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Pop/Rock Acoustic Open String Chords on Guitar

Today sees the beginning of a new video series looking at acoustic pop rock guitar. The focus of this lesson is the use of open strings in acoustic rhythm playing. Open strings provide a wonderful ringing quality to rhythm and lead licks and work especially well on the acoustic guitar. The three examples shown today use a pick, but you can incorporate fingerpicking, or hybrid picking to suit your individual playing style.

Example 1 – G major open chords picked

From Slash to Taylor, swift this type of open chord picking pattern has been seen throughout modern pop and rock music. You can either you a pick as demonstrated in the video or incorporate fingerpicking into this example. Both will work extremely well.

Acoustic Pop Rock Guitar - Open String Rhythm Example 1

Example 2 – Ringing chords

Example 2 uses the chords of E, C#m , A and B but creates them in a way that the ‘B’ and ‘E’ strings are open on every chord. The ringing nature of this progression works perfectly on the acoustic and the rhythm that accompanies the pattern is popular in contemporary pop music.

Acoustic Pop Rock Guitar - Open String Rhythm Playing Example 2

Example 3 – Acoustic Em rock riff

A neat trick to apply is to play your ‘A’ shape barre chords but take off the barre so the ‘G’ and high ‘E’ strings are open. This chord progression revolves around the chords of Em, Bm and C using these barre chords with open strings. On the end of each phrase is a rocky Em pentatonic lick to complete the riff.

Acoustic Pop Rock Guitar - Open String Rhythm Playing Example 3

Recommended listening

For classic open string acoustic rhythm playing licks, I recommend buying the album In Between Dreams by Jack Johnson. My favourite track on that album being “Banana Pancakes.”

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Simon Pratt Guitar Teacher

Author - Simon Pratt

Simon Pratt attended the Guitar Institute (now called the Institute Of Contemporary Music Performance) in London where he excelled in his Diploma of Popular music performance and graduated in 2005. His passion for funk music continued while studying privately with top funk player and editor of Future publishing magazines Jason Sidwell. Always keen to learn, Simon has attended…

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2 responses to “Open String Chords – Video Guitar Lesson”

  1. peter field says:

    dear Simon, i purchased your book ‘first chord progressions for guitar’, which as a beginner I am finding very useful. However in the chapter, lush open chords, example 6g you give the shape as A major 7. in another chord book I have the shape is given as C sharp minor. Whilst I am able to use the shape, knowing what other chords to use it with by ear. I would be interested in your thoughts on the matter. Thanks Peter.

    • Simon Pratt says:

      Dear Peter

      Thank you for writing to me and I am glad you are enjoying First Chord Progressions For Guitar. This is not the easiest question to answer in a few words, but in a simple way it depends on what root note you are playing underneath the chord shape. In that example you mention the root note (or where the chord starts from) is the open A string. If however you played a 4th fret on the A string instead of the open A the rest of the chord could be viewed as C# Minor. As written in the book it is an A Major 7. When three notes of a chord are played and there is no obvious root note you can name them various things. However I suspect that there must be at least a mention of the root note of C# somewhere in your chord diagram there, otherwise that shape would not obviously be a C# Minor. At least to me!

      I hope that provides some clarity. Explaining music theory in a couple of sentences is not so easy.

      I wish you all the best with your guitar studies!


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