What Are Chord Voicings When Playing Guitar

Back in the day, when I had started learning the guitar seriously, I loved to search up the chords for many of my favorite songs. It was motivating to play and sing the songs I loved growing up and the ones I heard on the radio. I encourage you to do it too! 

But when I played it for my wife (then girlfriend), she gave me a harsh, but honest dose of reality. It didn’t sound like the same guitar playing on the record. At first, I thought it was the specific guitar I had or the microphone, but I started to realize something. 

Not all G Major chords are created equal. 

Sure, many of my favorite songs used the chords I knew, and I was playing them. It sounded almost right, but not quite. I remember distinctly playing along with some James Taylor music as best I could and watching a video on playing it. 

Side-note: I went through about a dozen instructional videos before I finally found a decent one. I regret how much time I used to waste searching for decent learning materials when stuff like Jam Play was already out there waiting for me to use. 

Check out Jam Play online guitar lessons. 

As I watched the video, I realized the G he was playing wasn’t the same one I was. In a panic, I thought I’d learned the chord wrong. Nope. They’re both the G major chords. The only difference was the voicing. 

Boom! Mind blown. 

As a trained musician, I should have known better that voicing was important for the specific sound of the chord. They’re all the same, technically, but they do sound wildly different. In this case, I was playing the typical G major chord: 

  • Second finger, fifth string, second fret
  • Third finger, sixth string, third fret
  • Fourth finger, first string, third fret

They played it with the added D like this: 

  • First finger, fifth string, second fret
  • Second finger, sixth string, third fret
  • Third finger, second string, third fret
  • Fourth finger, first string, third fret

They use the same notes, but the order of the notes is changed. This is called the voicing. Let’s look at this example in more detail. For the typical G major chord, we have the following notes from low to high: G, B, D, G, B, G

With the added D, we have the notes here: G, B, D, G, D, G

One note is different, and now the sound has changed. Try it out for yourself and see. 

The point I’m trying to make here is that it’s not enough to simply “learn a G chord” and say you’re done. Experiment with how the chords sound by looking up different voicings. This is more of an advanced tip, but it’s good for newer players to check it out too. 

When you go check out the free sheet music sites, pay attention to how they tell you to play the chords. Listen to the actual music and see if it sounds the same. A lot of good sites out there will offer the correct voicing, but they don’t really teach you how to do it. And there are quite a few that don’t mess with it at all and just give you the basics. 

Go find some good resources and explore with voicings and see what a difference it makes. 

What Are Chord Voicings When Playing Guitar
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What Are Chord Voicings When Playing Guitar