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  • Chord Question

    Posted by subsailor731 on July 27, 2022 at 7:27 am

    Very noob question time, what is the difference between the 3 finger and 4 finger G chord? I can’t see how adding or subtracting the 3rd fret of the B changes the difficulty or the tone but I may be missing something. I’ve been using the 4 finger version but am just curious.

    N-lightMike replied 1 year, 8 months ago 5 Members · 7 Replies
  • 7 Replies
  • Carol-3M-Stillhand

    July 27, 2022 at 9:38 am

    Hi @subsailor731 The “3 finger” G chord is 320003, or GBDGBG

    The “4 finger” G chord, aka Bluegrass G, aka “The Tony P” G chord, is

    320033, or GBDGDG.

    Since your standard G major chord is GBD, both of these variations counts as your standard G Major. The only difference is there’s 2 B notes and only 1 D note in the 3 finger, and there’s 2 D notes and only 1 B note in the 4 finger. They are both G Major but they sound just a bit different, so it depends on what song you are playing, what “sound” you’re after and also, how well you can make both G chord variations, and how well you can transition to both variations from what comes immediately before and after your G chord.

  • Kitman

    July 27, 2022 at 10:49 am

    Hi @subsailor731 , both styles of playing the G chord are used with abundance in many styles of music. Over that past couple weeks I was exposes to an alternative fingering of the 3 finger G chord: use the pinky on the high e 3rd fret, use the ring finger on low E 3rd Fret, pointer finger in 2nd fret of A string. What it’s sets up is the ability to shift the pointer to the first fret of the b string and viola you have yourself a Gsus 4/9 chord. A pretty cool sounding variant. 😃

  • N-lightMike

    July 27, 2022 at 12:09 pm

    Hello @subsailor731 ;

    It’s interesting that @Kitman mentioned fretting the B string at the first fret. Ok, so the big difference between the 3 and 4 finger G chords is that it leaves your index free. If you fret the high E string on the 1st fret, you have a G7 chord. That’s the most common of your new options with the index free.

    However, you can also fret the high E string on the 2nd fret and get a Gmaj7 chord. Very cool chord frequently used by the Eagles, if you’re into their songs.

    So now, let’s cover fretting the B string at the 1st fret. That would change the open B to a C. However, you still have a B note in the chord so it’s not a sustain chord. Instead it would be an add chord. But do you add the 4th note or the 11th note? Well, the C note is in the next octave above your G, B, D on the lowest 3 strings, so it would be a Gadd11 chord, or simply G11 where the add is implied. A true G11 chord would also have the 7 note, or an F note.

    Also, you can fret the 3rd string on the 2nd fret and get a Gadd9.

    So yeah, those are the reasons the 3 finger G chord is used much more often outside of Bluegrass.

    MG 😀

  • subsailor731

    July 28, 2022 at 5:28 am

    @Carol-3M-Stillhand @MikeGaurnier @Kitman

    Okay that is interesting, not what I was thinking at all. So much to learn… I was thinking it fell into the “easy” beginner chord shape (3 finger G) that I was trying to avoid and just learn the full shape. Instead it’s just a variant I need to store in the old brain.

    I didn’t get the full theory discussion about the add 7 and 11 but I will eventually because even though I don’t fully understand yet I know I can add my pinkie to the 3rd fret high E and get a D sus 4 and by lifting it drop right into a D which sounds cool

    • N-lightMike

      July 28, 2022 at 10:07 am


  • David_Leo

    July 28, 2022 at 5:41 am

    Love the full sound of the 4 finger G, but also love the versatility of the 3 finger leaving the index free for embellishments. For me, it depends on the song I’m playing.

  • Kitman

    July 28, 2022 at 6:03 am

    Just to let you know we are all still “noons” @subsailor731 : for decades I played the 3 fingered G chord because that was the chord I learned. I thought all G chords were played that way. Many years layered I started listening to a singer songwriter and began looking up his chord sheets. Low and behold there was this new G chord that was played with 4 fingers. I thought hmmmmm, maybe this is a typo. Instead I tried playing it and when I heard the fuller sound of the chord and have since been playing the 4 finger variant as a default every since! “Horses for courses” as they say. With so may things to explore on the guitar – even with a simple G chord – we are all noobs together!

    … and when we post what we think are “noob” questions we all learn so much through the answers that everyone shares through their experience and point of view!

    Thanks for posting your questions @subsailor731 ! 😃

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