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Using Open Strings to Create

Unique Chord Voicings

The discovery of the chords in this lesson series was motivated by the desire to get an altered tuning sound in standard tuning. I got into various altered tunings for several years, analyzed why they sounded the way they did and figured out how to get that sound in standard tuning.

Interested? Read on!


I came up with three characteristics that produced what I was looking for:

  1. One or two drone notes occurring on top of the progression, usually open strings.

  2. Close intervals (2nds or minor 2nds) in the middle of the chord. When played alone these intervals are very dissonant but when placed in the context of the chord they become beautiful. Many times the dissonant interval is an inverted 9th. One note of these close intervals is frequently an open string. If not, a big stretch in fret-hand fingering is required.

  3. Use of inversions to create smooth bass lines. The bass line often "walks" like in jazz.


The chords that I came up with that exhibit some or all of these characteristics I call "Unique Voicings" because they usually involve open strings and so cannot be transposed. The context for the term is very guitaristic. They are available in only one position on a single root - thus the term "Unique."

Though initially applied to steel string acoustic guitar, I've since applied Unique Voicings to all kinds of music and all kinds of guitars, steel-string acoustic, classical and electric. Unique Chord Voicings have become an integral part of the way I play today.

The Unique Chord Voicings lesson series is a PDF download that has:

  • 32 lessons

  • 155 pages

  • 1,303 Fretboard diagrams

  • 35 video links

Here's what the PDF looks like:

Here is the first video out of 32:

Here's some more free content: Unique Voicings based on 1st position chords you probably already know; G, C & D:

The next video will show you 4 types of 7th chords in 2 voicings. Then we're going to add open strings to these 8 chord shapes to create Unique Voicings for a total of 71 different chords!

Take the first lesson out of 32 given in the video above; you could spend months on the various chords - figuring out how you want to use them, discovering them in songs you've always wondered how to play and realizing there are many million-dollar songs that use them.

There are 14 different chords given...BUT...there's only two chord shapes! 

Some of those chords are very complex from a theory point of view and sound awesome but they are all easy to play!

It's the best of everything; sounds awesome, easy to play.

The second video gave you chords based on 1st-position G, C & D. It demonstrated how you can take a typical tune consisting of a cliché chord progression and give it a more atmospheric texture by adding the 9th to the middle of the chord.

It's a way to put your own stank on things, and make you stand out from the gazillions of other guitarists playing those same songs - if you care about that.

The 3rd video gave 8 different shapes for 4 different types of 7th chords. These 7th chords are, in-and-of-themselves, a little more complex than the basic chords given in the previous 2 videos.


They become even more complex when adding open strings to create Unique Voicings...BUT...they are all easy to play!

If you are interested in jazz standards or any genre that uses 7th chords, these 7th-chord-based Unique Voicings will distinguish you from the plethora of guitarists using typical 7th chord voicings.




Are all the chords in this lesson series, "easy to play?"

Most of them are. Some are difficult, and a few may be impossible for some people.

Even so, don't let a half-dozen chord shapes you may not be able to finger deter you from the hundreds that you can! 

How many new chords did you get from just the 3 videos above? Remember, there are over a thousand chords given in this lesson series - so what if you skip the relatively few difficult ones? You'll still get massive value from these lessons.

I'm a Songwriter. Will Unique Chord Voicings Help?


You should be able to see by now that having these chords in your back pocket can greatly enhance your songwriting. 

The sound of many of these chords can actually inspire your songwriting! That's one of the things they've done for me. 

The use of Unique Voicings can set your songs apart from the herd of typical singer-songwriters. Your songs will sound different!

Do you create guitar-centric instrumental music? Unique Chord Voicings will notch that up. It will give you a whole new vocabulary of chords and textures, guaranteed!

BTW: The theme song that you hear at the beginning of most of my teaching videos is an original (Into the Great Black Dark from my SoundTracks CD) and consists of Unique Voicings.

I'm a new member and/or haven't gone through any of

your Vertical Truth method - is it still worth it for me purchase Unique Chord Voicings?

Absolutely. These lessons are designed to be as "self-teaching" as possible. In spite of the fact that I name everything and talk about the theory behind it (that's just me!), you don't have to understand all the ins-and-outs of the theory involved, or even the names of the chords. Just use the ones that sound good to you.


There is no music notation; you don't have to know how to read music to go through this entire lesson series. There's not even tab; it's all fretboard diagrams complete with fingerings and demonstration videos. You need not have gone through my Vertical Truth method - Unique Chord Voicings will work as a stand-alone lesson series.


There is a reason why I have not integrated Unique Chord Voicings with the Vertical Truth material. Unique Chord Voicings is a very guitar-centric approach. From an intellectual standpoint it appears to be all over the place; the methodology wouldn't make much sense to a pianist, for instance. But if you understand the nature of the guitar, the method reveals itself. The Vertical Truth stuff, on the other hand, is intellectually rigorous; it is a theory-centric approach to applying music theory to the guitar that a knowledgeable player of any instrument would understand.


The Unique Chord Voicings lesson series is dictated by the nature of the guitar. Having said that, it is true that the more theory you know, the more you'll get out of it. 


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