex and dissonant sounds. This experimentation will not only broaden your musical palette but also encourage you to think outside the box and develop your own original playing style.

Recording and analyzing your own chord experiments

Recording your chord experiments in alternate tunings is a powerful learning tool. By listening back to your recordings, you can assess your progress, identify areas for improvement, and discover new musical ideas. Analyzing and reflecting on your recorded performances will help refine your technique, inspire further exploration, and allow you to track your growth as a guitarist. Embrace the process of recording and analyzing your chord experiments as an essential part of your musical journey.

In conclusion, understanding alternate tunings opens up a world of creative possibilities on the guitar. By exploring chord shapes, open tunings, re-imagining standard chords, and incorporating techniques like thumb over and fingerpicking patterns, you can discover unique sounds and truly express your musicality. Embrace the joy of experimentation, practice diligently, and continue to expand your chord vocabulary in alternate tunings. With time and dedication, you’ll unlock a new realm of musical exploration and find your own distinct voice on the guitar.