When I first started playing guitar quite a while back, I bought the Chords and Voicings Guitar Grimoire, and promptly put it on a shelf when I realized I had a lot more to learn then just chord shapes.

I just pulled it out and dusted it off again in an effort to learn some new ideas and improve on the foundation I've built, and found a strange omission.

(If you have the book) Turning to page 68 where the dom 7 chords start, I look through all of them and I can't find the chord shape for a dom 7 I am used to anywhere:

IE: I will usually play a G7:


The book has a number of moveable dom 7 chords, and the one I found that is closest is:


I understand that they are the same chords, what I am not grasping is why this book which has other full barre shapes such as the 6th string minor7th, doesn't have this one and why the author chose to mute the 5th and 1st strings when they could easily be used.

I have not yet been able to figure out why, and so I am left wondering:

1) Is this an error on the author's part?

2) Is there a musical reason why this voicing didn't appear in the book?

3) Am I not understanding how this book should be used and so I am working with a misunderstanding.

4) Is my limited knowledge of theory leading me to make some incorrect assumptions about something else which I am not aware of?

This is purely an effort to confirm my suspicion that this shape was omitted by error, or to improve my musical knowledge so that I can understand why this chord isn't included when the back of the book states "Every chord of every key and mode is presented with thousands of diagrams and charts."

I suppose that line doesn't say "every shape of every chord in every key", but I thought that barred dom 7th was pretty standard.

Basically, if I am missing some knowledge, I want to fill the gap, and if it is a mistake, I want to be able to put the thought to rest that I must be missing something and move on with my life! (Call it mild OCD).

Thanks in advance!



The reasoning behind the chord voicing you found in the book is that it is a pure four-part voicing of a dominant seventh-chord, without repetition of notes. So you don't need any other strings to play that chord. Of course, the chord shape you suggest is well known and it sound good in most contexts, but it is redundant in the sense that it doubles the seventh of the chord (on the d and b strings), and it also doubles the root (on the high and low E strings).

Having said that, if there are also other redundant chord shapes in the book, as you suggested, then it is of course inconsistent to leave that one out. However, due to the large number of redundant chord shapes the author might have chosen to draw a line somewhere.

A few more words about the shape that you found in the book. It is a drop-3 voicing, which is very common on guitar. Drop-3 means that you take a close voicing, in your case f g b d i.e. a G7 chord in third inversion (you could also start with any other inversion), and then you drop the third note from the top (the g) one octave down. Then you get exactly the voicing you found in the book. The advantage is that drop-3 chords can be played very easily, in all inversions and for all types of seventh chords. Full 6-string shapes do not exist (i.e. can't be played on a normally tuned guitar) for many types of seventh chords (and their inversions). Using that 4-string shape from the book, you can easily generate any seventh chord by appropriately altering the third, the fifth and the seventh of the chord. In this way you'll quickly find simple shapes for e.g. Gm7, Gm7/b5 (half-diminished), Gdim7 (full diminished), Gmaj7, G6, Gm6, Gmmaj7, etc. You will have a hard time doing this if you try it with 6-string shapes.

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@MattL's answer is good, so I'll simply expand on it a little. It's worth noting that choice of chord shapes should be governed by a number of factors, and playing as many strings as possible is not necessarily the most important. Playing a chord shape that uses six strings will usually be loudest and most full sounding, but this isn't always what you want.

Here are some other things to consider, when choosing chord shape:

  • are you playing with or without a bass player? If you are playing in an ensemble without a bass player (e.g. guitar duo, guitar and voice) it becomes more important to play the root note (or inversion if asked for) at the bottom of the chord. Also, you can make this bass note sound more clearly as a separate "part" by ensuring that there is a greater distance between the bass note and the next note above it. A good way to do this is to damp the string above the bass note, as the chord you show does. If you are playing with a bass player, it can often be a good idea to not play the bass note at the bottom of the chord, or even leave out the root note altogether. I can think of two good reasons for this: if you assume that the bass player will mostly take care of the root notes, it reduces redundancy (as mentioned by @MattL), and will avoid overemphasising the root note; it can reduce problems with intonation, particularly when playing with, say, acoustic/fretless bass (I often get a frown from a bass player if I go into "solo-guitar-accompaniment" mode, and accentuate the bass notes too much!)
  • what range are other "chordal" instruments playing in? If you are playing rhythm while another guitarist or pianist is also playing rhythm, it can be useful to "keep-out-of-the-way-of-each-other". This avoids making any particular range too "muddy" (particularly the middle or lower range). So, if another rhythm player is playing full/rich chords in the middle/lower register, it can help to play four or even three note chords in the higher register. It can also be a good idea to: play some kind of single-note figures; or not play at all!
  • What kind of music are you playing? In other words: what character do you want your chords to have? For a full, strong chord that will contribute well to a rock band, six string chords may be best, particularly those with just a single 3rd (e.g. E-shape barre chords, A-shape barre chords), and so more doublings of roots and 5ths. (Chords with doubled 3rds have a brighter, less heavy, sound - e.g. the commonly used C and G shapes). If you are less bothered about adding power to an ensemble, for instance when adding rhythmic chord figures to a funk band, lighter chord shapes may work better - these might only have three or four notes and be in a higher register, e.g. on the top three strings.
  • Do you need to fully define the harmony of a chord? Again, this is somewhat dependent upon the kind of ensemble you are in (whether there are other chordal instruments), but it is also a matter of taste. When playing simple chords (triads and four note chords) you will mainly be thinking about whether you want to double any notes, if so how many, and in which octave. When playing five, six, seven or even eight-note chords (which takes one to the limits of diatonic and octatonic harmony), you need to think about which notes are important to play. Let's take a seven note chord as an example, say Bb13#11. This has the notes (in tertian order): Bb D F Ab C E G. Obviously you can't play all of these notes on a six-string guitar! So, which notes would be good to get into your chord shape? Well, if there's a bass player, let's leave Bb the root to her... Okay, we're down to six notes, but we don't have to play all of these. The perfect fifth (F) could easily be left out, without affecting the overall character of the chord. Beyond this, your choice of which of the five remaining notes to play is, again, a matter of taste. In theory, all would need to be played to fully outline the character of the chord (and the bass note too, if there is no bass player). But, realistically, some notes may be being played by other players in your ensemble, or you can simply leave notes as being implicit. Playing the "lower-tertian" notes will strongly emphasise the "basic" character of the chord, i.e. playing the 3rd and b7th (D and Ab) will strongly define this chord as a dominant-seventh type chord; playing the "upper-tertian" extremities of the chord will give the chord a more jazzy/exotic sound, emphasising it's extended quality, i.e. by playing the #11th and 13th (E and G). The 9th (C) lies somewhere in between, not being necessary to define the extended quality of the chord if the #11th and 13th are present, but making a dominant-ninth chord (which sounds reasonably jazzy/extended) if added to the notes of a dominant-seventh.
  • Do you want to play a melody note at the top of your chord? We already mentioned the importance of choosing whether to play the root note, and if so whether to play it at the bottom of your chord shape. Usually as a rhythm player, defining the melody is out of your hands to a large degree. However, in certain ensemble situations, or when playing solo, you may be responsible for defining the melodic line as well as the harmony (chords). In this case, you need to choose chord shapes which allow you to accentuate the melody note within any chord; this is usually easiest to do by playing a chord shape with the melody note at the top. And, of course, this then requires you to consider whether you want this note doubled below the melody or not...
  • Can you contribute to the overall "movement" of the music by using a variety of chord shapes for each chord? A very simple example of this: when playing a song that uses the typical build-up on a dominant-seventh chord (the "build-up" sections in The Beatles' Twist and Shout or in the song Shake Your Tailfeather, spring to mind), I use ascending inversions of dominant-seventh chords to contribute to the overall build-up of the music, this makes my contribution as a guitarist far more than simply harmonic.

The last point just starts to approach the idea of voice-leading in guitar chord shapes, which @MattL also mentions in his answer. In other words, thinking about how every note moves to another within a series of chord shapes. Although this is not a particularly difficult concept, it can be rather involved to explain, and does in fact require moving away from "thinking-in-chord-shapes", so I won't go into detail about this subject in this answer.

To wrap up: when one starts learning guitar chords, it seems like we have a lot to learn, when compared to learning "the-single-notes" on either guitar or another instrument. But, boy, do we not even realise the half of it! Once we have learnt our major, minor, seventh, and then dim, aug, sus4, min7, and then 9th, 13th, m9th chords in every key (yes, I know I have only mentioned the smallest number of chords here!), we then realise we need to take into account all the points above, and should learn multiple shapes for each chord type. We need to take these points into account, so that we don't just use a chord shape that will work for a particular harmony, but the chord shape that will work best!

Chord shapes, or chord voicings as it might be better to to call them, are a truly fascinating part of playing and studying the guitar, as they truly seem endless. As soon as we learn new shapes and voicings to use, and how to use them, we start to realise just how many other possibilities there are.

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  • I'm not sure if I can accept both answers but they are both relevant. That being said all of this information has been very useful to me, and almost seems to apply more than just the book I was reading. Should I edit the question in anyway to make it more general so that others can find this information do you think? – Steve Jan 19 '15 at 19:19
  • I think you did the right thing accepting @MattL's answer. Mine just adds extra info. I reckon your question is fine, too. You could always ask another, more general question as well. – Bob Broadley Jan 19 '15 at 19:24

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