With so much interest from my last entry about different ways to voice chords – I thought we’d take a look at some basic leading chord ideas. Leading chords are ideas taken from the piano and used on the guitar. The goal is to use altered bass notes on a certain chord to “lead” you into the next chord in a sequence. This is not a new technique and has been used for many years by players in many diverse musical fields. If you want to listen to some great users of the leading chord principal try; James Taylor (American Folk singer), Malcolm Young (ACDC), Ed Sheeran (pop singer) etc. It really is used everywhere and many artists use it as a signature to their style. So let’s have a look at how we do it.

If you take a very popular I – IV – V chord sequence – say in the key of D major you would have;

I                                                         IV                                                   V


D maj ChordG maj Chord     A maj Chord

D maj                                                Gmaj                                                   Amaj


Ok you’ve used this chord grouping forever and you know it pretty well. So let’s look at inserting a few “leading” chords in this sequence to make it a little more interesting. You will need to learn 2 new chord shapes for this and while they may appear a little challenging at first, the difference it makes to the overall sound of the progression is worth it! To begin you need to understand what the leading chords are and more importantly “why” they work – so here goes;

If you are going from a D maj chord to a G maj chord you can take the 3rd degree (note) from the D chord (which is F#) and play it as a replacement bass note over the D chord root (which his D). This chord is displayed like this D/F# and is often referred to as a “slash” chord (nothing to do with the G’n’R guitarist though). This is now a “leading chord” because the F# you have placed in the bass of the D chord is now only a half step below the root of your next chord in the sequence G. This draws the ear to the G; in effect making the change to G far more obvious and while it changes the voicing of the D maj chord it does not change its tonal integrity.

Looking at this from a piano theory position; your right hand would play the D major (notes D – F# – A) and your left hand would play the F# bass note instead of the D root to create a leading chord into the G major.


D-F# Chord










So your new chord sequence from D to G including your leading chord is now:

D maj       to             D/F#           to                  G maj


Likewise we can do the same from A maj back to the home chord of D maj. Taking the 3rd degree of A (which is C#) and playing that C# in the bass over A maj we get the leading chord of A/C# – keep in mind we are going to D so the A/C# will lead us back to the home chord because the C# is only a half step below the root of our D maj. It’s a beautiful thing! Here is the new chord;


A-C# Chord


So your new chord sequence including your leading chords is now:

D maj     to        D/F#     to       G maj      to      A maj      to       A/C#     to       D maj


Now you know what leading chords are, how they’re formed and why they work! The difference these new chords make to your overall sound will make all the effort to learn them worthwhile and they will make you sound more professional as well. These are some of the simple ideas that the pro’s use all the time so give them a try and experiment with them to change up your sound and give your playing more depth. Good luck!