Bob Dylan has rightly carved out his place at one of the most influential songwriters of the last 50 years. If you’re a fan of his work or not, you can escape the fact that he has written some incredible songs that have even taken on lives of their own in the hands of other artists.
His approach to songwriting is often simple, with the story usually the key focus. But underneath his masterful lyricism, he does use some great chords. In this lesson we’re going to check out some choice examples from his back catalogue that you'll hopefully be inspired by.
The Csus4 is a great chord when paired with a regular C. It allows you to move your little finger on and off the sus4 note (The 3rd fret of the D) which creates movement in the sound.
This particular example is drawn from the track Desolation Row. In the studio recording, Dylan is actually tuned to standard with the low E tuned down to C and he is playing the low C as a drone, but you can apply this to a regular C major chord in standard tuning.
In the verse of the track It Ain’t Me Babe, Dylan uses the Dadd4 chord. This is a really interesting substitution for a regular D Major chord. It still has the D major triad present, but with the addition of the 4th note.
This is also very easy to play, it takes the form of a C Major chord, but you shift it up 2 frets, retaining the same open strings.
This next idea features heavily in the track I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine, but the concept is a great one to take away and use elsewhere in your playing.
During this track, Dylan leans on a few chords where he extends the chord lower by adding the fifth in the bass, giving the chord an alternate voicing. These voicings still give you the chord you expect, but the 5th in the bass tricks the mind into hearing something more interesting.
D (Drop D)
Bob Dylan often used alternate tunings to create new and interesting sounds with his chords, this really easy take on the D Major chord comes from the track Mr Tambourine Man. The guitar is tuned to Drop D for this.
This gives you the regular D Major chord, with the lower 5th and root in the bass.