Why does this sequence sound good?

Goofing around on the fretboard and found this sequence that I found very pleasant. Wondering if there is an obvious theoretical explanation for why it is nice.

e | 0 --- 0 --- 0*
B | 7 --- 9 --- 12
G | 7 --- 9 --- 12
D | 0 --- 0 --- 0
A | x --- x --- x
E | x --- x --- x

(*) = harmonic

I tried to work out what chords these are, what I landed on is:

  • D add 2
  • E7/D
  • Em/D

At least to my very basic level of knowledge, that seems like a pretty weird progression, but I very much like how it sounds.

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Hi Brendan,

The last chord is the same that you have with open strings, you only play the A and D strings an octave higher, and octaves always sound good together.

However, if you always play the low E string open, you can’t have /D slash chords as the lowest note will be an E.

Damn, I wrote my tab upside down. Sorry about that! The order of strings on a tab has never been intuitive to me, I should have checked before posting. Fixed it now. :confounded:

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I can give it a go although I am not an expert in this sort of stuff so I might miss something not so obvious :smiley:

7th fret - D D F# E - F# is 3rd of D major scale. E is 2nd of D major scale.
9th fret - D E Ab E - All notes are D major scale except Ab which would be a b5/#4 note. #4 is a Lydian mode so note Ab is not belonging to D major scale so to speak.
12th fret - D G B E - That’s again all sounds of D major scale.

Overall most notes are belonging to D major scale hence it sounds nice and our ears are most familiar with it. As #4 note is sort of in the middle it doesn’t stuck out hence it probably still sounds naturally, although if you play D major scale and change 4th note to 4# you will hear it sounds a bit odd. All goes to a personal taste.

I would suggest trying to play second chord as (starting from D string) 0 9 10 0 and see if it sounds better - you make it a full D major scale progression and major scale is more familiar to an average ear :slight_smile:


They could be multiple reasons theoretically why it sound good. Here’s my take.
Your playing over a drone note D the chords would be Dadd2 the 1 chord, E7/D the 5th of the 5th (A is the 5th of D and E is the 5th af A) the 5 chord is often played as a dominant 7 and the last chord is a G6/D. G is the 4 of D. Your basically playing a 1 5 4 chord progression. Substituting the 5th of the 5th.

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If you want to learn more look up secondary dominant substitution

Maybe this will help?

If you lay your guitar flat on your lap, the tab will line up with the strings i.e. the bass E string will be the closest to your body, and the treble e string will be farthest away.

I found it much more intuitive once I realized this.

Maybe part of the confusion is caused by strumming direction? When drawn as arrows down strums look like “up” strums on a tab sheet…in that they go up towards the top of the page.

That’s why I always write strums as D or U on a tab or lead sheet - to avoid this confusion.

Guitar playing is filled with these inconsistencies e.g. Why the hell are frets numbered ascending in pitch, but strings are numbered descending in pitch, and counting from floor to ceiling ??? :wink:

I’m curious and think I may need to play this and have a little think.

Thanks Tom, yeah I am aware of that but it still feels like the ‘wrong’ way to write it in my head. I think my brain visualises strings the way they appear when you are looking at somebody else holding a guitar (or yourself on video).

Interesting - maybe you find it easier to visualize in the 3rd person?

I’m the opposite…1st person “as seen from my own eyes” is easiest for me. Any mental translations like rotating a chord diagram or to a mirror image makes it harder for me.