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Getting Started Learning Notes on the Fretboard

Installment #5: "Moving Another Familiar Chord Shape Up the Guitar Neck"

By Mark Hanson

October 7, 2009

In a previous ‘Tip’ we had fun moving the C-shape up the guitar neck. This time let’s slide a first-position Amajor7th shape up the neck. This creates some very useful chords.

First, play a first-position Amajor7th chord. If you don’t know it, play a normal D7 on the three treble strings and move that shape one string toward the bass. Now you are fretting the second and fourth strings at the 2nd fret, and the third string at the 1st fret: an Amajor7th chord. I use it extensively in my tune “Parasol Spin”. As I recall, I first learned it many years ago from Neil Young’s “Round and Round” and James Taylor’s “Oh, Susannah”.

Move this shape up one fret to the 2nd and 3rd frets. The five treble strings produce a beautiful Dm9, with an A in the bass (fifth string). Using only the four treble strings produces a Dm9/F.

Move the shape up two more frets to the 4th and 5th frets. Depending on which bass string you use, this is either an E-minor (sixth string in the bass, omitting the fifth string) or an A dominant7th chord (fifth string in the bass) – actually an A9 without the third.

Next move your initial shape to the 5th and 6th frets, and release the fourth string. This produces another beautiful Dm9 chord. I often use this shape when I am looking for a cascading scale effect, since the F-E-D-C-B notes (E and B open strings) are all within easy reach.

The original Amajor7th shape at the 6th and 7th frets produces an A6 chord (use the five treble strings), which is lovely for swing tunes. Try playing it, then sliding chromatically down two frets to the previously mentioned A9 (no third). This progression is very common in blues and jazz music.

Placing the original Amajor7th shape at the 9th and 10th frets produces an Aminor chord, using the five treble strings.

Finally, place the original Amajor7th shape at the 13th and 14th frets, an Amajor7th chord up an octave from the original first-position placement. Strum five strings. Slide it down two frets (11th and 12th) and keep strumming five strings. With the correct rhythm, this should remind a lot of you of the acoustic guitar opening of Chicago’s early hit “Beginnings”.

Once you have experimented with the Amajor7th shape in all these positions, play the shape again at the 2nd and 3rd frets, making sure to fret it with your middle, ring and little fingers (third, fourth, and second strings, respectively). This frees up the index finger to fret the second string two frets lower than the normal little-finger position. Some of you may call this an “Fmajor7th” shape. This slight alteration produces these chords:

  1. an Fmajor7th at the 1st/2nd/3rd frets;
  2. an Em7 at the 3rd/4th/5th frets (omit the fifth string in the bass);
  3. an A at the 5th/6th/7th frets;
  4. an Am7 at the 8th/9th/10th frets;
  5. a Dadd9/A chord at the 10th/11th/12th frets (omit the sixth string in the bass; also, consider releasing the fourth string to produce the low D on the open fourth string)

Also try leaving the second string open on all of these positions to see if you like what you hear!

Have fun!

Mark Hanson

Copyright © 2009 Accent On Music, LLC, and Mark D. Hanson. All Rights Reserved.