Improve your rhythm guitar playing now with these three types of chords

Guitarist John Frusciante of Red Hot Chili Peppers performs at Allegiant Stadium on April 01, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
(Image credit: Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Guitar chords lesson: Go beyond basic open and barre chords with some cool, creative shapes. We'll take you through introductions to partial, wide interval and extended chords with four shapes to start with for each, along with audio examples. 

Partial chords 

(Image credit: Future)

Playing a few notes of a chord is a great way to create a rhythm part that fits in with other chordal instruments, such as keyboards. Our F shape is a great way to simplify an F barre chord.

Em7 is a typical Nile Rodgers shape and the C6 chord gives you the kind of sound that soul session supremo Steve Cropper uses in songs such as Soul Man. Try out the Amadd9 for a dark, moody sound.

Wide interval chords 

(Image credit: Future)

This trick will give you a clearer, less muddy sound than standard barre chords – an approach often used by John Frusciante, Eric Johnson, James Bay and most notably in Blackbird by the Beatles

It’s simple: most chords cover more than an octave; simply ditch one or two of the middle notes to give the top and bottom frequencies more breathing space and a clearer, less muddy sound. Try including an open string too.

Extended chords

(Image credit: Future)

Technically, extended chords include 9th, 11th and 13th intervals, but it’s easier to think of 6ths and 7ths in the same way too. All these chords add notes to basic major or minor chords (C, Dm and so on), ‘extending’ them with more colourful sounds (such as Cmaj7, Dm9).

Jeff Buckley’s 1994 album Grace featured dozens of extended chords. Also listen to Amy Winehouse’s October Song. The maj7#11 chord is loved by shred gurus Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. G13 sounds great in soul, jazz and blues.

50 guitar chord shapes you need to know


MusicRadar is the number one website for music-makers of all kinds, be they guitarists, drummers, keyboard players, DJs or producers...

  • GEAR: We help musicians find the best gear with top-ranking gear round-ups and high-quality, authoritative reviews by a wide team of highly experienced experts.
  • TIPS: We also provide tuition, from bite-sized tips to advanced work-outs and guidance from recognised musicians and stars.
  • STARS: We talk to musicians and stars about their creative processes, and the nuts and bolts of their gear and technique. We give fans an insight into the craft of music-making that no other music website can.