Give your chords more blues feeling

When you are playing blues on guitar, you can do lots of more to get a bluesy sound than just playing the regular dominant chords. There are many alternative chord shapes that brings blues feeling to the music. Some of them are presented in this article.

Alternative barre chord shapes

Let’s begin with comparing a normal F7 barre chord with an alternative F7 chord.

F7 chord diagramf7 chord alternate
Standard F7                            Alternate F7

In the second version, the extra Eb on the fifth string gives us more of that blues sound. The same thing can be done playing barre chords in the second position with A shape. Here is Bb7 in two different ways.

Bb7 chord diagramBb7 chord alternate
Standard Bb7                        Alternate Bb7

Substitution to open chords

If you still have troubles with barre chords you can of course use other chords as well, based on the same pattern from the last diagrams above. All you have to do is to remove the index finger:

A7/E chord diagramB7/F# chord diagram
A7/E                                             B7/F#

Notice the difference in fret positions for the two chords above. To use the shapes above you will get possibilities to vary the usual 12 bar blues. You could play these chords together with a common open E or E7. Since the chord shapes are similar, you could use A#7/F as a chromatic in-between chord when going from A7/E to B7/F# (or the other way around).

Substitution to barre shapes

When playing a 12 bar blues you could alternate the IV and V chords with another movable shape that are presented here. If we are playing in the key of A, the chords would be A7, D7 and E7. But after playing A7 with a six-string barré shape (575655 or 575685) we don't use the normal D7 and E7 five string barré shapes (X57575 and X79797) but instead these two shapes:

d7 chord diagrame7 chord diagram
Alternative D7          Alternate E7

To spice it up further you could try using D#7 as a transition chord between E7 and D7, or slide into D7 and E7 from C#7 and D#7 respectively. At last, you could shift between non-muted and muted string by hold and release the grip when strumming if you want to make it more funky.

Dominant 9 chords

To give our blues experiment some extra flavor you can add 9th chords. These can also be played as movable chords and here’s the shape to use (notice the similarity with the open B7 chord).

chord shape 9th chord diagram

These were some easy tips for getting more out of your blues guitar playing.

Go to next article in the course: Expand your blues repertoire.
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