Posted by: worshipguitarguy | September 23, 2008

Worship Guitar Chords Exposed!: The Key of G

Updated:  With Audio file examples of chord progressions in G. 

Better late than never… here’s the start of the worship guitar chords series, where we’ll take a look at each of the 5 CAGED chord positions, and the chords that many worship leaders commonly use when playing in these keys. 

The Key of G:
Hands down, the key of G is probably the most popular one for all worship leaders.  (In fact, I know worship leaders that rarely play anything other than G position chords.)  There are a few reasons why G is so popular.  First these are very “bright” sounding chord forms that bring life to anthemic or driving songs.  (Think Your Grace is Enough, Holy is the Lord, O Praise Him, or half the stuff with Chris Tomlin’s name on it.  ;)  )  Second, changing chords (with these forms) requires little movement.  Ths means that less experienced guitar players can pick these forms up quickly.  So with that, let’s take a look at the common G position worship chords.

G Major:

The “root” of 1 chord is the G major chord.  The way you hold this chord is to
1.  Place your pinky finger on the high e string, third fret
2.  Place your ring finger on the B string, third fret
3.  Place your middle finger on the low E string, third fret
4.  Place your index finger on the A string, second fret.
When holding this chord, make sure all of the joints on your fingers are bending inward, or the way they naturally bend.  If you have a hard time reaching the low E string with your middle finger, work on shifting the position of your palm underneath the guitar neck.  Most people I’ve taught who struggle with this just have to shift their hand a bit before they’re able to reach this chord pretty easily.  When playing this chord, take a look at where your ring finger is at… I’ll explain more about that in a minute.  G major chord mp3


Cadd9:


Instead of playing a normal C major for the “4” chord, many worship leaders use a Cadd9 in it’s place.  Switching from the G above to a Cadd9 is very easy, all you do is move both your index and your middle fingers down one string and your in position.  Notice that just like a usual C chord, you do not play the low E string in this position. Cadd9 chord mp3

Like the G chord, the Cadd9 keeps the high “droning” D and G notes, which gives this chord a unique flavor.  (For those interested in theory, an add9 is a C2 except the 2 note is played an octave up.)

D major:

The “5” chord or the D major is the usual open position D major most guitar teachers show you.  You fret this chord by
1.  Placing your index finger on the G string, second fret
2.  Your middle finger on the high e-string, second fret
3.  Your ring finger on the B string third fret.
When you strum this chord, you want to avoid playing the A and low E strings.  You can get away with hitting the A string from time to time since it does fit in the chord, but as a general principle you’ll want to learn to avoid it as much as possible.  D major chord mp3

Em7:

The 6th minor, or Em7 chord has a very unique voicing to it.  Again, because of the high droning D and G notes, this chord is a minor that doesn’t always sound like it…  (I’ve heard it called a happy minor.)  You fret this chord by:
1.  Placing your pinky on the high e string, third fret
2.  Placing your ring finger on the B string, third fret
3.  Placing your middle finger on the D string, second fret
4.  Placing your index finger on the A string, second fret. 
With this chord, you can play all six strings at once.  E minor 7 chord mp3

Asus4/G

This chord is an interesting fit for the key of G.  Some worship songs use a 2 minor chord, and I’ve seen alot of worship leaders use this chord as a substitute.  Strangely enough, other worship leaders will use this chord in place of an A major as well.  Because it is a suspended chord it works in certain songs as a substitute for either.  To fret this chord, think of it as an Em7, except you move your index and middle finger both down one string.   Asus4/G chord mp3

 

Remember when I told you to pay attention to the position of your ring finger?  Notice in all five of these chord positions, it never moves!  It stays there, planted nicely on the B string at the third fret.  One thing that makes these positions easier is that the ring finger can act as a guide finger, giving you a reference point for moving around the fretboard.  If you’re not used to holding down a string for so long with one finger, it will start to hurt.  But, Just keep at it, because it will become easier.

Slash Chords: G/B:

One important bass note variation of the G chord is the G with a B bass.  It may sound complicated but there’s nothing to it.  All you do is play a G chord without the low E string, and you have a G/B.  This position is often a transition chord betwen other forms.  G/B chord mp3

 

 

Slash Chords: D/F#:

Another important slash chord is the D/F# chord.  It’s often a transition between the G chord and an Em7 chord.  Some guitarists struggle with it so they play an alternate version with
1.  Their ring finger on the B string, third fret
2.  Their middle finger on the high e string, second fret
3.  Their index finger on the low E string, second fret.
4.  They then let the G string ring open. 

I fret the chord a bit differently by simply holding down a traditional D major chord and wrapping my thumb over the top of the neck to fret the low E string at the second fret.  D/F# chord mp3

————-

Chord Progression Examples

G-D-Em7-Cadd9 MP3
G-D-Em7-Cadd9 is one of the most common chord progressions you’ll find in worship music.  This example shows off the brightness or anthemic sound of these chord forms.

Asus4-G/B-Cadd9 MP3
Here’s an example of where a “walking bass note” can be used in a song.  If you’re familiar with worship music you will notice this progression right away, since it’s very similar to the verse pattern of God of Wonders by Third Day and Caedmon’s Call. There is one minor variation in the Asus chord though, it’s actually an A7sus, which looks like this

E  3
B  3
G  0
D  2
A  0
E   X

(Disclaimer:  Playing these chords in no way is a substitute for properly learning how to play true C major, A major and minor, or E minor chords.  They’re just another option to pull out.  Keep learning as many chords as you can including the traditional major and minor chords because there are many places where they will still fit better. 

Now I wash my hands of any possible responsibility for teaching bad theory as identified by the bad theory police… :P  )

Side Note:  G is an awesome key for song arrangements involving the combination of keyboards, guitar, strings and other orchestral instruments. 

G also was the original key that the American National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner” was performed in.

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Responses

  1. I’m curious – what do you use to generate the chord diagrams?

  2. Actually, all I did Jason was create a template in Photoshop that I use as the basis for each diagram.

  3. could you send the template to me? leadworshipper@yahoo.com

    Thanks
    Also some people use the F# on the D (4th) string if their hands aren’t large enough to wrap their thumb. Generally it becomes a Dsus/F#.
    high e open
    middle finger on the 3rd fret of the B string
    index finger on the 2nd fret of the G string
    Ring finger on the 4th fret of the D string.

    Hope this helps!

  4. @devin – as a member of the “theory police,” I should point out that a suspended chord (labeled sus) does not have a third. The chord that you indicated should be called D(add9)/F# or D2/F#.

  5. Thanks that’s good to know.

  6. ‘Theory Police.’ That’s awesome! :) Great post.

  7. Another way to play Em7 is:

    E 0
    B 3
    G 0
    D 0
    A 2
    E 0

    Very open and ringing sound. And it’s an easy transition to C2:

    E 0
    B 3
    G 0
    D 3
    A 2
    E 0

  8. duh.

    that should be

    E 0
    B 3
    G 0
    D 2
    A 3
    E 0

  9. The theory police is here…

    That Asus/G doesn’t have a G in the bass… It’s better to call it an A7sus.

  10. [...] Worship Guitar Guy has a nice little primer on typical chords in the key of G. [...]

  11. I’ve played so many “key of G” songs that I started playing occasionally with the short-cut capo. It only covers three strings and when combined with a full 6-string capo, I can play a song in the key of G but the chord has different notes. For example, the G chord with the short cut capo would be notes: G, D, G, D, D, G. Because the capos lie on the 3rd fret and 5th fret, I’m playing some notes in a different octave. As we have two rhythm players, my guitar with the capos gives us a fuller sound overall. Oh, the chord formations are different but only require 1-3 fingers.

  12. Great thought Chris, and I’ll have to try the variation you suggested sometime Corrie.

  13. Hey, great resource. I’m sort of following in your footsteps (www.undersky.org/blog if you like to add to your blogroll). Thanks for everything you do. Keep it up.

  14. Gerry, thanks for the Blogroll. A lot of our worship musicians reference your blog. New article is great too.

  15. Do any of you guys know how to make Major, Minor, Flat and Sharp Chords with the Short Cut Capo? I have a Short Cut Capo that covers 3 Strings. Any other chords will be helpful to. Please E-mail me at smr.sparky@gmail.com if you have any good answers, Thanks.

  16. I am glad I found this site. I just picked up a guitar a couple weeks ago for the first time. It is something I have always wanted to learn but never took the time. My pastor told me if I got one he would show me a few things but our busy schedules haven`t let us come together on that. Now every Sunday night after service the musicians of our church get together for a jam session to show beginners some stuff and just have a good time. They play in the key of G, this is going to be so helpful. God Bless.

  17. What about using the nots and playing the bottum 3 strings. I have onl seen that meathod once and never again.

  18. Instead of calling these key of G chords I call these chords G shaped. This is because they can be played in any key when using a capo. This helps make things clearer. Thanks for the blog – it’s a great resource.

  19. Wow datz great,just want i needed but in terms of the G/B,can’t we just play them both without going to the low e string

    • You should play the 5th string only because you press your finger against the low E to mute it, just in case you hit it when strumming. I find my playing is much nicer when I mute strings like this, example the low E when doing the C chord.


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