Saturday, December 27, 2014

Guitar Chords With Roots on Every String

I decided the video was insufficient to demonstrate what I'm talking about. I only went through this trouble because I had not yet encountered this particular method so maybe it's novel. In the Levelland jazz class I took I learned the horizontal chord voicings, taking a GM7 on the 3rd fret and then moving to the GM7 on the 5th fret, then a GM7 on the 8th fret and then a GM7 on the 12th fret, and finally the 15th fret is the same as the 3rd. There is also one on the 10th fret but for some reason we didn't do much with that voicing, which I didn't care about because it was the one voicing of the Maj7 that I already knew. I feel this vertical method is as important as the horizontal method.

This was painful to make so donate to the SPCA if you find it useful

The main breakthrough that this method helped me reach was learning all the notes on the 3rd and 4th strings, which were a little hazy above the 7th fret because I simply did not play chord voicings that had roots on those strings/frets...and that's how I memorized all the other strings. I've heard one simple method for learning notes is to find all the BC_D notes and directly beneath then are the EF_G notes. It's at least something to start with but I've found knowing the chord shapes with root notes on all the strings really helped me memorize the notes....and furthermore, this particular skill, playing these 3 chord qualities with roots on any actually a portion of the jury exam that one must pass to graduate. I tried to write a computer program that would simulate this exam but I couldn't do it. I think there are random string generators online that you can program with music note names and qualities and string number but the easiest thing would be to make three stacks of flash cards. One set has all the note names on it Ab, A, Bb, B, C, Db, D...etc. The other set has three qualities, Major 7, Minor 7, Dominant 7. And the last set has the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6. Shuffle and Pick one card from each set and play that chord. D...... dominant 7.......root on the 3rd string. It would look like the Bb7 in my picture, except played on the 7th fret. See, everything is movable but if you don't know the actual names of the strings then you are either relying totally on your ear, which makes you more awesome than Oggy, or you only play the chords in the voicings and positions that you've always known and you never venture beyond that comfort zone. I played the 5th string root Maj7 formation exclusively for about 13 years. I got so sick of shifting 7 frets when I needed to play a maj7 chord that I broke down and drove to God-forsaken* North Texas to learn how to play better. This diagram is a way to push yourself into some different positions and it's definitely how professionals think, and you won't have to live in Levelland if you study hard enough.

This is by no means exhaustive, as there are voicings up the ass, high, low, drop 2, drop 3, 11th extensions...diminished, augmented, etc. But these three qualities and these limited voicings should give you something to work on.  One hint that I've learned is the professionals don't play these complete voicings. They simplify them to maybe two or three notes and concentrate on rhythm. They know what the whole formation looks like but speed and instrumentation make them simplify the chord shape.

One of the exercises I did was to play iimi7 / V7 / Imaj7 in any key and any position, and it's really not complicated because all the voicings you see in the picture are within a fret of each other when played in a particular key. It's a different lesson so I'll save that for later. I probably saw this lesson half a dozen times before I finally understood what it was demonstrating. It's merely a way to revoice the same chord so your comping can have some kind of momentum and variety. Western Swinger guitarist Eldon Shamblin made a career out of revoicing the same chords to make it sound like he was playing some complicated arrangement, when really it was just Shamblin who was complicated.

There's also a formation at the 10th fret but for some reason these 4 grips are the main ones for each chord quality.

*Considering Lubbock is the "city of 200 churches" this depiction is wrong. God has totally occupied North Texas. I mean it is flat and windy and everyone is white and wears cowboy hats and their "frontier days" parade is almost identical to a normal day. North Texas is like a huge boring theme park for Baptists where you don't ride on a hay wagon unless you pitched all the hay onto the wagon first. And you study animal husbandry or petroleum engineering. People in North Texas think Los Angeles is a fictional place invented to demonstrate the horrors that happen when you stray from God. It's noteworthy to point out that Los Angeles requires North Texas for survival, but North Texas would not blink if all of Los Angeles vanished. The most radical thing that happened in the history of North Texas was a Bluegrass music program was started at a community college. My arrival there is still discussed in coffee shops. In all my travels I've never met someone from North Texas outside of North Texas. North Texas is the only place in the last 20 years that I've been able to go to a street called Main Street and have a cup of coffee and slice of pie made by Ma at a cafe called "Ma's Cafe" next door to a western wear store whose owner is the cashier, across the street from the city hall/jail/courthouse where every week business owners play old country songs in a gazebo on a lawn. If you are under 30 years old then you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. 
I was driving to New Mexico way up in North Texas and honestly my road map got sucked out the van window. It took me a minute to get the van under control and turn around and go back to get the map, laying in the middle of the road. As an experiment I decided to wait to see how long before another car came and forced me out of the road. Another car never came. Finally a rancher drove slowly along his fence line and asked if I was ok. Probably thought I was stoned. I said I was fine and he nodded and went to check on his cattle. I finally got bored and started driving west again. I could see New Mexico about 40 minutes before I got there.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.