Movable Open-String Chords

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Movable Open-String Chords
by Rich Scott

A great guitar trick is to take a simple open-string first position chord and move it up and down the fretboard creating exciting new and interesting chords. This lesson will introduce common movable open-string chords on the open A, D, E, and G strings.

Open "A" String

If you move the first position "Am" chord up the fingerboard two frets continuing to play the open "A" string, you have the "Bm/A" chord. If you push the "Am" fingering up another two frets you create the "C#m/A" chord. The possible chords available using the first position "Am" chord in this manner are shown in the first example below. The second example shows the possible chords created by moving the first position "A" chord up the fingerboard continuing to play the open "A" string. You will also want to try playing these chords including both the open "A" and 1st string "E". The use of these chords to create progressions automatically produces great sounding Pedal Points.

      Am  Bm/A  C#m/A  Dm/A  Em/A F#m/A  G/A   
E-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----
B-----1-----3-----5-----6-----8----10----11-----
G-----2-----4-----6-----7-----9----11----12-----
D-----2-----4-----6-----7-----9----11----12-----
A-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
E-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----
      A    B/A   C/A   D/A   E/A   F/A   G/A   
E-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----
B-----2-----4-----5-----7-----9----10----12-----
G-----2-----4-----5-----7-----9----10----12-----
D-----2-----4-----5-----7-----9----10----12-----
A-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
E-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----
These chords were used to create The Association's 1966 Along Comes Mary verse progression shown below. This progression popped up again on Crosby, Stills, and Nash's 1968 Long Time Gone verse, The Allman Brothers' 1970 Whipping Post verse, REO Speedwagon's 1973 Ridin' The Storm Out verse, Steely Dan's 1974 Pretzel Logic verse, Barbra Streisand's 1977 Evergreen verse, Tom Petty's 1979 Here Comes My Girl verse, and Michael Jackson's 1983 hit Billie Jean verse. Note that the "C/A" chord is the same as the "Am7" chord.

Along Comes Mary verse progression:

Am          Bm/A        Am7         Bm/A 
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / / 

Am=x0221x Bm/A=x0443x Am7=x0555x Bm/A=x0443x 
Long Time Gone verse progression:
Ridin' The Storm Out verse progression:
Billie Jean verse progression:
Am   Bm/A   Am7  Bm/A  Am   Bm/A   Am7  Bm/A
/ /  / /    / /  / /   / /  / /    / /  / /  

Am=x0221x Bm/A=x0443x Am7=x0555x Bm/A=x0443x 
Try substituting this progression when you run across "vi-vii" ("Am-Bm") progressions such as The Animals' 1968 Monterey verse.

Pretzel Logic verse progression:

Bm/A Am7    Bm/A Am7    Bm/A Am7    Bm/A Am7 
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /

Am=x0221x Bm/A=x0443x 
The Allman Brothers substituted an "A" chord for the "Am" chord to pen their Whipping Post verse progression below. Note the similarity between this progression and the "A" Chord Harmony Shuffle.

Whipping Post verse progression:

A    Bm/A   Am7  Bm/A  A    Bm/A   Am7  Bm/A
/ /  / /    / /  / /   / /  / /    / /  / /  

A=x0222x Bm/A=x0443x Am7=x0555x Bm/A=x0443x 
Here Comes My Girl verse progression:
A           B/A         A1          B/A   
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /

A=x0222x B/A=x0444x A1=x0765x B/A=x0444x
Evergreen verse progression:
A                   B/A                
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / /  

Bm/A                A             A/G#
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / / 

A=x0222x B/A=x0444x Bm/A=x0443x A=x0222x A/G#=4x222x 
Open "D" String

If you move the first position "D" chord up the fingerboard two frets continuing to play the open "D" string, you have the "E/D" (aka "E7/D") chord. If you push the "D" fingering up another fret you create the "F/D" (aka "F6/D" or "Dm7") chord. The possible chords available using the first position "D" chord in this manner are shown in the first example below. The second example shows the possible chords created by moving the first position "Dm7" chord fingering in the same manner as above. The last example takes you through possible chords from moving the first position "Bb/D" chord.

      D    E/D   F/D   G/D   A/D   Bb/D  C/D   

E-----2-----4-----5-----7-----9----10-----0-----
B-----3-----5-----6-----8----10----11-----1-----
G-----2-----4-----5-----7-----9----10-----0-----
D-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
A-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----
E-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----
 
E----10-----0-----1-----3-----5-----6-----8-----
B----10-----0-----1-----3-----5-----6-----8-----
G-----9-----1-----2-----4-----6-----7-----9-----
D-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
A-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----
E-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----
 
E-----5-----7-----8----10-----0-----1-----3-----
B-----7-----9----10----12-----2-----3-----5-----
G-----7-----9----10----12-----2-----3-----5-----
D-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
A-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----
E-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----x-----
These chords were also used to create the chorus progression to Chicago's 1974 hit Wishing You Were Here shown below.

Wishing You Were Here chorus progression:

F/D         E/D         Eb/D        Dmi
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /

F/D=xx0565 E/D=xx0454 Eb/D=xx0343 Dmi=xx0231
The Beatles' used both an open "D" string and an open 1st string "E" to create their unique intro/outro to their 1965 number one hit Eight Days A Week shown below. Harry Chapin's 1972 Taxi verse also uses these open "D" string and open 1st string "E" to create his unique verse progression.

Eight Days A Week intro/outro progression:

Dadd9       E7/D        G6/D        Dadd9(1) 
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /

Dad9=xx0ba0 E7/D=xx0990 G6/D=xx0780 Dadd9(1)=xx0770
[a=10th fret; b=11th fret; c=12th fret; etc.]
Taxi Verse progression:
D    Am/D  D    Am/D
/ /  / /   / /  / /

D=xx0232 Am/D=xx0210
The Beatles' 1968 White Album songs, Dear Prudence and Mother Nature's Son, are great studies in these Movable Open "D" Sting chords. Note how well the Drop-D tuning works with these Open "D" String Chords on Dear Prudence.

Open "E" String

If you move the second position "F#m7add11/E" chord up the fingerboard two frets while continuing to play the open strings, you have the "Emaj7" (aka "G#m6/E") chord. The possible chords available using the second position "F#m7add11/E" chord in this manner are shown in the example below.

      Em   F#m7  Emaj   Am    Bm   C#m7  Dm6/9   
           add11       add9  add9
E-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
B-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
G-----0-----2-----4-----5-----7-----9----10-----
D-----2-----4-----6-----7-----9----11----12-----
A-----2-----4-----6-----7-----9----11----12-----
E-----0-----0-----0-----0-----x-----x-----x-----
These chords were used to create the Allman Brothers' 1968 Melissa verse progression shown below.

Melissa verse progression:

E           F#m11/E     Emaj7       F#m11/E
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /

E=022100 F#m11/E=044200 Emaj7=066400 F#m11/E=044200 
David Gates and Bread also used these chords to pen their 1970 hit Make It With You verse progression below.

Make It With You verse progression:

Emaj7       F#m11/E     Emaj7       F#m11/E   
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /  

Emaj7=066400 F#m11/E=044200 
If you move the first position "F/E" (aka "Fmaj7/E") chord up the fingerboard two frets while continuing to play the open strings, you have the "G/E" (aka "G6/E") chord. If you push the "F/E" fingering up another two frets you create the "A/E" chord. The possible chords available using the first position "F/E" chord in this manner are shown in the first example below. The second examples are variations created by moving the first position "Fmaj7#11" chord in the same manner. The last example shows variation obtained by moving the first position "E" chord. These chord variations can generally be used in place of each other.
      E    F/E  F#/E   G/E   A/E   B/E   C/E   D/E   
E-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
B-----0-----1-----2-----3-----5-----7-----8----10-----
G-----1-----2-----3-----4-----6-----8-----9----11-----
D-----2-----3-----4-----5-----7-----9----10----12-----
A-----2-----3-----4-----5-----7-----9----10----12-----
E-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
      E   Fmaj7  F#7   G6   Aadd9 Badd4 Cmaj7 D6/9   
           #11   add4   
E-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
B-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
G-----1-----2-----3-----4-----6-----8-----9----11-----
D-----2-----3-----4-----5-----7-----9----10----12-----
A-----2-----3-----4-----5-----7-----9----10----12-----
E-----0-----1-----2-----3-----5-----7-----8----10-----

E-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
B-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
G-----1-----2-----3-----4-----6-----8-----9----11-----
D-----2-----3-----4-----5-----7-----9----10----12-----
A-----2-----3-----4-----5-----7-----9----10----12-----
E-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----0-----
These chords were used to create The Temptations's 1966 (I Know) I'm Losing You chorus progression shown below. Note that the "G/E" chord is the same as a "Em7" chord. To play along the record place a capo on the eigth fret of your guitar.

(I Know) I'm Losing You chorus progression:

E           G/E         A/E         G/E 
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / / 

E=022100 G/E=055430 A/E=077650 G/E=055430    
Alice Cooper substituted an "Em" chord for the "E" chord to pen his 1972 School's Out chorus below. To play along the record, place a capo on the third fret of your guitar.

School's Out chorus progression:

Em          G/E  A/E    D Em
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /

Em=022000 G/E=055430 A/E=077650 D=xx0232 Em=022000
Open "G" String

There are two great songs that employ movable open "G" string chords to create their songs. The first is Tracy Chapman's 1988 hit Fast Car verse progression shown below. To play along with the record, capo your guitar at the second fret.

Fast Car verse progression:

Cmaj7   C       Cmaj7  G          Em7   D
/       /       /      /    /     /     /     /

Cmaj7=x3200x C=x3201x G=3x003x Em7=x7x08x D=x5x07x
The second song is The Beatles' 1968 Blackbird. The openning verse progression is below. It is well worth your time to learn the entire song.

Blackbird verse progression:

G     Am7    G/B     G1   
/      /      /      /      /      /     

C A7/C# D B7/D#      Em7 Emaj7/Eb
/      /      /      /      /      /     

G=3xx00x   Am7=x0x01x   G/B=x2x03x G1=xax0cx 
C=x3x05x   A7/C#=x4x0x3 D=x5x07x   B7/D#=x6x0x5 Em7=x7x08x Emaj7/Eb=x6x08x
[a=10th fret; b=11th fret; c=12th fret; etc.]
Peter Frampton's 1976 hit Show Me The Way also used open "G" string chords. The openning intro progression is shown below.

Show Me The Way intro progression:

D           Dmaj7       Bm          Bb6  C
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /

D=xx0775 Dmaj7=xx0675 Bm=xx4432 Bb6=x1303x C=x3505x
Favorite Moving Open-String Chord Songs

Two of my favorite Moving Open-String Chord songs include Emerson, Lake & Palmer's 1972 hit From The Beginning verse and Crosby, Stills, and Nash's 1969 Wooden Ships verse.

From The Beginning verse progression:

Am9       Dadd4/A   C   G/B   Fadd9
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /   / / / /

G         Dm7
/ / / /   / / / /   / / / /

Am9=x0ac00   Dadd4/A=x0403x C=x32013   G/B=x20033
Fadd9=xx3213 G=3x0033       Dm7=xx0565
[a=10th fret; b=11th fret; c=12th fret; etc.]
Wooden Ships verse progression:
Em7         Am9  F6/A   Em7         Am9  F6/A 
/ /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /    / /  / /

Em7=0acc00 Am9=x0acc0 F/A=x0aaa0
[a=10th fret; b=11th fret; c=12th fret; etc.]
Your Assignment

We have only scratched the surface of what can be done with these great moveable open-string chords. Your assignment now is to try create your own Moveable Open-String Chords using what you learned from this lesson. To get you started, see what you can do with the following chord fingerings:

C     [x32013] Gm/D [xx0333] Dmi   [xx0231]  
Bm/D  [xx0432] C#m  [x46650] Amaj7 [x02120] 
F#m11 [2x2200] G6   [355400] Badd4 [x24400]

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