Practice Log #5
Adding pinky accent notes to a chord progression
Print-friendly version of this lesson
For a print-ready PDF of this lesson, become a supporter on my Patreon page. For a few bucks a month, you get access to PDFs of all my new lessons.
I recently found myself exploring the progression C-Dm7-Am-Fmaj7 - and as I strummed along, I couldn’t but notice that there was a fun opportunity to use your left-pinky on the 3rd fret of the B-string for all four of the chords. By adding and removing this one finger, you could in fact recreate many of the vocal melodies heard throughout the Taylor Swift song “Delicate”. Even if you don’t know that song, this lesson I put together provides a valuable explanation in show you can learn these four chords and create 3-4 different distinctive riffs (with rhythmic strumming incorporated) - all by simply adding and removing one finger (your left pinky) on to the same note (B string, 3rd fret) for each of the chords.
Learning the chord shapes
First, learn these four chord shapes. The Dm7 is probably the more exotic of these, but it isn’t terribly difficult to learn (if you’re comfortable with using your index finger to barre the thinnest two strings). Notice how your left index finger is what’s playing the B string for each of the chords here:
–––0–––––1–––––0–––––0––– –––1–––––1–––––1–––––1––– <== left index finger used here –––0–––––2–––––2–––––2––– on all 4 of these chords –––2–––––0–––––2–––––3––– –––3–––––––––––0––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––– C Dm7 Am Fmaj7
Next, try adding your left pinky to the 3rd fret of the B string for each chord. Once you can play this, casually try removing your left pinky - but keeping the rest of the chord the same. This entire exercise to follow is based on this idea: keep your left hand in the chord shape, and then add or remove your left pinky to that note.
–––0–––––1–––––0–––––0––– –––3–––––3–––––3–––––3––– <== add left pinky finger on 3rd fret –––0–––––2–––––2–––––2––– of the B string (keep left index –––2–––––0–––––2–––––3––– finger on 1st fret) –––3–––––––––––0––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––– C Dm7 Am Fmaj7
Riff 1: Basic off-and-on
Play each chord for 8 counts as shown below - and notice how your left pinky is pressed down (on the B string, 3rd fret) for the second 4 counts. Then, after switching chords, remove your pinky for the first 4 counts before adding it again. Another way to describe this one: strum each chord twice normally, then strum it twice with your pinky down (after that, switch to the next chord and do it all again). See my video lesson for reference.
––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––1–––––––1–––––––3–––––––3–––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + D D D D D D D D > > > >
Riff 2: Bring in a strumming pattern
Same deal here: play each chord for 8 counts. This time, for each 8 count sequence you’ll want to press & remove your left pinky (3rd fret of B string) to match the tab below. Use the strumming pattern shown below, which can be tricky! See my video for reference.
"Dive bar on the east side, where you at..." ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––3–––––3–1–––3–––3–––1–3–3–––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + D U D D D D U D > > > >
Riff 3: Practice hammer-ons
Here’s another strummy riff that uses the hammer-on tab shown below for each of the 4 chords. This strum is a bit more straightforward - and again, see my video lesson for reference.
"Isn't it... isn't it, isn't it..." ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––1h3–3–––––––––––1h3–3–––1h3–3–––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– D D D D U D D D D U 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + > > > >
Riff 4: Utilize the open E-string
This one is a bit more “delicate”, as you’re not longer strumming throughout the 8 counts. Instead, you strum once on the first “1” count, and then strum again on the next “1” count. Otherwise, you want the melody notes I tab out to ring out cleanly. Note, for the Dm7 chord you’ll need to unbarre your index finger to play the open E string in the first measure (tricky).
"Is it cool that I said all that?" ––––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––– ––3–––––3–––––1–––1–––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
The main takeaway here: many times, you’ll be playing a chord progression that can be spiced up by adding a single note, consistently, across all of the chords you’re playing. Another example is that of adding your left-pinky on the high-E string (3rd fret) of the C-Am-Fadd9, all of which pair nicely with a G (which requires your left pinky to be on that note anyway). Regardless of the specific example, these situations create valuable practice opportunity to combine your playing style of choice (rhythm, lead, etc) in a way that utilizes this single note and finds way to make creative sounds with it.
Enjoy this lesson? Buy me a beer!
If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider donating to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it). Thanks!
Subscribe to my YouTube channel
Be sure to never miss a lesson by subscribing on YouTube. I put out 2-3 new videos every week. These include full song lessons, as well as covers, practice tips, behind-the-scenes updates. Thanks!
Recent video lessons:
📝 Print-friendly PDFs now available for all new lessons I make, including all those listed below. Get a free sample »
- St James Infirmary Blues
Feb 16, 2019
- Barre chord strength & Smells Like Teen Spirit (Warm Up #15)
Feb 14, 2019
- Faking open chords in key of D w/ major & minor triads (Warm Up #14)
Feb 10, 2019
- Copperhead Road by Steve Earle
Feb 7, 2019
- Guantanamera by Pete Seeger
Jan 31, 2019
- "Blue on Black" grooving on D5-Cadd9-G (Warm Up #13)
Jan 26, 2019
- Adding fills to the "Wild Horses" intro (Practice Log #9)
Jan 24, 2019
- Light On by Maggie Rogers
Jan 19, 2019
- Improvised pickin' on The Gambler (Practice Log #8)
Jan 17, 2019
- Faking open chords in key of A
Jan 12, 2019
- My Top Lessons of 2018
Jan 8, 2019
- Heart of Gold by Neil Young
Jan 5, 2019
- Auld Lang Syne (traditional)
Dec 31, 2018
- Faking open chords in key of E
Dec 27, 2018
- Last Christmas by Wham!
Dec 24, 2018
- Please Come Home for Christmas by The Eagles
Dec 17, 2018
- Guitar chords on a ukulele
Dec 13, 2018
- Slap strumming basics (percussive rhythm technique)
Dec 8, 2018
- How to practice with a backing track, feat. Tennessee Whiskey (Practice Log #7)
Dec 1, 2018
- Playing A-major with big fingers or a small fretboard
Nov 27, 2018
- E-major backyard groove (feat. Posters by Jack Johnson)
Nov 21, 2018
- How to play F#m (F sharp minor)
Nov 18, 2018
Monthly email updates
If you want to keep posted of new lessons over email, sign up for my newsletter. I'll email once a month with a digest of all my new videos. I promise: no spam.