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How to Create Dreamier Guitar Chords

Are you planning to write a romantic love song for a special person in your life, or in love with genres like dream pop, psychedelic rock, or shoegazer music? Or, are you simply getting bored of writing songs with those typical, standard-tuning bar chords on the guitar?

Then here are some useful tools for you.

If you’re like me, you’ve spent thousands of dollars on both records and effects pedals, in search of what it is that makes a perfect shoegaze guitar tune, well, perfect. Its been my project for a little while now to try to map those dreamy, romantic chords on the guitar and teach people to play them.

No delay, no reverb, no other effects needed, just a guitar and a tuner! Here are a few super easy chords that will bring that heavenly, open-air feeling into your bedroom.

STANDARD TUNING

Standard Tuning defines the string-pitches as E, A, D, G, B, and E (starting from the low E to the high E). If you don’t feel ready to use “foreign” tunings yet, standard tuning still works perfectly to play some dreamy chords.

But first, what makes a chord sound dreamy?

To start, I like to try to add 7ths to my major chords and play around with those. A major 7th is basically a chord that uses a major 3rd and a major 7th (for reference, a major 3rd is the relationship between the root and the second note of the chord and the major 7th is the relationship between the root and the fourth note of the chord). This really helps to open up the chord so it doesn’t feel so complete, instead it feels like the foggy memory of a dream, one that you can’t quite remember how it ended.

Here are a few major chords with added 7ths. A similar thing happens with major 9th and 13th chords

Shoegazing chords, Form AIf you play these chords in succession, it’s a pretty easy example of a dreamy major 7th chord pattern you can use all over your guitar neck, and you don’t need to switch the fingering too much. We’ll call it “Form A” because it’s a mix between a power and an Amaj7 chord pattern. The first two fingers (the pointer and the ring finger) fret a power chord from the A-string on. Make sure that you always mute the low E-string and leave the high E-string open. You can use this pattern in 6 different fret positions, and in all these positions “Form A” sounds full, harmonic, and dreamy.

Here’s a similar progression. Using an Emaj7 as the base and without much change in the fingering positions. We’ll call it “Form E”. If you want to test out the difference, play a simple Emaj chord and then change your position on the D-string to the first fret (one half-tone down) to an Emaj7. Ta-da! Now that’s dreamy!

Now, as you move up the fretboard, add your pointer finger onto the E-string one fret behind the D and G-strings, your pinky goes on the A-string with your middle and ring fingers dropping onto the D and G strings. To add more shiny brilliance to your guitar sound, leave the last two strings (B, E) in every fret position open.

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When you progress through the “Form E” chord positions now, it sounds like every chord flows into the other seamlessly

Dreamy Chords Form EThese are just two easy examples. Try to figure out some more and get creative! That’s fun!

OPEN D DREAM-CHORD TUNING

Lastly, I want to present one of my favorite open tunings along with another simple chord pattern which is also adaptable over your whole neck. I haven’t found a name for this tuning and finger pattern on the internet or elsewhere, so I named it myself! Let’s call it “Open Dream Chords” because it’s a bit like an open-D tuning combined with an emotive finger pattern that sounds very, very beautiful. Everyone should try this.

See below for the fingerings of each chord. As you move up the fretboard, lay your pointer down on the top two strings. Now add the ring and pinky fingers two fret positions further on the D and G strings and strum all 6 strings together. Choose any fret position and experiment with what sounds cool together. You can hear chords unlike any chord in the standard tuning. These chords sound fuller, more romantic and almost epically dreamy.

Open Dream ChordsThese examples are just a tiny fraction of the possibilities a guitar has to create a dreamy atmosphere like shoegazing pioneers My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive. You’ve got the tools now, congrats! I really hope that you’re going to experiment with them, refine them, and create some beautiful-sounding, shoegaze guitar music of your own!

Keep on dreaming.

Interested in bringing some new sounds into your shoegaze guitar playing? Try testing out some alternate tunings with our free course series, Alternate Tunings for the Creative Guitarist!

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Kenneth Estrada y Santiago
Kenneth Estrada y Santiago

Kenneth Estrada y Santiago is a songwriter, musician, and design artist, based in Berlin, Germany. He currently sings and plays bass in his band Downhill Willows, is CEO of the Berlin indie production company Pitchbox, and writes for the BerlinShoegazer blog.

  • Brian Henderson

    I guess Minor7, Minor9, Major9 and add13 chords don’t count as dreamy? Besides, idk about you, but my dreams rarely stay so pretty. Need me some 7, 9, Minor#7, half/fully diminished, aug7, and aug9 chords to say the least. I really also enjoy some dissonant pitch drones to put my head in the right space. My point being: There are way more options once you learn how to spell chords.
    EDIT: I just realized you are actually including the drone notes on the open strings and including them in the spellings, my mistake. I had skimmed and thought you just posted some Maj7 and Sus4 shapes…. which you kind of did, but using the open strings is definitely a step in the right direction.

    • Kenneth Estrada

      Hey Brian, thanks for your comment. You are definitly right. The minor mood is a bit rare in this article. But I didn’t want to show and explain all different kinds of chords here. I actually want to show a way that feeds the creativity of those who miss the magic and dreaminess in their guitar play. In my examples the harmonics of the chords are addicted to the open strings using steady chord patterns all over the neck. In this case there are more majors then minors. But having a look at my last example this random principe created much more specific and not that famous chord names. I’m not giving professional music lesson here. 🙂 I’m just a musician who likes to share his own way to be creative on his instrument.

  • Jeremy Royal Edit

    Brian. you win the world. Because of this comment, I DEMAND a follow up article on “How To Play Bad-Dream Chords”! 🙂

  • Curtis Luo

    Kenneth Estrada,

    Thank you for making this man, it was super helpful. I was trying to find these dreamy sounds for some shoegaze stuff I’ve been making. Now finally I can get to work without feeling like I can’t find a sound.

    Cheers!

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