The G chord on the guitar

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How to play the open position G chord and CAGED G shape

The G chord is the most complex of all open-position chords because there are so many options for how to play it.

One way to play it is to have a 3rd on the open B string, as well as fret two on string 5. This is probably the most common way to write it in a chord box, but the least common way to play it.

A better way would be to mute that 5th string, but still have a 3rd on that open 2nd string so it’s still a G.

As we turn our G chord into a G chord shape, things get even trickier as it becomes impossible to fret the full shape!

Here’s a Chordacus image of the open-position G chord, and barre chord shape, if you try playing the barre shape, you’ll see how it is impossible. The secret is to visualize it, and then play fractions of it.

Open-position G chord/shape

G chord extensions

The G chord and chord shape can be extended to the following chords.

  • G major chord (root, 3rd, 5th, root, 3rd, root)
  • G5 (root, 5, root, 5, root)
  • Gsus2 (root, 5, 2, 5)
  • Gadd9 (root, 5, 2, 5)
  • Gsus4 (root, 5, root, 4)
  • G7sus4 (5, root, 4, b7)
  • G6 (root, 6, root, 3)
  • G6/9 (root, 6, 9, 5)
  • Gmaj7 (5, root, 3, 7)
  • G7 (5, root, 3, b7)
  • G11 (root, b7, 9, 11)

You need actual songs to experience these chords to remember them and have a reference point for them all.

For an 11-chord, I think of Never Too Much by Luther Vandross and Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough by Michael Jackson. For the add9 I think of Every Breath You Take by The Police and Eva Cassidy’s version of Over The Rainbow.

Among the beginner songs, we examine the open position G chord by playing it in several different ways. It’s used in all nine songs!

The same goes for the intermediate acoustic songs, the G chord appears in all songs!

However, in all these songs the G chord doesn’t appear in the same way, for example, in The Drugs Don’t Work we have an open B string. In Ain’t No Sunshine, it’s a G5 chord.

In Rewind, we have both an open position G and a G5. The same goes for Redemption Song.

The most interesting use of an open position G is to me in Time Of Your Life, here it is played as a G5. This adds to the punk vibe Green Day needs.

Once we build a 2nd guitar, using a C chord and a capo on fret 7, we do have a 3rd and now the song sounds like a country song, not pop/punk anymore.

So exactly how you play a G chord does matter, it can transport you from punk to country if you’re not careful!

Building scales and arpeggios around the G chord/shape

Let’s turn the G shape into a maj7 arpeggio, a dom7 arpeggio, a Major Pentatonic, Ionian (the major scale), Lydian, and Mixolydian.

Below are all the intervals used to build these arpeggios and scales around the G-shaped chord.

If you can see all the intervals around the chord shape, you can play all these arpeggios and scales.

All possible major arpeggio and scale intervals using the CAGED system

The G Chord | Related Pages

Guitar chords

You can learn how to build all minor and major guitar chords using the so-called CAGED system.

This is the foundation upon which we learn to extend chords and build arpeggios and modes as well.

The Gm chord

Open position Gm chord, barre chord shape and extensions

Being the odd one out, nobody seems to know what an open-position Gm chord even is. Very few tunes use it.

Surprisingly easy to fret in the open position, the problems start once it’s turned into a chord shape.

Beginner Acoustic

Beginner Acoustic Songs

This collection of beginner acoustic tunes will teach you how to arrange for one acoustic guitar, as well as how to create a supporting part.

Playing songs will help you with switching between open-position chords and give you the context you need to understand how music works theoretically.

About me

Dan Lundholm wrote this article about the G chord.

This article on the G chord was written by Dan Lundholm. Discover more about him and how learning guitar with Spytunes has evolved.

Most importantly, find out why you should learn guitar through playing tunes, not practising scales, and studying theory in isolation.


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