Chord shapes in unfamiliar tunings

How do you orient yourself once you decide to jump into an unfamiliar tuning?

Surprisingly, chord shapes you are familiar with might give you a good starting point. Try out all the standard chord shapes first: E, A, C, D, G, Emin, Amin, Dmin, etc… Before trying out barré chords, exhaust your knowledge of open chord shapes in the new tuning. Note intriguing or pleasant sounding chord shapes.

The next thing you might want to try is to move open chord shapes up the neck while letting ring open strings. Once again, exhaust all possibilities before trying out barré chords.

Once you have exhausted known open chord shapes, try out open chord shapes unfamiliar to you. You don’t have to refer to a book of chord shapes. I am a believer of the happy accident: just put your fingers wherever they may fall and listen carefully to the chord that is produced. Move this chord shape up and down the neck.

Once you have found many pleasing open chord shapes, try moving them up the neck with a barré, if the fingering makes it possible.

Once I have a good baggage of pleasing chord shapes, I mix them and try to find a thematic thread to connect them. I would add that you don’t have to use all the chord shapes that you have found. As in everything, simplicity is often the key.

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