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I'm learning blues guitar from a book, and after going through chord progressions (I-IV-V, etc.) and making me play the rhythm with the whole chord, the book introduces what it calls "spread rhythm" whereby only two of the strings of the chords are played.

As well as only using two of the chords, this also introduces a variation: each bar uses two different chords, a 5th and a 6th chord. The first bar looks like this:

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-7-7-9-7--7-7-9-7--
-5-5-5-5--5-5-5-5--

The notes with the "7-5" are A5 and the notes with "9-5" are A6.

I hurt my little finger at some point in the past, and while it's mostly recovered I'm finding that "9-5", the A6, to be more than it can currently take - it feels painful.

I know that with time and practice I will get there eventually, but as I want to give more time for my little finger to rest I was looking for an alternative to that 6th chord.

I have seen people doing similar rhythms with open chords, but I'm interested in a moveable version. Also I realise I could stick to the 5th chord, but it doesn't nearly as interesting.

So: Are there any other similar, moveable patterns that don't require the finger stretch?

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Yeah, play it with the open A string as below: ('X' is muting the big E string)

Tab with open A string

Trickier, but worth a try is the following, but has the downside that you have to make sure to mute the A string between the fretted strings:

Tab alternate fretting

  • If you do your second example, it'll work all the way up the neck, and be easier the further up you go. – Tim Oct 20 '16 at 19:18
  • I like your second one as it's moveable. I tend to finger pick, so strumming two separate strings is ok. I'm trying to find which chords match these notes in those exact position. I found Am9 for the 2x5, but I can't find any chord that includes the exact notes (in that position) 4x5 - do you know where they come from? – Alice Heaton Oct 21 '16 at 9:13
  • Ah, I think I get it. The positions I got from the book (75 and 95) also don't match the normal way of doing an A5 or A6. They are just two notes of those chords. The ones you gave here are also alternate ways of doing A5 and A6 with two strings, just using a different fingering. That makes sense, thanks! – Alice Heaton Oct 21 '16 at 12:00
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Funnily enough, as a guitarist for over 50 yrs, this is one riff pattern that's always eluded me. Short fingers don't help. It's a very common sort of pattern, which can get even more stretchy when the b7 gets added into the pattern. I keep it in E, A and occasionally D, with open strings - that's what works for me. Or I'll get someone else to play the riff!

The only simple solution I could come up with was to capo it wherever the key required. Not perfect, but it often sounds better, as it emulates the open string sound.

  • Thanks, it's nice to know even experienced players can struggle with this one! – Alice Heaton Oct 21 '16 at 8:32

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