What is Chord Phrasing?
Chord phrasing is art of taking a chord progression and turning it into a means of personal expression. Chord phrasing allows you total freedom during the performance of a song to do anything you can imagine with the song's chord structure. In other words, when playing rhythm guitar you don't have to just play the chords that go along with the progression. Playing just the chords can, and will get boring rather quickly.
Every chord that you can play on the guitar has a scale pattern based around it. To perform chord phrasing we take notes from the scale patterns based on the chord voicings found in the song's chord progression. Sound complicated? Maybe the best way to show you exactlly what is chord phrasing is to let you hear it for yourself.
Below are audio examples of two versions of a chord progression "Little Wing" by Jimi Hendrix. The first version is the song with just it's chords being strummed. Here's the songs chord progression: Em G Am Em Bm Bbm Am C G F C D.
Now take a listen:
Now let's take a listen to the same chord progression- only this time chord phrasing is used:
That's quite a change! With chord phrasing we are playing along with the chord progression while using notes from the basic scale patterns associated with each chord voicing. Again, in plain English that means this: Each chord that you play has a scale pattern associated with it. For example, a Em style barre chord has a scale pattern (Em scale pattern) that is built around the chord shape.
In the tab below is the complete intro to Little Wing as performed by Stevie Ray Vaughan (and heard in the chord phrasing audio sample above). Above each tab staff is the names of the chords that Vaughan is phrasing from. All the root notes played on the low E string (6th) are played with the thumb. It's the only way to free up enough fingers to play the passages on the other strings. If you've never played with your thumb, don't frown upon it. Try to incorporate it into your playing, because it can open up a world of possibilities.
One final note: Stevie Ray adds the Am voicing right at the beginning that is not in the original song. Have fun!