The E Shape chord is one of the most widely used barre chords. I call this an “E Shape” Chord because the shape of the chord mirrors that of an E chord in open position, but you could also refer to it as a barre chord with the root (or primary) note on the low E string. Illustrated here is the Full Form, meaning all of the notes that CAN be used for this chord in this position ARE being used.
*numbers = fingers
If you’ve explored playing barre chords already, then you may be familiar with this shape. You may also be familiar with a smaller version of this shape.
Did you know there are other ways to break the E Shape apart to form other usable, smaller shapes? All basic major chords are triads, meaning that only 3 notes are used to form the chord. This includes any chord that you may play with the E shape. But how is this true if you strum 6 strings to produce the chord? Let’s find out…
In 3rd position (with your 1st finger in the 3rd fret) this shape yields a G chord. The notes of a G chord are G, B, and D. Notice how there are 3 Gs (in 3 separate octaves), 1 B, and 2 Ds (in 2 octaves). Doubling or tripling these notes produces a larger sound, but if you are looking for a smaller sound, or even just an easier way to play the chord, you can eliminate some of the doubled/tripled notes. As long as those 3 notes are included at least once, you have the G major chord. (One may even argue that the D note is omissible as well.)
With this in mind here are various ways we could play the G chord in the same position. Keep in mind where these shapes originated – the Full E shape. This will help you retain the information and provide better context to your chord shapes.
Closed voicings are when the notes are stacked as closely together as they can be. These chords will each remain within 1 octave and use 3 adjacent strings.
You can even stack some of the closed voiced chords together, to start building the chord back to its full form. Even though this shape is very similar to the Full Form, it will sound slightly different now that the D is the lowest note in the Chord.
Open voicings can have a beautiful sound as well. The notes of these chords spread beyond an octave and will incorporate skipped strings, so it may be easiest to play these via fingerstyle or a hybrid pick/fingerstyle.
Try these shapes in various positions across your fretboard and incorporate these ideas towards other chord shapes that you may be familiar with. You may not end up using all of these shapes regularly, but hopefully exploring the different possibilities will lead you to new creative ideas in your own playing.
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