Guitar Trick – Playing in 10ths James Taylor style

I’ve just come back from doing some seminars at the National Worship Leader Conference in Texas. One of the teaching sessions that was really popular was “Cheats, Licks & Tips for Acoustic Guitarists”. So as part of our contemporary guitar styles series, here is this James Taylor style trick.

“I was quite surprised that one “trick” I showed that people hadn’t come across before and found really useful was something called “Playing in Tenths.” This is a trick you can primarily use in the key of D but of course can be used in other keys with a capo. Delirious used this trick to craft the voicings to Majesty – the song is actually played in D but to make it slightly more vocal-friendly it was detuned to C#.

All you need to learn is two shapes – one for all the major chords and one for the minor chords. These enable you to play any chord in the key of D in standard tuning with some new and great sounding voicings. The main rule is to only play the lowest four strings i.e. the E,A,D and G strings. You can strum or pick just don’t touch the B and E strings.

Let’s start with D major chord shape. Place your middle finger on string 6 (E), fret 10 (D note) and your ring (3rd) finger on the third (G) string, fret 11. See how this sounds.

The other two major chords in the key of D are G and A. All you do is take the same shape but slide it down the neck so that your middle finger is on fret 3 for G and fret 5 for A. Do make sure that your ring finger is a fret higher to keep the same shape as for D.

For the minor shapes, we’ll start with B minor. Again use strings 6 (E) and 3 (G) but make sure both fingers are on fret 7. Again this one shape works for every minor chord in the key and we can even think of the C# diminished as a minor in this instance. C#m is played on fret 9, F#m is both fingers on fret 2. And lastly for the Em you can either play it up high on fret 12 or down low with all the strings open (i.e. take all your fingers off the fret remembering to only play the bottom four strings with your right hand). If you do play this shape low, just playing the open strings does sound a little mushy so to give it some identity it can be helpful to form a regular Em chord instead.

So try all seven chords and see if you can get it to work with a song in D even in the relative minor which is Bm. For instance, the verse of Majesty starts with Bm, A, G, F#m, G, F#m, C#m and then outside of the key to A#. All you need to do here is choose a minor chord shape on fret 6. The finger picking pattern is simply played with strings 6 and 3 together followed by string 4 over and over. If you would like to know more about playing in tenths here is a guest lesson with Stu G from Delirious on our Intermediate Worship Guitar DVDs and the same technique can be used for bass which again is demonstrated on the Intermediate Worship Bass DVDs.



This technique is also taught in depth on our Intermediate Electric Guitar Course DVDs in Part 11.