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Playing partial chords?

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Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 127
Topic starter  

Just wondering what everyone does when it comes to fingering partial chords. Is it common to finger the entire chord and only play the appropriate strings, or do most people only finger the specific strings being played. For example, the song I'm working on calls for a partial D major chord (- - 12 11 10 10). With this particular chord, I find it easier to finger the entire chord and just play the top 4 strings, however, in other instances it just seems easier/more comfotable to just finger the notes to be played.

Is their a correct way, or is it a more a question of personal preference?


Famed Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2717

The term, partial chord, could also refer to strumming just some of the strings in a chord.

So it's good that you defined what you meant by partial chord.

I'm just sayin' . . .

But as for me, I'm a beginner . . .

and the only experience I have with not fingering all of the frets involved in a chord

is when I'm fingerpickin' a song and know that high e is not used in a G chord . . .

so I don't bother with it . . . and my pinky floats in the air . . .

observing the other fingers . . . hard at work . . . while it gets a respite. :mrgreen:


It's the rock that gives the stream its music . . . and the stream that gives the rock its roll.

Famed Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4459

As most things related to guitar it depends but in general it's usually easier to grab the whole chord and then only play the strings you want but in some cases it will be more efficient to just hold those satrings you need to play without holding the full chord.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!

Active Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 15

I'd go with fingering the full chord shape. That way, if you're too aggressive with the strumming it will still sound right except a little fatter than required. Also, fingering the whole chord may be helpful when trying to mute the unplayed strings if you'd like to go that route as well. I can't think of a very good argument for not going with the full chord shape, unless it's a particularly difficult chord and you're too slow to get all of your fingers in place, but even then I'd say do the full shape and use the time as practice to get better at those chords.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 10264

Like with a lot of other things guitar-related, it's all about context - what are the chords preceding and following the D chord?

To give you an example of what I mean about context....Keith Richards uses a lot of partial chords in Rolling Stones songs. So maybe he's rich and can afford a lot of guitars, all in different tunings; I, and many other people, can't afford that luxury. So if I want to play rhythm to something he's recorded in open G or D, the easiest way is to play partial chords on the D G and B strings. Okay, I could play, for instance, a full D chord with an A-shaped barre....5 5 7 7 7 5 - but how am I going to add fourths, sixths and ninths on to that?

Easiest way is to play just the G B and D D would be x x 7 7 7 x - played by using a mini-barre with my index finger, Dsus4/6 would be x x 7 5 6 x (mini barre still in place, just adding middle and ring fingers) and Dsus4/9 would be x x 5 7 6 x (mini barre still in place, again just using the middle and ring fingers.)

I suppose a simpler way of putting all this would be to say just do what comes easiest, and what feels most comfortable for you.

:D :D :D


"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)