Fret Farm

Complete Reference Books for Guitar, Bass and Mandolin
Including Chords, Keys, Scales, Capos, Modulation and Songwriting

Pivoting Chords

Pivoting chords involves making sure you keep some of the same strings played at the same frets between a pair of chords in the sequence. This consistency means that strings can continue vibrating between chords: they don't suffer the characteristic muting that normally happens when you change chords.

Pivoting is the reason that chord sequences involving lots of open strings sound good: the identical notes for successive chords give a consistency. They can also serve to increase the sense of movement in a chord sequence by acting as contrast to the changing notes.

Top guitarists use these techniques to generate interest, and using the chord charts in Fret Farm, so can you.

In a chord sequence in the key of A major we are playing Bm7 followed by E7, a typical secondary dominant chord progression. We might begin with voicings for these chords of x24232 (Bm7, with a barre on fret 2) and 020100 (E7).

Voicing the chords in this way retains only the B on the second string, second fret. This is a weak pivot, and gives the impression of a jump in the chord sequence that we'd like to smooth out.

By comparing the chord charts, we can see that there are two common notes the chord:

  1. The root note of Bm7 (the B) is the 5th note of E7, and
  2. The third note of Bm7 (the D) is the seventh note of E7

Our initial voicings don't show the second pivot at all. We can do better by playing the Bm7 as x20232 and the E7 as 020130. Now we have three strings that do not change between chords. Playing this sequence gives far more movement and flow to the sequence (try it), and helps set up the inevitable move to x02120 (AM7), which in turn shares two pivots with the E7 chord.

This can be taken one stage further by introducing interesting chord variations in a key that increase the number of pivots, without sacrificing the feel of the sequence.