Doesn’t it seem like many guitar players focus on lead rather than playing chords?


A lot of people would say it’s because playing chords feels less fun.


But here is the real reason why guitarists do this:


Guitarists often don't learn how to make common chords sound really amazing.


This is easy to do and you can do it right now. Then use your skills to write cooler songs that make creating music more fun.


Check out this video to learn how cool your guitar playing sounds when you play chords creatively:


Here are five easy ways to make basic chords sound more interesting:


Idea #1. Build Your Chords By Using More Notes From The Scale. Like This:


So, there are seven notes in the major scale.


Major and minor chords are built using only 3 of these notes. (you use the scale degrees 1 3 5 for major and 1 b3 5 for minor).


Here’s an idea though: try adding other scale degrees such as 2 or 6 or 7.


This is a great way to make your chords sound much more interesting and expressive. (Plus it’s not very hard to do).


For instance:


This is a basic C major chord:



Hear It


Here is a C major add 9 chord, which adds the 2nd scale degree (also known as the 9th):



Hear It


This is a C major add 11, which adds the 4th scale degree (F in the C major scale):



Hear It


Here is a C major add 6 (also known as the 13th), which means you add an “A” note in C major:



Hear It


This is a C major 7 chord, which adds the note “B” to the basic C major chord:



Hear It


Try adding notes like the ones above to any chord progression you know to see how it sounds and expand your expressive potential.


Idea #2. Easily Give Your Chords A “Modal” Feel. Here Is How To Do It:


Adding more notes from the scale sounds cool...


… but adding notes from a completely different scale sounds badass!


Very cool!


Here is how you expand beyond just using major and minor keys using just one chord...


Use these examples:


Example 1: Bb “Lydian chord”.


Sounds really complex, huh?


Really, all this means is you are using Bb major chord together with an E note (this note is a raised fourth in the Bb major scale). Check out 3:49 in the first video in this article to see a demonstration that uses this chord.


Playing this chord by itself places you into the key of Bb Lydian. While soloing over this chord, you can use B flat lydian or F major (they have the same notes).


Example 2: G major add 9 add b6 – this is a G major chord with added notes A and Eb. Watch the video at 1:22 to hear how awesome this sounds!


(This chord implies the 5th mode of melodic minor.)


Example 3: A minor major 7th chord – this is an A minor chord with an added G# note (which is the raised seventh scale degree of the A minor scale).




Question: “Tom Hess, is it possible to add more than a single note at the same time?”


Answer: Certainly. Check out the video at the top of this article where there are many examples of this.


If you have a hard time finding the notes on your guitar fretboard, watch this video to change this:


Tip: Playing guitar solos above chords that have added notes is awesome because it often feels more expressive. Learning how to get more emotion out of these chords while soloing feels amazing. Download this free lead guitar soloing creativity guide to learn some ways to express yourself emotionally with just a few notes.


Idea #3. Imply The 5th Mode Of Harmonic Minor With One Major Chord. Do It Like This:


Want to know how to make basic major chords sound much more badass?


No problem.


It’s all about how they function.


Translation: you can think of any major chord as the main chord of the key. However, you also have the potential to treat it like the fifth chord in harmonic minor key.


This video shows you how to do it:


Idea #4. Voice Your Chords Smoothly. Like This:


Don't think of every chord as just an isolated chunk of notes.


Make your music more interesting by considering how the notes in one chord transition to the notes in the next chords.




… chords were originally put together from melodies.


This means:


You can think of each note in a chord as a note in a melody. And when you play chords, think of multiple melodies being played at the same time.


This name of this concept is voice leading.


Using good voice leading in your music makes it sound more professional.


(It also gives your guitar playing a neo-classical kind of sound.)


Watch this video to see how to solid voice leading sounds:


Idea #5. Use Unconventional Note Spacing. Here Is How:


You know how the majority of chords guitar players use have the lowest notes on the lower strings and the highest notes on the higher strings?


Let’s try something different.


Have a look at these chords:


Hear It


See how the high E string does not contain the highest pitched note in these examples. Here it is often the B string that has the highest note.


This is common on piano, but less common on guitar.


With this in mind:


Playing like this makes it very easy to play some creative and cool sounding chords.


You now understand five simple ways to play creative guitar chords. The next thing to do is make your lead guitar playing more creative, so you sound amazing whenever you pick up your instrument. Learn how to do it now by downloading this free guitar soloing creativity guide and start playing better solos than ever before.

Author's Bio: 

About The Author:
Tom Hess is a professional guitarist, composer, and an online guitar teacher. He is a trainer and mentor to guitar players from around the world in his guitar lessons online. Follow Tom Hess on Twitter for free guitar playing tips, guitar playing resources and more guitar playing articles.