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Apologies, this is an incredibly vague question, but any help would be appreciated.

When watching skilled acoustic guitar players, I regularly see them playing chords high on the guitar neck (ie around the 5-8th frets). I'm still pretty new, and looking at various chord charts I haven't found any fingerings in that range.

For clarity's sake, these aren't bar chords (at least not any that I recognize) and they're not using a capo. Does anyone have any ideas on where I can find out how to play chords like this?

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Welcome to Musical Practice and Performance. –  Wheat Williams Feb 26 '13 at 4:51
    
Welcome. I'm confused by your commenting that the fifth-to-eighth frets are pretty high on the neck. Traditionally, get counting starts at the nut (and some guitars have a zero feet next to the nut) so the eighth feet isn't that far up to me. Are you counting from the sound hole? –  VarLogRant Feb 26 '13 at 12:03
    
@VarLogRant For me, anything higher than 4 is pretty high. So, probably no confusion there. –  anatolyg Feb 26 '13 at 16:36
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I often play chords up at the 18th fret on an electric, and even 15th fret on acoustic guitars. I think 5th fret is fairly low :-) –  Dr Mayhem Feb 26 '13 at 16:52
    
^ My reaction exactly. "High" starts past the 12th fret. –  Kaz Jun 14 '13 at 15:58
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7 Answers 7

up vote 15 down vote accepted

There are three kinds of chord you can play high on the neck.

Barre chords: You mention these in your question, but I mention it for completeness.

  %5/1.5/1.7/3.7/4.6/2.5/1

In this example you barre across the 5th fret, and use fingers 2,3,4 to form the rest of the chord shape.

Chords containing both high fretted notes, and open strings

  %0/1.7/2.7/3.6/1.0/2.0/1

In this example you play open E, B, E strings, while fretting notes on the others, on the 6th and 7th frets. It can result in some full, complex chords.

Chords in which some strings are not played

 %X/X.X/X.7/2.7/3.6/1.X/X

In this example, the E,A,E strings are not played, and a triad is played on the remaining three strings. Of course, if you finger a 6-note chord, you can strum wildly, but when you play a chord like this one, you need more precision. You can either suppress the unwanted strings with various muting techniques, or you can just make sure you don't pluck/pick those strings.

Most guitar parts more sophisticated than strum-the-chords, involve playing chords of fewer than 6 notes, most of the time.


There are lots of ways you can construct 2-3 note chords.

One way is to shift shapes you already know, up the neck. For example, a "D major shape"

%X/X.0/0.0/0.2/1.3/3.2/2

Don't play the open strings, and move this up 2 frets, it's an E. 1 more fret, it's an F. 2 more frets, it's a G:

%X/X.X/X.X/X.7/1.8/3.7/2

Try playing that shape, then the G chord you already know, to see how they sound harmonically alike.

This means that you could play chords for any song, using just the D major and D minor shapes, at various positions on the neck. Try it!

You can do this with all the shapes you know.

Another way is to imagine a barre shape for the chord you want to play, choose the strings you want to play, and make a simpler fingering that only frets those strings.

Yet another way is to get familiar with intervals. For any root note, you can work out (and, with experience, instinctively know) where the fifths and the thirds are, on the nearby strings. Then you can construct a chord out of any combination of those.

Or, you can simply learn the note name of every position on the fretboard, and the note names that make up every chord, and use that knowledge to construct chords. For example, C minor is made up of C, Eb, G. If you know where all of those are on a fretboard, you can make up the chord.

Different people prefer different ways of thinking. I prefer thinking in terms of intervals (F minor is "F, 3 semitones up from F, 7 semitones up from F"), whereas some people prefer thinking in terms of absolute notes ("F minor is F, Ab, C"). Find your own preference.

Finally, don't be afraid of just trying shapes to see how they sound. If it sounds good, it is good.

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The second and third categories (or a combination of the two) are definitely what I'm looking for. Thanks for putting it so clearly. Any suggestions on where I should start for learning these kinds of chords? –  Dominic P Feb 26 '13 at 20:00
    
Added something about "finding" these chords. –  slim Feb 27 '13 at 9:12
    
Thanks for all info. This really helps. –  Dominic P Feb 28 '13 at 4:41
    
And a good understanding of music theory and chord construction will take this information and expand on it exponentially so you can "learn all the chords on the guitar". –  Shawn Strickland May 15 '13 at 5:43
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One common thing I've seen (and do myself) is that if you play an A shape on the 7th fret, it's an E. Leave the lowest open E string open, and play all 5 strings bar the highest one (normally iot's too tricky to leave un-muted). You get a great, huge sound.

Because you're playing an A shape, a lot of familiar patternt emerge as well and there's a lot of nice licks etc to be played around that area while letting the E string ring, plus you have the advantagethat there a kind of "sweet spot" of resonance vs. easy to play (frets havent' got so small up the neck yet) when you fret strings around the 7th fret. Or at least there is on my guitars (electeic & acoustic), so I assume all/most others behave similarly.

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Thanks, I'll try that. A friend of mine recently suggested I play around with an E shape around the 7th fret and that has been pretty interesting as well. –  Dominic P Jun 20 at 18:28
    
yep, I guess you're playing in that "sweet spot" still just on an E shape. –  user2808054 Jun 23 at 9:23
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I'd definitely recommend MaxRunFast's suggestion:

I think this exercise will appropriately blow your mind given your level: Take a C major chord (C, E, G) and draw every single C, E, and G on the fretboard. Now circle anything that is close together and can be played with your fretting hand at the same time. There's your chord.

To specifically answer the part of your question:

Does anyone have any ideas on where I can find out how to play chords like this?

There are several chord dictionaries online where you can find out how to play any standard chord higher up on the fretboard.

For instance, if we wanted to find all the places to play a Gmaj chord between frets 5 and 8, we could do something like this: http://songwritingtheory.com/bazzle/Gmaj/tab-using-frets-5-to-8/guitar

Then of course we could expand it to show us all the Gmaj tab from frets 3 to 14, for example: http://songwritingtheory.com/bazzle/Gmaj/tab-using-frets-3-to-14/guitar

I hope that helps!

(Full disclosure: I created the linked tool).

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It would be helpful for you to start learning the names of the notes and their positions on the fingerboard, and think less about chord shapes from a chord chart. For instance, you know the F chord? It starts with the note F on the third fret of the fourth string, and then goes up a major third, then the fifth, then the octave. If you move the entire fingering two frets higher, the lowest note, on the fifth fret of the fourth string, is G, and then up a third, then the fifth, then the octave. That's not in your chord charts in your book, but it's another way to play a G chord. Now move the same fingering up two more frets, and that's an A chord. Are you getting the hang of it? Move the same fingering up two more frets, and that's a B chord.

In other words, don't concentrate on memorizing shapes from fingering diagrams. When you do that, you aren't really learning how the music works. Rather, learn how to spell the notes in the chords. Find the root note and figure out how to play the chord you want from spelling out the intervals between the pitches, and the fingering and the shape will come from that. Learn how to recognize and play intervals above your root note; major and minor third, fourth and fifth, seventh and octave. This way you'll learn how to make chords anywhere on the neck without having to resort to a book with chord fingering diagrams, which is a crutch. These guitar-chord-shape-diagram books are very popular, but I believe using that approach is counterproductive.

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First thing to know is that a chord shape in one place is the same chord 12 frets up. Second thing is, you don't have to play all six strings when you play a chord. You just need three notes, and you can often get away with two. (Strictly speaking, that's an interval, not a chord, but if it sounds good, that's fine.)

There's more fun stuff, like inversions, but if you start playing around with those two points, you'll open up your playing.

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"Strictly speaking" a chord is two or more notes played together. So a two-note chord is definitely a chord. You'd be surprised how much of what great guitarists play is two or three notes. –  slim Feb 26 '13 at 16:55
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Freddie Green chords are one note, two ghost notes and a bunch of thump, and it works well in context. "Power chords" are root-fifth or root-fifth-octave, to get rid of the third, so the soloist can decide whether it's major or minor, or just so the combination of distortion and the major third doesn't sound bad. "A chord in music is any harmonic set of three or more notes that is heard as if sounding simultaneously." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chord_(music) I've been playing for nearly 30 years. I have an idea how much is 2 notes, not 3. –  VarLogRant Feb 26 '13 at 17:31
    
The 1st reference in that Wikipedia article says "three or more notes". The 2nd references says "two or more". Chambers dictionary says "combination of notes of a different pitch". I'm going with two or more. –  slim Feb 26 '13 at 17:36
    
btw - the "you" in "you'd be surprised" isn't necessarily you, VarLogRant :) –  slim Feb 26 '13 at 17:48
    
No, in music theory a diatonic chord is at least three notes: a root, a third, and a fifth. That gives you the major, minor, diminished and augmented chords, by choosing a major or minor third, and a diminished, perfect, or augmented fifth. Beyond that you have the seventh chords and then the "jazz" chords. As for how many notes to use in a chord on a guitar, Joe Pass said, "Guitarists use too many notes in their chords. Never play a three-note chord when a two-note chord will do." –  Wheat Williams Feb 26 '13 at 20:19
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Try the book "Joe Pass Guitar Chords" by jazz guitarist Joe Pass. A teacher recomended it to me and it has a wealth of chord shapes all over the neck - well worth exploring. A quick search on google should find it and it's not expensive. Good luck!

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They are chords like any others, but they aren't the two bar chords you have learned. Don't get intimidated though... There are not very many chords to learn at all.

I think this exercise will appropriately blow your mind given your level: Take a C major chord (C, E, G) and draw every single C, E, and G on the fretboard. Now circle anything that is close together and can be played with your fretting hand at the same time. There's your chord.

See if you can find the two barre chords you have learned.

This picture should give you the right idea - http://vincelauriamusic.com/blog/assets_c/2012/12/C%20major%20Pentatonic%20Scale-thumb-500x224-113.png

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+1 Welcome to the site. I think this is a very good approach, based on chord building. You might also note that open strings are still available when fretting higher chords. –  luser droog Feb 26 '13 at 7:58
    
That does sound like an interesting exercise. It looks like I will have to spend some quality time with my fret board. I can see there will be a ton of fingerings for each chord. Are there any "common" ones that you know of, just like there are common fingers for the standard chords near the top of the neck? –  Dominic P Feb 26 '13 at 20:05
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