View Full Version : Are standard chord fingerings "more correct"?

09-27-2015, 10:38 AM
This has been on my mind for a while, so I figured I'd ask.

To illustrate what I mean, here's an example: In most books and songbooks I have, the fingering for the E minor chord is shown as 0432. One book recommended 4432 for Em. The other day, though, I learned that 0402 is an alternative, and this is not only easier, it also sounds "fuller" due to the additional open string.

What I'm wondering about is why the more complicated (more fingers) fingering is given as the standard. Is it "more correct" in terms of the chord (sound) produced? Or does the right choice depend on the context of the song and what sounds best in the context?

I understand it may be preference, but 0432 does "objectively" sound different to me than 0402, so I'm uncertain if any fingering is fine and whether it's just a matter of personal choice.

09-27-2015, 10:57 AM
Yes, partly it's a matter of context -- what are the last and next chords and notes played? -- and physical possibilities -- can you fit your fingers in there fast enough? -- and personal preference for the exact voicing you want. There's also the matter of portability. Closed chords can be moved around the neck while open-string chords are more limited although they give more texture. Any fingering may be 'correct' (or not) for any specific attempt at music-making. It depends...

Jim Hanks
09-27-2015, 11:09 AM
"It depends" is the right answer. Could depend on what "voicing" you want either because you have a low G instead of a high G (or vice versa) or what fits best with a given chord sequence. For your example, on high G, 0432 is gegb or a first inversion. (On low G it would be second inversion.) 0402 would be geeb - same notes but the doubled root will give it a different flavor than the doubled g. 4432 is begb , same notes yet again but now with doubled b.

09-27-2015, 05:28 PM
Others will work, and in some instances will work better than standard fingerings, but the standard fingerings are best to learn (perhaps "more correct" isn't the right question). You have to have a place to start, and the standards have become standards for very good reason.

09-27-2015, 08:16 PM
As Jim touched on, the notes b, e, and g comprise an E minor chord. In the first position I came up with seven "flavors" or "voicings" for an Em chord. And they are: 0X02, 04X2, 0402, X432, 0432, 4432, 443X where the x'ed string is muted or not played, the difference in sound being more pronounced in a low G tuning. That would be a lot of choices to hit a beginner with, so usually they learn 0432. All seven variations are "correct" Em chords but, as you said, the right choice depends on the context of the song and what sounds best.

09-28-2015, 12:39 AM
Thanks guys, this was educating, I learned new things -- glad I asked! I had heard of movable shapes before, but didn't fully grasp what the term meant, and it makes sense now. It sounds quite efficient in the memorizing department, too. Appreciate the responses and explanations. :)

09-29-2015, 12:13 AM
The chord shape you choose may also depend on wether you strum or pick. You can easily strum an Em with 0402, as you suggested, but with the doubled e notes right next to each other, it's nearly impossible to apply a picking pattern (at least to me).

Another example is C: While 0003 is perfectly simple to play (and to move up with barré), it may be nicer to hear 5433 in a picking pattern, especially with a linear tuning. Learning different shapes is the key to transposing as well as to integrating melody in chords.

09-29-2015, 04:55 AM
This is not advise in any way, as I'm not as experienced as many here, but I've been working for a while on movable chords and playing up the neck. It seems that the more comfortable I become with movable chords, the more I go back into the standard fingering, and it has gotten to the point where I pretty much play the standard chords, and pop into a movable chord shapes sometimes to add some color. And while in theory it should be easy to just slide up and down, it just doesn't work that way, and I find that often I can go from one standard chord to another much faster than I can go from one movable chord shape to another movable chord shape. I guess the point that I'm trying to make, at least for me, is that movable chord shapes are not the answer to everything.