What do you do when you sit down to play guitar with another guitar player?
If you're new to it then you'll probably do what most of us did, play the same thing together. There's nothing really wrong about this. Indeed, if you do actually manage to play together then that's already a good achievement.
But it is quite easy to learn easy ways to arrange your favourite songs so that each guitarist plays a slightly different part, giving each player an increased challenge and enjoyment. And it also makes for a more interesting arrangement to listen to.
An easy way to create interesting arrangements for two guitars is to use chord inversions.
You might already know that a basic chord is made up of three notes known as the 1st (or root), 3rd and 5th. The first inversion of this chord uses the notes in that order: 1st (lowest), 3rd (in the middle), 5th (highest). An example of a first inversion is the open A major chord shape shown below.
A chord inversion places the three notes in a different order. It lets you move the chord to a different place on the fretboard and gives the chord a slightly different sound.
We can take the A major chord from above and rearrange the notes. We can use the top three notes of the open E chord form at the fifth fret to make the chord's 3rd the lowest note. Or we can use the top three notes of an open D chord at the ninth fret to make the 5th the lowest note.
You can shift these inversions up or down the neck to play any major chord. Simply find the fret along the respective strings where the root note of the desired chord occurs. You can find three different ways to play each chord so you can separate your sound from another guitarist's.
Let's take a look at a couple of examples to show how this works. The following chord progressions can be played by one guitar using open chords, you could record yourself playing them to practice with or trade places with a friend. The example guitar parts for the second guitar show the same chord progression using three note chord inversions of the A, D and E forms described above.
Example on D G A chord progression
This first example uses a D G A D chord progression over four bars. The chord inversions are played higher up the neck with a simple rhythm pattern of one strum per beat.
The D chord is played with the E shape, the root note is at the tenth fret of the first string. The G chord uses an A shape, its root is on the third string, twelfth fret. The A chord uses a D shape with its root at the tenth fret of the second string.
Example on A D E chord progression
Here's an example four bar chord progression in the key of A, A D E A. This time the second guitar part uses a mix of arpeggios and strums to create an interesting sound.
In this example the A chord is played with an E shape at the fifth fret. The D chord uses an A shape, the root D note is on the seventh fret of the third string. Finally, the E chord is played with a D shape, shifted up two frets to its root note at the fifth fret of the second string.
Use these chord inversions to create an interesting guitar arrangement the next time you play with another guitarist.
When you first start to experiment with them it might take you some time to work out where to play them for each chord. But with a little practice you'll start to learn the positions by heart and be able to pick them out on the fly.