Have We Been Playing Guitar Wrong For Years
The title is a bit misleading and probably a bit arrogant. How can you tell someone their playing guitar wrong? In fact there is no way to be playing guitar wrong or right their is only efficient and less efficient. The guitar is just a design with a bunch of notes on a piece of wood. What we do with it makes music.
Traditionally we tune our guitar as follows (Low E,A,D,G,B,E high) If a mathematician looked at this grouping they would find a flaw between the G and B string and wonder why this is. He or she would instinctively make the B string the note C and the high E string the note F now the tuning is in even 4ths and everybody can go through their day with one less chaotic event to deal with. Now you can look at the guitar on an even playing field (pun intended).
So if we take the amazingly popular power chord which is simply the root of the chord and the fifth note of the chord (not necessarily in that order) we can now play that fingering anywhere on the guitar without shifting our position, when we get to the second and first string like we were traditionally taught. Just with this little bit of knowledge you can see why I used the phrase playing guitar wrong. I am amazed that more rockers don’t adopt this concept. The same would apply when constructing scales. For example if you play a major scale on the 6th, 5th, and 4th string that same fingering pattern can be used on the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st string as well whereas traditionally you would have to shift your hand up or down a fret to play the correct notes. You guitar players know what I am talking about. So have we been playing guitar wrong?
Moving back to power chords, using the same premise you can add a third to that power chord and you have a triad, major or minor depending on a flat third or natural third, again moving that fingering pattern anywhere you want on any set of strings and still maintain the same integrity of whatever chord you were playing.
Moving more into a jazz concept you can take that basic triad and exchange the fifth for a seventh or exchange the root for a seventh and you will get a more sophisticated voicing. Staying with the rule that you can move that shape around anywhere on the guitar and still maintain the same integrity of the chord. Their is a recurring theme that everything you do on the guitar can be transposed simply by moving up and down the guitar or moving across the guitar using this tuning. So have we been playing guitar wrong?
The ever popular Barre chord used by most guitarist is a staple in modern guitar. Throughout my many years of teaching I have noticed most guitarist will construct the barre chord using all the strings but when strummed what is heard is maybe four of the six strings. Which brings me to the conclusion either the fingering is not pressed down hard enough or the pick is only striking the lower four strings. Why not embrace that shortcoming and use the fingerings from the lower four strings, which uses all the notes of the chord anyway and move that around anywhere on the guitar with the same results, and also will give you many more options of chords as well as more choices of ranges. At least logically we have been playing guitar wrong.
No doubt the dilemma of using cowboy chords or open chords will come up when adopting this new tuning. I didn’t say this is a perfect system. With a little bit of basic theory on how to construct chords implementing open strings you will be playing all the chords that you are used to in a very short time, using different shapes of course but with the same tone quality that you are used to. And I think you will be very surprised with the subtle nuances of the sounds of the chords, and I feel this will give your playing a fresh and innovative sound.
The only drawback in conclusion that I can see is that you will have to undo a lot of muscle memory that you have attained and regain new memory. This new pattern oriented system I feel can be obtained much quicker than Traditional methods and can lead you to much more sophisticated guitar playing without learning thousands of different fingerings. So playing guitar wrong or right is anyone’s choice.