Chords With Root on the Fourth String

Posted on Posted in Stories, Tips from Mark

Earlier I wrote about my “six-chord” neck visualization method, with two chord shapes anchored on each of the three bass strings. The advantage of knowing this is to gain access to a different range of melody notes on the treble strings while fretting the root note in the bass. Let’s start with the fourth string.

You all know the first-position, end-of-the neck D shape, with the root note as the open fourth string. This fingering is “in front” of the root note – meaning the fretted notes are at a higher fret position.

This shape, of course, can slide all over the neck without fretting anything below the three treble strings. (See the diagram.) Try moving it up two frets and picking the open E string in the bass. Voila! An E chord. Be aware though, this is a FINGERPICKING chord. You can’t strum it, because the open fourth and fifth strings aren’t chord members.

But, fretting the root note on the fourth string allows you to play ANY chord (B-flat and E-flat included!), not just ones that have an associated open bass string.

Using this shape, classically trained players often fret all four strings with individual fingers. That can be challenging, particularly for steel-stringers. I often make the “D” shape eaiser by not fretting the second string at all. I fret the first string with my little finger, the third string with my ring finger and the fourth string with my index. I avoid picking the second string with my picking hand. This produces all three notes of a major chord: the root, fifth and third, bass to treble. (Diagram).

I move the little finger for different melody notes in the treble, and sometimes barre the four treble strings with the index to produce other melody and chord tones.
Copyright © 2020 Accent On Music LLC & Mark D. Hanson

7 thoughts on “Chords With Root on the Fourth String

  1. Thanks Mark. I first noticed how you use these simple shapes in IN THE MOOD.I have all your fingerstyle books from day one,complete with cassette tapes.I am now working my way through ‘breakdown’,what a fantastic arrangement.
    Once again thankyou.Your music and teaching is truly inspirational.

  2. Thanks for the Chord Route System !
    This was how my music teacher taught me to find my way around
    the Guitar neck !! Many Many years ago.
    I am an old bloke ! *But I still find that there are things to learn even from newby
    Guitarist’s ( Sometimes things we know but have let slip in the mist of time )
    Using the circle of fourth’s B E A D G C F so on If you know the notes on strings 6 , 5 and 4
    You know all this But what I want to say is I FOUND THIS MUCH EASIER THAN THE CAGED SYSTEM
    Both work …

    1. Thanks, James. Glad to hear from you, and glad you know your way around the neck, whatever system you use! Mark

  3. Mark–this goes to show that, even at age 72 I can learn new things! I never thought of this root on the fourth string, and this morning I got to play with it and thinking about all the ways to have fun with it. Thanks!

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