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6 Ways To Make Your Chord Progressions Sound Interesting

by Greg Trotter



So you’ve learned all the basic open chord shapes, and can even do a few strumming patterns, so what’s next?

We could just learn more chords, but let’s not fall into the same trap that many beginning guitarists do and overlook our strumming hand.

In this article I will show you 6 alternatives to just strumming patterns that will really enhance your guitar playing. There will be TAB and mp3s for each example.

Click here to download all of the backing tracks.

  1. This one is a pretty easy one to do, and you can add your own variations to it as well. Instead of strumming on every beat, pick the bass note of the chord on beat 1 then strum the chord on the remaining beats.

    Alternative 1

    If you want another variation on this idea, try playing a different bass note on beat 3. For example, play the A string on beat 3 for the G, D and Em chords, and the D string for the C chord.

  2. In this example, we are going to use a technique known as ‘palm muting’. To do this, place the side of the palm of your picking hand, and place it on the bridge of the guitar. When doing this technique, it’s important that you only use the side of your palm, and not place it too close to the sound hole or else you will just get a completely dead sound, and not the nice muted sound we are looking for. Listen to the example and make sure you are doing the same thing.

    Alternative 2

  3. Taking the palm muting concept one step further, we can palm mute on certain beats only. In this example, The chord is played open on beats 1 and 4, and also on the ‘and’ of beat 2. Every other strum is palm muted. This one might be a bit harder to synchronize. Try counting 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2 where every 1 count is where you release the palm off the bridge.

    Alternative 3

  4. This next example is a more intense form of strumming. We use all down strokes, but we strum the whole chord on each beat, but only strum the top 3 strings of the chord on the off beat.

    Alternative 4


  5. We’re now going to look at picking individual strings and mixing it up with some strumming. Hopefully you are already familiar with the Down Down Up Up Down Up strumming pattern. This example follows that same rhythm but replaces the last up down up with picked notes starting on the high E string, then B and finishing on G.

    Alternative 5

  6. Finally, we have a pattern that has no strumming, and is all picking. Start with the bass note of the chord, then play strings 3, 2, 3, 1, 3, 2, 3.

    Alternative 6

Now you've got a few ideas to take your guitar playing to the next level. When you master all of these examples, try create some exercises of your own. Try combining different ideas from this article together, or even add in some other techniques you have learned. Don't forget to experiment with different chords and chord progressions.

About The Author: Greg Trotter is a musician and teacher who does guitar lessons in Melbourne.