One of the reasons my recent TrueFire course, Chord Navigator: CAGED Triads, seems to have struck a chord (pun intended) is that we guitarists play rhythm most of the time, get fed up playing the same old chord shapes, but forget to learn new ones! So with that in mind, here are a couple of ways to breathe new life into a simple I-IV-V chord progression (E-A-B) in the key of E.
Figures 1-3 show E, A and B chords based around the common open position. Note that the B chord (Fig. 3) is played using the A CAGED shape with the B root note located on the 2nd fret, A string.
Now let’s move up the neck and locate another E chord voicing, this time using the C CAGED chord shape, as shown in Figure 4. Play just the ADG strings and you have the E root triad (E-G#-B), play the DGB strings and you’ll hear a 1st inversion triad, (G#-B-E) an E chord with the 3rd (G#) in the bass. Remember these are all an E chord!
Let’s play the 1st inversion E triad using the DGB strings only, as shown as the black dots in Figure 5. Pluck the 3 strings with your fingers, notice how this triad has a warm tone.
For our A chord, let’s remain in the same position on the neck and use the E CAGED chord shape to find the chord as depicted in Figure 6. Again play only the DGB strings of this A chord to maintain sonic continuity with our E chord, as shown as the black dots in Figure 7.
For the B chord, we can just extract the DGB strings from the A CAGED chord shape we used (Figure 3) or think of the DGB strings triad as part of a G CAGED chord shape, as the two shapes overlap. Play just the DGB strings, shown as the black dots in Figure 8. This is a 2nd inversion B triad (F#-B-D#) with the 5th (F#) in the bass, but you can also just think of it as a B chord.
Play the triads E, A and B on the DGB strings (the black dots only from Figures 5, 7 & 8). Notice how closely connected they sound, ideal for a second guitar part, an intro or a melodic breakdown section of a song. This will also help you see chord tones for lead playing.
Because we are only using 3 strings, there are lots of ways to embellish the chords. For example, try adding a common tone such as a B note (7th fret high E string) throughout all 3 chords as highlighted by the blue circle in Figures 5, 7 & 8. Listen to the way in which that note ties the chords together.
Now let’s add a static bass note, let the open low E string sustain through all 3 chords as highlighted by the red circle in Figures 5, 7 & 8. Notice how this changes the mood of the chord progression, opening it up making it sound less like a traditional I-IV-V.
Find your own common tones and embellishments, explore all the CAGED chord shapes and navigate the neck so you will never get stuck playing the same barre chord shape again!