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Recognition and Improvisation

One of the best tools a guitarist and or musician can have, is the ability to locate and recognize a chord progression, and transpose it. Today were going to get into the 3 of the forms for the basic major chord as discussed in the last lesson. To start off, the good old C Major Triad, as pictured on the left of this picture:

And incase you dont’ have a guitar handy, you can have a listen to sound clip in mp3 format. -Click to listen-

So then, recounting what we learned from chord construction some time ago, if you look at the diagram above, you’ll see that the only difference, with the exception of the Cadd9 chord, is the order in which the notes are played to form the chord. Think of the notes in the chord as tred on a tire, marked with letter names. Depening on where you start the chord, and end the chord, it’ll have a little bit different sound, because not all of the notes that build the chord are at the same interval you’d normally hear them at in major triad form. For example. This next chord which is also Cmaj, is the second chord except the composition is altered somewhat.

Lets take a look at the notes in the triad first:

From the bottom of the chord starting with our root note, or tonic, which is C we build a major triad form, most commonly used on the guitar.
c – g – c – e – g – c (First chord in picture) – So then what changes this Cmaj triad from the next chord, which is also a standard C chord? The note context, within the key which it is writen. Observe the composition of the chord:
From bottom to top: c – e – g – c – e

-Click to listen-

Notice the pattern to form the chord has changed some, but you can still see part of it, the first four notes. – C E G C. In truth, all that is needed for a Major chord is 3 notes. In the key of C that would be C E and G. – The rest of the notes, while they do not stray from from the key in which we’re composing, simply alter the voicing of the same chord.

Going back to the tire analogy, you’ll notice the tread has a pattern, but wheels come in different sizes, and do different things better in different circumstances. An example bould be, you’re playing a subtle peice of music, where simplicity in a break in the music is nice. You could play: C E G, softly and fit the mood. OR you could Belt out a full two octaive triad like the first chord and shatter the mood completely. – This is why there is more than one voicing for each chord form. And thats what we’re practicing today!

So on to the next one then! It’s the exact same thing! but an octave higher. Normally I don’t like to use the same example twice, but this is not the open form of the chord, and is also quite common so it’s good to recognize it when you come across it. Again, the same c – e – g – c – e make up, just one octave higher. This is fretted more like a bar chord, and for you sweep pickers out there, get to know this one, because when you don’t need a full sweep major arrpegio, this will save your butt in tight spaces, since you can sweep up or down the smaller three strings much easier than a full 5 string sweep.

Now then. The last of these major forms I’ve thrown in, because often times you’ll be in one of the other forms, and find the sound fits and works musically, but doesn’t quite have the effect needed. But not to worry! The Major Add9 chord is here to save the day! So what the heck is it? It’s a funky chord, thats what! Very very handy tool to use. Examine your chords, or rather the degree’s upon which they are formed. Rusty? A quick review then!

Scale Degrees: R 2 3 4 5 6 7

C Major Scale: C D E F G A B

The scale degrees are listen above with R in place of “1” meaning ROOT or TONIC (same thing.) – Now remember, there are sharps and flats between some of the notes. There are 12 semi tones, and 7 whole tones within each octave. That makes it very easy to get confused, but don’t – we’re not working with any sharps or flats today!.

Heres where the “add9” part comes in. If you’re counting out your chord degrees and you’re using a chord that will span more than one octave, you usually run out of fingers somewhere in the second octave, and since on a guitar the max you can cover with one chord (thats sensibley arranged in standard A 440 tuning), this little trick has been used.

You simply keep counting each whole tone as another scale degree. So instead of starting over again at R/t/1 – you simply number the next C – 8 (hence where the whole “Octive” thing comes from). So now we’re adding what again? 9? Well do the math, if C is 8. D is 9. – Theres the subtle, but classy difference. They added salt! Well not really, but it sure brights up the sound of the chord.

Now instead of: c – g – c – e – g – c

We’ve got this: c – g – d – e – g – c And you can listen to it here: -Click to listen-

So whats the point? How does this help me when I see a C major chord I have to play? Simple. Add9! Throw in the D, and you can phrase it any way you like, you can tone pedal through the chord and oscilate between the C and the D, you can arpeggiate through the chord using the chord form itself, or again oscilate down with Cmaj, and up with Cmaj add9. And you can do this, though it takes practice, in each of the forms you see.

So now it’s time for a homework assignment. What? Homework? Noooo! – Yes! And you’ll be able to get a grade too! – What I want from everyone who takes it upon themselves to read this lesson to do. Is post in the “Tachi’s Home work” thread on the Message Board, or email me your versions of the Cadd9 chord, in each of the forms cited. Thats three excersizes, and an expansion upon your improvisational chord vocabulary, as well as excellent sweep picking technique excersizes. Hope to see some good idea’s out of all of you!

Now get crackin, and remember – HAVE FUN!!!

– Tachi

Check out the tunes! Star Cross

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