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Blues Guitar Institute

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5 Easy Chord Tricks that Make You Sound Great on the Guitar

Lesson ID: TB439

Playing interesting rhythm guitar parts is essential.

But it can be tricky to move beyond basic open chords and power chords. In this lesson, we’ll explore 5 chord tricks that will open up your options and take your rhythm playing to the next level. These techniques aren’t too difficult, but they can make a big impact on your playing.

Let’s dig in.

Spice Up Your Chords with the Blues Hammer

The blues often blurs the lines between major and minor. This chord trick puts that dance front and center.

Start with a major chord like this 6th string rooted barre chord:

Next, play the minor third of the chord by lifting your middle finger off the fretboard. Make sure you have a well-placed barre with the index finger. That’s crucial to getting this chord trick to sound right.

But don’t stay here long. Quickly hammer your middle finger back down to return to the major 3rd of the chord.

The hammer-on happens just after you strum the chord and it gives a cool major-to-minor sound.

You can hear this trick throughout the blues and it pairs nicely with the next trick.

The Chord Collapse into the IV Chord

Combine the blues hammer-on with this collapse technique for an excellent one-two punch.

  • Keep the barre chord shape but collapse your ring and pinky fingers at the first knuckle.
  • As you do, fret the 4th and 3rd strings at the 5th fret, momentarily visiting the IV chord, C Major.
  • After a quick visit, stand your fingers back up in to the full major chord shape.

Combine the hammer-on and the collapse for a classic blues sound that’s fun to play.

Slide Into Chord Changes

Early on, our chording is static. We learn to change from one chord to another with nothing to tie them together. One way to level up your rhythm game is to use tricks that glue the chord changes together. This way, they don’t sound so abrupt.

They sound musical.

Instead of switching from one barre chord form to another, try sliding into a triad shape.

This example works perfectly when changing from a 6th string G Major to a 5th string rooted C major. There’s a little more style when we slide up the 5th string and highlight the triad, like this:

Slide up the 5th string from C to D and land your index finger barred across strings 4, 3 and 2 at the 5th fret. This forms a C major triad, an excellent alternative to a full barre chord.

The slide leads you through the chord change and opens up so many possibilities once your there, like our next chord trick.

Add Flavor with Hendrix-Style Double Stop Hammer-Ons

Never miss an opportunity to embellish a simple triad! One of the easiest – and fantastic sounding – tricks is to add double stop hammer-ons in the style of Jimi Hendrix.

  • Keep the triad shape barred with your 1st finger.
  • Hammer up two frets on the 4th or 3rd string. For example, from 5th fret to 7th fret.
  • Let other notes ring out as you hammer.
  • Combine hammer-ons and pull-offs to build rhythmic riffs.

This technique adds color and interest using nearby notes. The key is to let the lower strings ring while cleanly hammering the double stops.

With practice, you can easily incorporate these Hendrixy hammer-on licks around your triads.

Hammer-On Between Triads á la The Doobie Brothers

Here’s a cool trick I first heard in the Doobie Brothers brilliant opening riff to, “Listen to the Music”.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Play a D major triad chord.
  • Hammer up to a G triad by moving up 2 frets on the 4th, 1 fret on the 2nd string.
  • You can rock between the two triads to create a cool harmonic movement.

This works in other keys too, but it works particularly well between the V chord and the I chord.

Combine hammer-ons and pull-offs rhythmically between these two triad shapes to add interest.

Take Your Rhythm Playing to the Next Level

Learning new chord shapes is great, and you should do that. But as you do, look for ways to embellish the chords or glue the changes together like we did in this lesson. Sometimes, all you need is a simple slide or hammer-on to level up your rhythm parts.

Remember these cool chord tricks we covered in this lesson:

  • Use the Blues Hammer from a 6th string rooted barre chord
  • Use the quick chord collapse to dance between the I and IV chords.
  • Slide into the chord changes
  • With a triad on strings 4, 3, and 2, incorporate some Hendrix-style double-stop hammer-ons.
  • Change chords by hammering on and pulling off between two triad shapes on strings 4, 3, and 2.

Experiment with these tricks in different keys and grooves to level up your rhythm chops.

When you are ready, there are two ways I can help you:

Back Porch Blues Course:  A proven system to fingerpicking the blues.  This step-by-step course guides you through building fundamental fingerpicking skills.  Plus, you’ll learn three levels of a delta blues style performance study to put your new skills into action.

Become a myBGI Member: Membership comes with access to Back Porch Blues plus over 70 step-by-step courses.  Get proven results with one of myBGI’s structured Roadmaps.

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