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When I see other people playing, I often see them adding small variations or embellishments on their chords. I don't know what the term is or what to Google for, in order to learn more of them.

For example with a standard D major chord (x x 0 2 3 2), I see people strumming and embellishing the notes on the top E string like this: F# -> G -> F# -> E -> F#.

Or with A Major (x 0 2 2 2 0), on the B string they do: C# -> D - C# -> B -> C#

Some can be worked out by experimentation, but there must be a collection of standard ones that people use.

  • Some I learned by hearing other people play them and reverse engineering, some learned via sheet music, some I came up with on my own. I'm not sure what it would mean for there to be a "standard" one. If you learn the scales and how they relate to the chords, you'll be able to make up your own pretty easily. – Todd Wilcox Dec 27 '16 at 6:09
  • Another popular one is to play an f major on the dgbe strings and lift your pointer finger off. Gives you a Fmaj7. Take your middle finger off and you have Fmaj7#13. I like to call this one the Diablo chord cause it sounds midevil – Kolob Canyon Dec 27 '16 at 6:52
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Embellishing chords in the manor you have described is very common for the two open chords you've mentioned in popular/rock and country music. What you're actually doing is taking the major chord and making it sus2 and sus4 chords by replacing the chord's 3rd with a 2nd or a 4th respectively.

Embellishing any open chord is easy if you know your basic chord theory and your scales. Replacing or adding any note with another note from the particular scale will sound good. Remember, scales extend to the 13th degree, so you have the 9th, 11th and 13th degree notes as well to experiment with. Whether the embellishent will work for the specific piece is up to experimentation though

Just quick, if you take your example with the A chord, for embellishment, look at the A major scale

A B C# D E F# G# A B C# D E F#

The A major consist of the notes A (the root), C# (which is the 3rd) and E (the 5th). In your example, you replace the 3d (the C# note) with a D, which is the 4 degree in the scale, which by theory makes the chord a Asus4 (A D and E). You also replace the 3rd with a B note, the second in the scale, making it an Asus2 (A, B and E).

One quick trick, if you play open chords, you can always experiment with the open A, open D, open G, and then the 2nd frets of those three strings to embellish your chords

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I'm not a guitarist, so I was going to ignore this question. However, as a keyboard player, I noticed that I use a lot of very similar inflections. You should get a proper answer from a guitarist (or twelve) shortly, but I thought it could be worth throwing in my two cents.

Chordally speaking, the two patterns you mention are D Dsus4 D Dsus2 D and A Asus4 A Asus2 A [see note]. It's a pretty simple idea, but effective.

Here's some similar ideas. Some are more inventive that others. I've used chord to represent the non-extended chord. Also, the inflection may end on the next chord in the progression, if the pattern allows it.

sus4 -> chord or sus2 -> chord. Pretty obvious, but it's the basis for most of these ideas.

sus2 -> chord -> sus2 -> chord. In D, one of the strings would move E -> F# -> E -> D.

chord -> 6 -> chord -> sus4 -> chord. This is a similar idea, but you move the fifth, not the third. In D, one of the string would move A -> B -> A -> G -> A. This might require a different voicing of the chord; I don't know enough to help you here.

These ideas are genre dependent, and can sound really out of place, or annoying if overused. I tend to use them as a light seasoning, to add some interest.

I also use patterns involving major sevens a lot, but I don't know if that will translate well to guitar. Experimentation is recommended.

I would also play around with the IVsus4 chord. In D, that's Gsus4. The suspended 4 is a C natural, not the C# that's in the key signature (think B-> C -> D -> C -> B). It has an interesting sound. You can also try playing around with the #4 (i.e. B -> C# -> D -> C# -> D). It's much more dissonant, but can be musically useful.

I hope that starts you off. If not, there's a bunch of good guitar types around here who should be able to correct me, and point you in the right direction.


[Note] Technically they might be add11 and add9 chords, if there is a third on one of the other strings, but I would consider that distinction to be academic for this purpose.

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