D Shape Explorer Lesson

They all sound better when Justin plays it than when I’m fumbling around on my guitar. Is there a lesson or a video in which I can see how Justin picks the string to create melodies? I’m ok with strumming and hammering but not the picking part. I tried to re-create but didn’t succeed well. Thanks!


I think Justin is showing what can be done once mastered. The point is to explore not play the melody he does I believe. If you want to do a song using D shape melodies look up Justin’s lesson on Norwegian Wood by The Beatles.


This lesson makes me think of Zeppelin’s “Thank You”, i.e. multiple D and G shapes and sus chords. I think this was the first song that I ever noticed D sus shapes that were a deliberate part of the melody for guitar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12KbOAc8vmk


This Sebadoh song comes to mind too…though this one is capoed at the 3rd fret, but the d-shape, sus variations, etc, are still significant…actually there’s a lot of songs coming to mind on this topic. Good lesson-- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmUYyzfsZp4

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To anyone who wants it, here’s the PDF containing the most important D shape variations.

D Shape Explorer

The PDF is still accessible on the resources tab of the old Chord Shape Explorer lessons that were part of the old Playground.


I am finding the stretch with the little finger the hardest here… I cannot seem to get it into place without contorting my whole arm to accommodate it, and also in the meantime the pinky seems to lay to flat thus muting the strings below… irritating… and not sure if there is something i can do to get more stretch and accuracy…

The Sus 2 and 4 are straight forward but when the little finger wants to go to make moves on the fourth fret… it all goes south for me!

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Hi Chris,
That’s definitely a tricky one on the 4th fret with that pinkie…it sure took me a few months before I got a bit of a suffle out of it with my not big hands…

I was just trying to put that pinkie on the top string 4th fret, not because it sounds nice, but just wanting to know if… and yes, :smiley:
Good luck and keep practicing, eventually you will absolutely succeed :sunglasses:


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Thanks Roger… for sure keeping at it will assist… there is no chance of me giving up so no problems there :slight_smile:

Nice to hear from you and thanks for getting back to me…

Wishing you a peaceful and healthy 2023



Yeah, that’s a tough stretch…and I have fairly long fingers.

Been learning the intro riff to “Ahead By A Century”, by the Tragically Hip, and after a lot of experimenting, found it worked best by doing a mini-barre with my 1st finger on the 3 thinnest strings, 2nd fret. 2nd finger on B string, 2nd fret.

This freed up my 3rd and 4th fingers for the 4th and 5th frets of the e string.

This is a great exercise for stretching out those fingers, but don’t overdo it at first…there’s risk of hand and arm pain if you practice too long, or press too hard.

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It was this lesson which made me realize that I am not ready to progress into grade 3. I am good with strumming/singing/fingerstyle/chord changes, the F chord and some other barre chords. However, I have not spent enough time learning the notes on the neck and it shows. I had amp troubles and without the electric, avoided power chords. Justin’s slight frustration when he mentioned this was so obviously directed at me, I immediately went back to consolidating grade 2. I hope that he will forgive me. :laughing:

I got a book about how to learn the whole neck in like 20 minutes or something. So knowing me, I will probably be at it for a year or two.

I also decided to do the beginner’s practical theory courses in hopes that opens more up to me. More info and taking it slow is always better.

Best of luck to everyone.


My favourite chord in this lesson was the d major with the 3rd finger off


I too have shirked power chords (not completely) as I am only playing acoustic and to my ear they sound terrible on an acoustic guitar.

I was aware that I am deficient in my knowledge of the notes on the fretboard, I have the ‘anchor’ ones now on the top two strings but have to think about it for others rather than ‘knowing’ it. I made up and printed off a colour coded fretboard note guide for myself which lives on my music stand and is slowly helping me learn.

I also think I am not really at grade 3 standard but trying some of the new techniques out is helping alleviate the boredom, so intent to dip in and out whilst consolidating what I have learnt so far.

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It was a nice experience trying new things but my pinky finger isn’t THAT flexible so I kindda ended up having a hard time playing some of the variations of the D chord.
Definetly an interesting experience.

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this is the first time my fretting hand stretched like dying fish

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Looking at the PDF Jeff referenced for the D Shape Explorer, I’m confused about the 2 variations of D6. One uses Root, 3rd, 5th & 6th, while the other just Root, 3rd & 6th. Are they both a D6, or is the former a Dadd6, or is the latter not really a D6, or what?

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I believe the correct name would be D6(no5).

Usually, the 5th is the first note we (can) omit when constructing extended chords. It’s because we don’t really need it here. A 5th adds less colour than eg a 6th or 7th. The third is essential to make the chord major or minor.


I just had a flash of a learning idea, relating back somewhere around the grade 1 stuff, and thought it may be helpful or something.
When I tried the regular D into open strings back into the regular D shift, I had to realize that I struggle to put back my fingers where they were despite I just lifted them off. Tried to do it without looking of course, because that’s also something I am working on.
The Grade 1 stuff I thought to connect this with is the air changes, something that I found difficult to get into, I still struggle with air changing into F, my fingers just don’t seem to know where they are supposed to go, despite me being quite familiar with the chord.

My Idea (not gonna be that huge of a breakthrough) is that as a step 0 for getting into air changes, one could start off by ‘air changing’ a specific chord into itself, preferably without looking. I think this tiny step helps to connect - at least for me - all the technical stuff I mentioned above.

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The second Justin played one of the D chord modifications it instantly reminded me of ABBA, so when he mentioned it I felt some pride in myself that I noticed it and looked up Mamma Mia and it has some variations around the D shape !! Found myself the song that I will learn this module !!