Advanced Chords and Music Theory for Open Tuning

by Nur al-Haqq Dave Walker
last revised 7/08

While the concepts described on this page apply to any key, the chord pattern table below is a relative to the key of C (ie, capo 5th fret on G open). This means that you'll have to move the capo and transpose the chord lettering for songs in other keys. Because there are always extra "bass notes" (in this case Cs and sometimes Gs) to give that delightful, middle eastern/eastern drone sound, you will need to transpose for other keys.  Trust me, playing a Dm song (or even an Am song) from the C position sounds wretched!  I hope in the future to create a chart that will do the transposing for you, but for now this will get you started. Reading from left to right, the number patterns correspond to which fret to finger from low C to high G.  An "x" means don't play that string and an "o" means play the string open.  The (-3), etc next to the chords indicates a note (eg the third) is missing from the full chord, but for the most part, the feeling of the whole chord comes through - much like the case in modern jazz.  In this case, the overall sound depends a lot on what chord you are coming from and what chord you are going to.  It's not a foolproof system.  You'll have to play with it on a song by song basis.  (Note: the minor chords without the third don't work well in any case.)  The clear rule to follow is this: if it doesn't sound good, don't play it! ...Enjoy!

Chord                                           Pattern

C o4oo4o
C oo54oo
C6 oo24oo
C7 oo34oo
Cmaj7 oo44oo
Cm o3oo3o
Cm oo53oo
Cm6 oo23oo
Cm7 oo33oo
C#/Db 111151
C#7/ Db7 111154
C#(-3)/Db(-3) 111111
C#m/Dbm 111141
C#m(-3)/Dbm(-3) 111111
C#m7/Dbm7 111144
D 222262
D(-3) 222222
D7(-3) oo22oo
Dm 222252
Dm(-3) 222222
Dm7(-3) oo22oo
D#(-3)/Eb(-3) oo3333
D#7(-3)/Eb7(-3) oo3133
D#m(-3)/Ebm(-3) oo3333
D#m7(-3)/Ebm7(-3) oo3133
E(-3) oo4444
E7(-3) oo4244
Em oo44oo
Em7 oo424o
F oo25ox
F6(-1) oo22oo
F7 oo235x
F7(-1) oo23ox
Fm oo15ox
Fm6 oo125x
Fm6(-1) oo12ox
Fm7 oo135x
Fm7(-1) oo13ox
F#(-3)/Gb(-3) oo6666
F#7(-3)/Gb7(-3) oo6466
F#m(-3)/Gbm(-3) oo6666
F#m7(-3)/Gbm7(-3) oo6466
G ooo224
G oo42oo
G6 oo424o
G7 oo425o
G7(-5) ooo554
Gm oo32oo
Gm ooo223
Gm7 oo325o
Gm7(-5) o535oo
G#/Ab oo13ox
G#7(-1)/Ab7(-1) oo536x
G#m7(-1)/Abm7(-1) oo436x
G#maj7/Abmaj7 oo13oo
A xx214x
A7 xx214o
Adim oo23ox
Am oo24ox
Am7 oo24oo
A#/Bb oo325x
A#(-3)/Bb(-3) o535ox
A#6/Bb6 oo325o
A#7(-5)/Bb7(-5) xx3221
A#m/Bbm xx315x
A#m7(-5)/Bbm7(-5) xx3111
B xx436x
B7 xx4362
Bdim oo425x
Bm xx426x
Bm7 xx4262

Open Tuning Theory
(Dave Nur-al-Haqq, Lama, 2002)

Play melody line on 3rd and 5th strings/1st and 4th strings.
Chords: Find the melody on the third string; there will be a complimentary note on the 4th string, either next fret up or 2 up (see chord diagrams). If the melody is on the top string, then the complimentary note is probably one or two frets down on the 2nd string.
As the guitar player,if you can find the melody using one finger/string, then as the Dance progresses you can add the other note of the chord as you find it.

Major Key
Root chord: on the 3rd and 4th strings, 4th and 5th frets up from the capo, respectively.
IV: 4th string, 2nd fret; 3rd string, 5th fret.
V: 4th string, 4th fret; 3rd string, 2nd fret.
You can walk through a whole scale (octave) using these three chords.

Minor Key
Root chord: 3rd string, 3rd fret; 4th string, 5th fret. (This is flattening the third from the same major, eg C to Cm.)
IV: 4th string, 1st fret; 3rd string, 5th fret.
V: 3rd string, 2nd fret; 4th string, 3rd fret. (Since V chord in a minor key is not always flat, you may not need this.)

Relative minors
(Eg, in C, Am, Em, Dm)
Root: 4th string, 2nd fret; 3rd string, 4th fret.
IV: Bar on 4th fret; 2nd or 3rd string, 7th fret.
V: Bar on 2nd fret; 2nd or 3rd string, 5th fret.

Note: In regular music theory, a song in Am is really in C, but in this theory you’d capo on the 2nd fret to be in A, not the 5th fret to be in C.

V Chord with 7: Add 2nd string, 5th fret.

II chord: Bar 2nd fret, add 2nd string, 6th fret (ref relative minor of IV).