Bob Dylan has rightfully carved out his place as one of the most influential songwriters of the past 50 years. Whether you’re a fan of his work or not, you can escape the fact that he wrote some amazing songs that even came to life in the hands of other artists.
His approach to songwriting is often straightforward, with the story usually being the key element. But under his masterful lyricism, he uses great chords. In this lesson, we’ll take a look at some select examples from his catalog that we hope will inspire you.
The Csus4 is a great chord when paired with regular C. It allows you to move your little finger on and off the sus4 note (the 3rd fret of D) which creates movement in the sound.
This particular example is taken from the track Desolation Row. In the studio recording, Dylan is actually tuned to standard with low E tuned to C and he plays low C like a drone, but you can apply it to a regular C major chord in standard tuning.
In the verse of the track It Ain’t Me Babe, Dylan uses the Dadd4 chord. This is a really interesting substitution for a regular D major chord. It still has the D major triad present, but with the addition of the 4th note.
This one is also very easy to play, it takes the form of a C Major chord, but you shift it 2 frets, keeping the same open strings.
This next idea is largely in the track I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine, but the concept is great to take away and use elsewhere in your playing.
During this track, Dylan relies on a few chords where he extends the chord lower by adding the fifth to the bass, giving the chord an alternate voicing. These voicings still give you the chord you expect, but the bass 5th tricks the mind into hearing something more interesting.
D (Drop D)
Bob Dylan often used alternate chords to create new and interesting sounds with his chords, this really easy version of the D major chord is from the track Mr Tambourine Man. The guitar is tuned to Drop D for this.
This gives you the regular D major chord, with the lower fifth and root in the bass.