Warm Up Exercise

Open chords in the Key of A

Lesson #206

Video Overview

Get the educational PDF(3 pages)

  • Support me on Patreon.com to get access to this and 200+ other educational PDFs I've made, plus new PDFs I make going forward (1-2 added each week).
  • The cost is $3/month (one month minimum, cancel anytime). Annual plans also available. Here's a free sample if you're on the fence. Thanks!
Download the PDF on Patreon

After clicking the button and logging in to Patreon, look for the PDF attached to the bottom of the post.

Editor’s notes

In this lesson, I’ll show how you can warm up by playing all the chords in the key of A with open voicings. Specifically, you’ll be leaving the 1st and 5th strings open for all chord shapes - which allows you to play the Bm, C#m, and F#m as simple open chords (as opposed to these being played via barre chords). This results in a large handful of chords that are easy to switch between, sound great together, and otherwise make for great warm up fodder.

The typical way to play chords in the key of A

First, let’s understand how to “normally” play these chords in the key of A-major. Going up the fretboard we have:

e –––0––––2––––4––––5––––7––––9––– –––5–––
B –––2––––3––––5––––7––––9–––10––– –––5–––
G –––2––––4––––6––––7––––9–––11––– –––6–––
D –––2––––4––––6––––7––––9–––11––– –––7–––
A –––0––––2––––4––––5––––7––––9––– –––7–––
E –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– –––5–––
     A    Bm  C#m   D    E   F#m      A    

Of course, you could play the D and E chords in an “open” voicing, as shown below - but you’re still left w/ the problem of the Bm, C#m and F#m all using barre chords. In a moment, I’ll explain a way to avoid barre chords altogether and embrace open voicings for all the chords.

e –––0––––2––––4––––2––––0––––9––– –––5–––
B –––2––––3––––5––––3––––0–––10––– –––5–––
G –––2––––4––––6––––2––––1–––11––– –––6–––
D –––2––––4––––6––––0––––2–––11––– –––7–––
A –––0––––2––––4–––––––––2––––9––– –––7–––
E –––––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––– –––5–––
     A    Bm  C#m   D    E   F#m      A    

Those same chords, but with open voicings

Here, we’re going to make the sweeping change (for all of the chords) of leaving the 1st and 5th strings open. Meaning, we’re not going to press down frets on those strings - no matter what the chord is.

e –––0––––0––––0––––0––––0––––0––– –––0–––  <== leave open for all chords
B –––2––––3––––5––––7––––9–––10––– –––5–––
G –––2––––4––––6––––7––––9–––11––– –––6–––
D –––2––––4––––6––––7––––9–––11––– –––7–––
A –––0––––0––––0––––0––––0––––0––– –––0–––  <== leave open for all chords
E –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– –––––––
     A    Bm  C#m   D    E   F#m      A     

Here are those same shapes (in tab form), without the 1st 2nd or 6 strings typed out. You should still play those 2 strings (leave them open) - but the focus here is to notice the chord shapes you’re using. Look for patterns. For example, the A D and E chords all use the same shape on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings. Likewise, the Bm C#m and F#m all use their own same shape (the same as the A-minor shape).

e –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– –––––––
B –––2––––3––––5––––7––––9–––10––– –––5–––
G –––2––––4––––6––––7––––9–––11––– –––6–––
D –––2––––4––––6––––7––––9–––11––– –––7–––
A –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– –––––––
E –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– –––––––
     A    Bm  C#m   D    E   F#m      A    

Quick note on finger positions

For the major chords, use either of these finger positions:

e –––0––––0––––0–––                          e –––0––––0––––0–––                   
B –––2––––7––––9––– <= left ring             B –––2––––7––––9––– <= left ring      
G –––2––––7––––9––– <= left middle    OR     G –––2––––7––––9––– <= left index   
D –––2––––7––––9––– <= left index            D –––2––––7––––9––– <= left middle     
A –––0––––0––––0–––                          A –––0––––0––––0–––                    
E –––––––––––––––––                          E –––––––––––––––––                    
     A    D    E                                  A    D    E                       

For the minor chords, use these finger positions:

e –––0––––0–––––0–––
B –––3––––5––––10––– <= left index  
G –––4––––6––––11––– <= left ring
D –––4––––6––––11––– <= left middle
A –––0––––0–––––0–––
E ––––––––––––––––––
     Bm  C#m   F#m   

Now, mix and match these chord shapes!

Think of each of these chord shapes as a building block - which can be freely used & combined in any order. Keep this in mind when playing these shapes. Try out a few of them together, in a pattern, and repeat. Experiment with different strumming patterns. Play around with which strings you’re accenting. Mix it up! Especially when you’re warming up, this sort of free play can be very helpful to get the blood flowing and try something new.

Exercise #1:

e –––0––––0––––0––––0––––
B –––2––––3––––5––––3––––
G –––2––––4––––6––––4––––
D –––2––––4––––6––––4––––
A –––0––––0––––0––––0––––
E –––––––––––––––––––––––
     A    Bm  C#m   Bm     

Exercise #2:

e –––0––––0––––0––––0–––          e –––0––––0––––0––––0–––
B –––2––––7––––9––––7–––          B –––5––––7––––9––––7–––
G –––2––––7––––9––––7–––          G –––6––––7––––9––––7–––
D –––2––––7––––9––––7–––    or    D –––7––––7––––9––––7–––
A –––0––––0––––0––––0–––          A –––0––––0––––0––––0–––
E ––––––––––––––––––––––          E ––––––––––––––––––––––
     A    D    E    D                  A    D    E    D   

Exercise #3:

e ––––0––––0––––0––––0––––
B –––10––––9––––7––––9––––
G –––11––––9––––7––––9––––
D –––11––––9––––7––––9––––
A ––––0––––0––––0––––0––––
E ––––––––––––––––––––––––
     F#m   E    D    E    

Exercise #4:

e –––0––––0––––0––––0–––
B –––5––––5––––3––––2–––
G –––6––––6––––4––––2–––
D –––7––––6––––4––––2–––
A –––0––––0––––0––––0–––
E ––––––––––––––––––––––
     A   C#m   Bm   A    

Exercise #5:

e –––9––––0––––0––––0–––
B –––10–––9––––7––––9–––
G –––9––––9––––7––––9–––
D –––11–––9––––7––––9–––
A –––0––––0––––0––––0–––
E ––––––––––––––––––––––
     A    E    D    E

You can also do this with the key of E

If you enjoy this way of playing, check out this video - where I show the same exact approach but used for chords in the key of E.

Good luck!

I hope this was helpful. As always, I encourage you to be in touch with any questions.

Get my lessons in your inbox!

Every couple weeks I send out an email newsletter with links to whatever new lessons I've made. Sign up here and stay in the loop!

Enjoy my lessons? Buy me a beer!

If this and my other lessons have proven helpful to you, please consider making a one-time donation to my tip jar. Contributions of any amount help make this project possible (including the many, many hours I put into it).

You can also support me on Patreon. For only $3/month you'll get access to a print-friendly PDF of my notes for each new lesson (view free sample).


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:

📝 My "song" PDFs are now individually purcasheable! I've arranged a licensing agreement with Musicnotes, a service that lets you buy sheet music. Patreon suppoters get 50% off each purchase. Get the latest info here »   (last updated July 1, 2021)

October 14, 2021

How to Tune Half-Step Down (E-Flat Tuning)

Tips & Techniques  •  Lesson #394

A quick guide to tuning all your strings down 1/2 step (E-flat tuning), which is a very common alternate tuning used in many songs.

Patreon PDF

October 2, 2021

F Chord Cheat Sheet! 7 Easier Ways to Play It

Tips & Techniques  •  Lesson #392

A quick inventory of 8 different ways to play the dreaded F chord, 7 of which are easier than the dreaded six-string barred version.

Patreon PDF

September 28, 2021

Beginner Riffs with Major 7th Arpeggios

Warm-Up Exercise  •  Lesson #390

A quick exercise where I share over 10 riffs based on a single arpeggio shape, using major 7th chord tones. Backing track included!

Patreon PDF

September 19, 2021

Key of C Major Cheat Sheet!

Tips & Techniques  •  Lesson #388

A deep dive into everything you need to know when playing in the Key of C: notes, chords, fretboard map, tips & tricks, easier ways to play the F chord, and plenty more.

Patreon PDF

September 12, 2021

Major Scale Positions & CAGED Chord Shapes

Tips & Techniques  •  Lesson #384

A deep-dive into the common positions of the major scale, and how they each relate to the CAGED chord shapes... which makes it all easier to understand!

Patreon PDF

August 29, 2021

First Electric! 8 Things I Didn't Expect

Tips & Techniques  •  Lesson #386

I recently got my 1st electric guitar, and was surprised how many things immediately confused me. Here's a quick inventory, in case it helps anyone else starting out!

Patreon PDF

Browse my all lessons

By lesson type

By song decade

By musical genre

By guitar technique

By musical key

By popular artist

← back to lesson list