In this guitar lesson we’re going to look at some underused intermediate and advanced guitar chords. Chords are obviously a crucial part of guitar playing and a critical part of music as a whole. Guitar players over time build a chord vocabulary that they can call upon when needed. Some chords are known by all guitar players such as power chords that appear in pretty much all forms of rock music. But some chords are known by considerably fewer guitarists such as the minor 7 flat 5 chord. A chord that’s extremely popular in jazz.
There does seem to be a direct correlation between the percentage of guitar players that know a certain chord and how frequently that chord appears in the music world. Take the humble open C major chord. This is probably a chord that all guitar players learn in one of their first guitar lessons. It’s a chord shape that appears in every musical genre I can think of from classical to metal. On the flip side, the minor 7 flat 5 chord I mentioned in the previous paragraph tends to appear a lot less frequently in comparison. This means that this chord is only learned by guitar players who’re actively trying to expand their chord vocabulary or, guitarists who have stumbled across it.
The problem with this correlation is that some real gems get left behind. Chords that aren’t necessarily used frequently but are quite important, easy to add to a guitar player’s arsenal and that just plain old sound good.
In this guitar lesson I’m going to give you 4 underused guitar chords. These chords can be described using the phrases from the previous paragraph. They’re chords that can add a nice bit of pepper to your rhythm guitar and make your rhythm sections stand out a tiny bit more if used correctly.
Learn them all or if you know some already, learn the ones you don’t know. Once you’ve learned them you can then incorporate them into your guitar playing to see how they sound when in context.
4 underused and cool sounding chords to expand your chord vocabulary
intermediate / advanced guitar chords #1 7 Sus 4 chord
Above you can see an example of a movable 7 sus 4 chord. Out of all 4 chords listed in this lesson, the 7 sus 4 is the easiest to add to your chord library. It’s also the one that you will more than likely use the most.
I discovered this chord when I saw somebody using it as a profile picture on a non-musical forum. It wasn’t long before I picked up the guitar to see what it sounded like. I played around with it for a little while and soon discovered that it can often be used in the same way that a standard sus 4 chord is often used. To add a bit of colour to the major chord or in this case, the dominant 7 chord.
The shape above is incredibly simple to master. That is, as long as you’re already comfortable with the 6 string dominant 7 barre chord. This is also where it fits quite nicely. If you have a bar or multiple bars of a dominant 7, try and incorporate the 7 sus 4 for a little variation.
The 5 string version works well too. Look at the difference between a standard 6 string dominant 7 and the shape above and see if you can figure out how to play the 5 string version of the 7 sus 4 (no cheating).
intermediate / advanced guitar chords #2 Minor Major 7 chord
The chord charts show you an example of a movable Minor Major 7 chord or MinMaj7. This chord and the next chord in the list for that matter are here for anyone who frequently uses or likes the sound of the harmonic minor scale. The Minor Major 7 is the first 4 note chord built with the harmonic minor. It offers a more intense sound than the 3 note alternative standard minor chord. I love to use this chord during clean and slow rhythm sections when I know the harmonic minor scale is going to come into play. It sounds great when finger picked or when it’s used sparsely. Just remember that it’ll provide a lot of tension so use when appropriate. Not just for the sake of it.
Conveniently enough, the Minor Major 7 chord sounds pretty good when used with the next chord in the list.
intermediate / advanced guitar chords #3 Major 7 Sharp 5 chord
The example images show you a movable Major 7 Sharp 5 chord or Maj7#5 chord. This chord, much like the previous entry can be found in the chords of the harmonic minor scale. To be precise, it’s the third, 4 note chord. This chord sounds a lot deeper and more complex compared to its 3 note sibling. Not deeper in pitch by the way but in mood. There’s a lot more depth to this chord than a standard augmented chord.
As for context I tend to use this chord in rhythm sections in pretty much the same way as the previous entry in the list.
intermediate / advanced guitar chords #4 7 Flat 9 chord
Finally, above you can see an example of a movable 7 flat 9 or 7b9 chord. Like the previous 2 entries in the list, this one is also part of the harmonic minor chord set. It’s the 5th 5 note chord. But that’s not why it’s here. The 7 flat 9 is actually here for 2 other reasons. Firstly, it sounds really cool. Secondly, it’s a brilliant chord to use in a perfect cadence situation when playing in minor.
As for sounding great, I’ll let you be the ultimate judge on that statement but the perfect cadence thing just flat out works in slow methodical scenarios.
I was shown this nice little trick by a guitar tutor while studying music at college. This happened when i was covering a Santana song and during the rhythm, at the end of a verse I’d play a bar of E7 before returning to the minor root of A minor 7. Perfectly perfect cadence. This sounded fine but the addition of the 7 flat 9 chord took it to a whole other level. Now I was splitting the time spent on the E7 in half and sharing it with the E7 flat 9. This resulted in E7, E7b9 / Am or Am7. This new progression made the transition from the V chord to the I chord much smoother giving it better flow. Give it a try.
There’re oceans of guitar chords like the 4 that I’ve shown you here that are all too often left in the rhythm guitar wilderness. These are just a few examples that I personally like. Always try to expand your chord vocabulary. It can only make your music and your guitar playing better.
Other things to see
In the mood for chords? Maybe you should go and check out the Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat Chord Library. You’ll find a massive ocean of guitar chords there. If you’re looking to expand that chord vocabulary, the chord library is the place for you.
If you’d like some more specific things to do, see the links below which are all chord related posts.
Hello. My name is Ryan J Mellor and I play the guitar. I’m also the creator of Eat Sleep Guitar Repeat. I’ve ben a guitarist for many years and my guitar playing has been described as “above average”. My guitar and music knowledge is somewhat impressive but most importantly, I have a passion for creating great guitar and music related content.