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The D Shape: Create chords and lead lines

Most of us learned how to play a D chord very early on in our history of playing guitar. You can actually use this shape all over the fretboard to create interesting sounding chords and melodic lead playing.

The D Shape


How it works

The note where your third (ring) finger is on the B string determines the chord that you are playing. In the case of the typical D major chord, that note is a D (3rd fret of the B string). As you move this shape up the fretboard, the chord moves up as well. For example: When you are fretting the following fret on the B string:

  • 3rd fret: D chord
  • 5th fret: E chord
  • 6th fret: F chord
  • 8th fret: G chord
  • 10th fret: A chord
  • 12th fret: B chord
  • 13th fret: C chord
  • 15th fret: D chord (again – one octave higher than the 3rd fret D shape chord)

It is important to note that you will probably want to mute all the other strings when you play this shape. In some cases, the open strings will fit with the chord, but typically not.

12 Responses to The D Shape: Create chords and lead lines

  1. Michael Norgaard Jun 8, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

    In the finger picking part one the lesson was T121T121 and so on. I didn’t know where this as going but in part 2 the lesson was T1213121 and it made since. This was a little more challenging than part one, but it was easy to learn. As a guitarist learning to get more serious about playing, can you give a lesson on easy lead licks and how it relates to the scale that is being played. Maybe part one and then part two. Thanks.

    • Brian Jun 17, 2014 at 9:13 am #

      Hi Michael, We have a series of lessons on playing lead guitar. First we teach a couple basic scales, and then how to put them together for lead stuff. Check it out in the guitar lessons section.

  2. Dave Jun 18, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    Would be way more helpful if your video showed the fretboard when explaining concepts….

    • Brian Jul 3, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

      Do you mean a close-up shot? We film all these in HD, so you can full-screen the video and get a closer view.

  3. Vando Feb 5, 2016 at 10:44 pm #

    This was helpful, I just found out about you guys the other day. Great stuff!

    I’m learning to play guitar and hope to join the worship team at my church.

    • Brian Feb 29, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

      Good luck, Vando!

  4. Vando Feb 5, 2016 at 11:05 pm #

    I also noticed I could just barre the G & E strings with my index finger and hold the root note with my 3rd (ring) finger.

    I started using this because as I moved up the fretboard with the D shape, it got harder to keep my 1st & 2nd fingers in the right place. But I still prefer your way.

    Thanks, God bless!

    • Brian Feb 29, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

      Yes you can definitely do it that way, and in some positions this makes it easier to play.

  5. Promise Sep 8, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

    Wanna be able to play or present something in my church I don’t know how to start learning worship side of the acoustic guitar… Advice?

    • Brian Oct 20, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

      Hi Promise – check out our Beginner Guitar Course – it’s a free lesson course that will teach you how to play.

  6. Eliana D'amore Jan 21, 2018 at 1:16 pm #

    Can you do the same with all chords?

    • Juan Lopez Mar 14, 2018 at 1:17 pm #

      I actually was looking for the answer of your question, can this apply to all chord shapes or just specific ones?

      I know you can do something similar to this with the F Chord shape without barring the entire fret board with your index finger.

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