13 Lesser Known Chord Voicing and Extensions For Metal, Doom & Stoner Rock

By Christoper Horton •  Updated: 03/02/21 •  7 min read

There are plenty of fundamentals that come with being a Metal guitarist. But have you have found yourself in a rut when it comes to composing riffs? Today we explore some lesser known chord voicing and extensions that will spice up your playing!

There are so many things you have to learn when you become a Metal-focused guitar player. You have to learn how to palm mute correctly to get different types of “chugs”. Then comes picking techniques, and how to use different amounts of fuzz and gain.

But your number one weapon of choice, is usually the standard power chord. It’s such a popular way to play chords, that power chords can be found in all kinds of different genres. But for me, I find it very easy to get stifled when using nothing but power chords to write riffs.

Power chords work great to build the “skeleton” of a song or riff. But if you want your riffs to really stand out, you need more in your arsenal than just your standard power chord progression. And that’s why we are looking at the 13 lesser known chord voicing and extensions today!

These idea will not only improve your playing and sound, but they’ll also make your recordings – if you’re trying to record at home – sound a lot fuller and more dynamic.

Some of these are totally bonehead ideas, that you might just have never thought of, or maybe you already use some of them! They may only add a single note to a chord. And then some of them are more refined and classy.

These classy chord voicing usually come from Jazz guitar ideas.

The criteria for these lesser known chord voicing and extensions, is that they can come from literally any play style. At the same time they can be used specifically for Metal players to form something out of the norm, or spice up one of your existing riffs!

We will be checking out voicing and extensions in Standard tuning, Drop tunings, and even a couple of 7 string ideas!

The 13 Lesser Known Chord Voicing and Extensions

#13 – Suspended Bass Chord Voicing

This is a really cool trick to use when you’re trying to make a regular power chord sound extremely heavy in standard Tuning. This is a lesser known chord voicing for Metal, that makes things definitely heavier. This is especially good for break downs.

The added bass note CAN make things muddier in the mix, so keep that in mind, and use this voicing sparingly.

#12 – Augmented Voicing

This can work as an arpeggiated chord, or you can play all of the notes together. It’s really up to you. This voicing gives you a little bit of flavor that a regular power chord just doesn’t have!

#11 – Power Chord Extension

This is another one that it great to use, just to add quick flair to an otherwise boring power chord. This is kind of a big stretch! So don’t feel bad if you can’t do it immediately. It takes practice!

#10 – Another SUS Variant

This one is used often by Dream Theater’s guitarist, John Petrucci. This is another variant that can be moved around the fretboard. This is another one that requires you to stretch out that pinkie finger!

#9 – Dyad With An Open String

At first glance, this looks like a backwards power chord, or inverted…and you’re right if you thought that! This is a great way to add some different sounds to your chord progressions. the bottom note is your root note.

So in this case, the above diagram would be used for a G chord.

#8 – Full Barre

At first glance, this seems like “Guitar 101”. But when used in a Metal context, this can sound really cool! When you throw a barre chord in the middle of a progression, it can really fill it out!

#7 – Full Open A Chord

This is a very specific trick, as it only really works with an Open A Chord. Now, played by itself it might sound…a little off to you. But if you palm mute?

This makes your A Chord sound insanely heavy! Almost as heavy as Drop A!

#6 – Drop Tuned Dissonance

This is a small, but very cool trick to make a chord progression sound “evil”. It is important to note, that this may mess with the key of your progression, so be careful using it in a mix.

I use this chord form often in in Drop A Tuning, and it makes the chord much more sinister.

#5 – Tritone Accent

This works very well, when played as an arpeggiation. But it also works really well as a palm muted chord. This accents the root note (in this case, B) and accents the Tritone to sound absolutely evil.

So this would be used as a B rooted chord. But like most dissonant sounding chords, it needs to be at the right place at the right time.

#4 – Drop Accents

This can make your plain old Drop chord sound very pretty! That’s right, we are moving away from evil sounding chords for a second, and checking out how to make some chords prettier.

This voicing can change the key of your song, and should be used wisely. Usually in a drop chord, the bass note is what carries the progression. If we assume the above diagram is in Drop D tuning, the bass note is in F. But now you also have notes that make the C chord.

#3 – Dissonant Chords

This is a popular chord to use in Metal, especially if you chug first, and then hit this chord. It is very dissonant, and noisy when you’re using a lot of gain.

If you listen to ZAO, Converge, or Dillinger Escape Plan then this chord will sound very familiar! These bands use this chord form a LOT.

#2 – 7 String Augment

Depending on how you use this chord voicing, it can be very pretty or very dissonant. This utilizes the open B string on your 7 string for a bass note, while adding in some augmented sweetness!

#1 – The Devil’s Tritone

The diagram above is just one way of many to get this ultimately evil sounding chord. This chord form, or any form of this series of notes is known as the Devil’s Tritone or “diabolus in musica”.

It was once even banned from popular music in the classical days! It was thought to summon evil!

The song, “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath is one of the most popular uses of this series of notes. It is not only dissonant, but it sounds very unresolved. The “evil” aspect of these forms is definitely apparent.

Strangely enough, these chords are also used in Jazz music!

Need to update your axe? Check out our pick for the best new guitars designed specifically for metal, sludge, and doom.

Christoper Horton

Christopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects at home in Georgia. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.

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