The Open G Chord Problem

Someone recently asked me which of the two open G chord shapes they should learn and practice as standard considering they are both fingered differently and different song books and tablatures seem to switch between the two shapes depending on the groups and styles of music they are transcribing.

He was referring to these two different open G chords.

G open 3 notes

G open 4 notes

Beginner guitarists have more than enough on their plates learning different chords and shapes and do not need to be confronted with two or three different versions of the same chord to confuse things.

The bottom line would be to go for the 4 note G chord. The reason being that many more songs use this configuration in their progressions rather than the 3 note G. The 4 fingered G also produces a much more colourful sound and comes in very handy when swapping chord shapes with your middle and index fingers, whilst keeping your 3rd and 4th fingers static on the 1st and 2nd strings.

This technique is famously used in the Oasis song Wonderwall and the classic Time of Your Life by Greenday, both firm favourites for many street buskers. You’ll find this chord used in thousands of songs across the board and the position generally gives the guitarist much more note variety when finger picking and strumming.

The 3 finger G, although not so popular, is still very useful and is used in many classic songs like Mother by Pink Floyd for instance, when a not so colourful G is required. Keep it in mind and as your knowledge of chords and your playing ability increases, you will find the issue generally resolves itself over time as you will eventually be able to play many different chords in many different shapes, including 5 or 6 different G positions all over the fretboard. Flicking between the 3 and 4 fingered G chords will soon become a doddle.

For now, and for a beginners purpose, practice the slightly more colourful and difficult 4 fingered G. You will find it much more useful in the long run than the easier version.

Other Posts of Interest

Strum Like the Pro’s
The Correct Way to String a Guitar
How to Buy a Guitar – A Beginner’s Guide
Conquering Bar (Barre) Chords
Guitar Chords Made Easy

4 comments to G Chord – The Best Way To Play The Open G

  • Do not use the three fingered G fingering shown above b/c it makes it cumbersome to switch to other chords such as C major. Instead put your pinky on the first string, your ring finger on the sixth string and you middle finder on the fifth string. This formation also gets you used to forming F major barre chord. Learning the fingering for G I’m suggesting is a pain in the butt to learn but it pays dividends! good luck!

  • The 4 fingered G is used about 90% of the time and is ultimately the one to choose, but I think it’s too much to say ‘do not use the three fingered G’. I know a good few songs that use it, so as I suggested – keep it in mind. You’ll rarely need it, but if you practice it every now and then, you’ll still be able to pull it off when it’s needed.

  • Great article. I teach the four fingered version, but like you say, going back and teaching the three-fingered version is no problem at all. I prefer the 4, but the 3 is definitely appropriate for some songs. Thanks for sharing!

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