The Gig As A Teaching Tool And Evading The Black Hole

My relationship to gigging has changed a lot over the years.

For many years, a gig to me was only as good as what I played.   If I didn’t feel I played well, then the gig was bad and if I played well then the gig was good.   During that time, at best, I didn’t feel that I played any gig particularly well.

Mostly I would just beat myself up after a gig and disparage what I did as a musician and as a human being.  Because (the faulty logic went) if the gig sucked then I sucked at the gig and if I sucked at a gig then I must suck as a guitarist – and how could that be after all the time put into it to not suck?

That’s an amateur view of gigging.  It took me a while to realize  I was using bad logic and taking the wrong lesson away from what I was doing.  (You can read another post of mine here that goes into much more depth about the amateur mindset and how to discard it.)

All guitarists still play mediocre gigs….it’s just that great guitarists play them less often, and a great guitarist’s mediocre gig is still at a higher level than a great gig played by an okay guitarist.   Additionally, professional guitarists disconnect from gigs when they’re done.  They might struggle after the gig, but they let things go because there’s another gig on the horizon to focus on.

But mostly what changed my relationship to gigging was the audience.

I started realizing that my own self assessment was really secondary to what the audience got out of it.  If I didn’t care about what the audience got out of it, then there was no point in playing to an audience.

The weird thing is that the audience got VERY different takes on the gigs than I typically did.  The gigs I hated were gigs the audience members often dug… and he gigs I liked?  By and large the audience was apathetic.  Eventually – between the audiences assessment and my assessment – I learned how to really gauge the temperature of the gig and how it really went.

The real question here is – Why does that matter?

If you’re asking yourself that question to puff yourself up and convince yourself how great you are, being able to gauge the success of the gig is not helpful at all.

For me, the importance is that being able to gauge what happened more objectively is an opportunity to learn.  What worked?  What didn’t work?  What should I do again?  For the things that didn’t work, how can I prepare myself better to get a better result?  As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Case in Point:

Last night I played a benefit gig at a place called the Linda in Albany, NY.  It’s the performance arts studio for WAMC radio and a very cool venue with a great staff and cool eclectic booking.  We were playing a benefit for WAMC with three other bands.  Our soundcheck was scheduled for 5.  Doors were at 7.  We got there early but assumed we’d probably soundcheck at 5:30.

The Linda had put a new sound system in that day that they were trying out so the staff had already been on hand for most of the day.  Two of the groups were going to use a backline (i.e. have guitar and bass amps and a common drum kit for use by multiple bands) to save time both in sound checking and switching between bands.  We got there around 4:45 and soundcheck was running behind.  The two bands before us had a number of things that had to be checked and we ended up loading our stuff onstage to soundcheck at about 6:45.

So the event began with a little stress but, truth be told, most events work on a “Wait – wait – now Hurry UP!” cycle.  We got our things on stage and worked out a few things with percussion mics and ended up running a few bars of a few tunes.  The house sound is LOUD and the monitors in front of me are on the brink of feeding back.  The tone I hear coming back at me is MEGA treble so I try to adjust with my own eq but its still jarring to me and LOUD.    I ask to be pulled out of the monitor directly in front of me as  I figured I could just use the house sound as a monitor if need be.

We left the stage around 7:10 – feeling really bad that this essentially screwed Bryan Thomas, the opening act, out of any kind of a proper soundcheck.  We talked to him as he was setting up and he said he can work around it (and he certainly did – Bryan pulled off a really cool loop based solo singer set)!  We then walked over to Van’s (a great Vietnamese restaurant in Albany) to get some pho before the set, and literally get back for the last tune of Bryan’s set and then have to load on.

While we were gone, unbeknownst to me, the overall house sound system volume dropped.  We got on stage, said a quick introduction and launched into the first tune.

At this point I couldn’t really hear myself so I started picking harder.  A lot harder.  Like bluegrass hard.  It was way too much excess tension and my hands were not responding the way I wanted them to.  We get through the piece.

The audience applauds and I introduce the next tune.  We only have a 1/2 hour and have already cut one tune from the set to get in under the time limit so (in a bad judgement call) I’m more focused on trying to get through the gig than taking the 30 seconds it would take to fix the problem.  Tune 2 – my hands are not responding at all the way I want them to.  I’m playing and they’re losing synchronization.  At this point, I become mindful of the fact that in addition to being too tense that I also have some adrenaline going and that’s pushing me beyond what I should be doing – hence the lack of synchronization.  I take micro breaks where I can to make sure I can pull off the unison line at the end.  We get through it.  The audience applauds again.  I take a breath and address the issues.

I try to joke with the audience to build rapport and keep them engaged.  I ask for some of myself back into the monitor.  Tune 3 is a slower tune.  I scale back and try to play less and continue to rest my hands where I can.  I try to balance being engaged with the music with doing what I need to do to technically get through the gig.  We get through the rest of the set.  It’s not one of my better performances – but it’s the best I can do in the situation.

I’m bummed because I know that this performance is being recorded for a future broadcast and I’m not super psyched about all of my mistakes being experienced over and over again but on the plus side, the audience is awesome.  They’re kind and super receptive, really giving us something back and really digging what what we’re doing.  The Linda staff is great and super supportive and John Chiara did a great job We make some new fans and some new friends.

I don’t play particularly well – but it’s a good gig for us.

This is one of those situations where my problem easily could have easily trainwrecked the gig.  You ever have that moment where you wake up and something bad happens when you get out of bed and that sets off a whole series of chain reactions in place (like tripping over a laundry hamper, cutting yourself shaving and/or burning yourself with spilled coffee)?  I call that entering the black hole.  Once you get sucked into a bad moment, it’s easy to get caught in the inertia of that energy (the  gravitational pull of the black hole) and just have compounding errors that spiral out of control.

There are two ways out of the black hole – and both involve mindfulness.

1.  Don’t go into the black hole.  If things go wrong, be aware of what’s happening and make mild adjustments and try to stay on course.

2.  If mistakes are compounding – take a breath.  Observe what is going on and make necessary corrections to get back on track.

This doesn’t come naturally.  You can’t learn it in a practice room by yourself.  The only way to be able to do this mid-gig is through a lot of practice and (un)fortunately, I’ve had numerous opportunities to practice this in a live setting.

Gigs are valuable opportunities to gain insights about what you do and the best ways to do it and (without getting to wu-wu here) no matter how many gigs you play, you will always learn something if you’re ready for the lesson.

As always, I hope this helps!

Thanks for reading.

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Getting hipness from a major triad or more chord recycling part 3

In part one of this post, I looked at generating different major chord variations based on flatting the root and the 5th.  In part 2, I sharped those pitches and then combined the two approaches to create additional chords and textures.  In this post, I’m going to look at applying these chord tones to  melodic (or lead) ideas.  But first…

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The Relative Minor Explanation:

The second post of this series ended on a cliffhanger when I said that all of the A major upper extensions would work as substitutions for F# minor chords.   You can read the rest of this Relative Minor explanation if you want to understand why this works – otherwise you can just skip ahead to the next section for some melodic ideas.

Here’s the explanation for this.

In a major chord, the 4th is sometimes known as an avoid note.  In the key of C, this means that the note F is usually viewed as a note to avoid either melodically or harmonically.  If we look at a major scale:

C D E F G A B C

the only 1/2 steps in the scale are between E/F and B/C.

Chromatics are powerful things in music.  They tend to act as tonal anchors to where the tonal center is.  If you play a simple ascending C major scale and stop on the note B, most listeners will want you to resolve to C.   In the major scale the 1/2 step between the 3rd and 4th makes the ear think that F major is the tonal center.

(For those of you familiar with ear training, if you sing a c major scale from C to F – it sounds like you’re singing so la ti Do – instead of Do re me fa.)

One innovation that came about in jazz music was to substitute an #4 for a 4 over chords with a major quality.  This put the 1/2 step motion between the 4th and the 5th.  Since the 5th is a chord tone in a major triad, it has less of an effect of moving outside of the key.

Here’s how this is applied:

  • Any Major scale with a #4 is a Lydian mode.
  • The A Lydian mode is taken from the parent Major scale of E Major.
  • The Relative Minor chord of A Major is F# minor.
  • In the key of E Major, F# is the second scale degree and uses the Dorian mode.
  • Dorian is a popular mode for soloing over minor chords.

Here’s the shortcut:

You can change the chord scale with the chord if you want here – but if you’re playing a chord progression that goes between a major and the relative minor chord (and you’re using Lydian for the major chord) – you can keep using the same scale to create a Dorian sound over the minor chord

(and vice-versa).

A Quick Review

Here’s the Major chord shape I’ve been modifying over the first 2 lessons:


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A Major

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If the root and the 5th are strategically sharped or flatted, other chord tones (7, #11, 9 and 13 can be created).

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A major with  additional chord tones on the B and E string

Since the b (9th) on the high E string is available, the 9th on the g string is something that can be incorporated as well.

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A Lydian/F# Dorian Chord tones based on an A major chord shape

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If I’m soloing over A major (or F# Minor)  – all of these notes are fair game. 

Try all the licks below over an A major type chord or F# minor type chord.

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Lick 1 (Double Click any notation to see full size)

Lick 1


I try to stay with consistent note-per-string fingerings on strings when playing melodically, so here I’m going to take the same idea and just move the last note to the g string to create a 3 note per string pattern.

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Lick 1: Three note-per-string shape

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed.

Here’s how it sounds at tempo.

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Lick 2:

Here, I’m taking the same notes and breaking them up intervallically into 4ths (except for the 5th in the last 2 notes which adds some variety in the cycle).  Licks like these are easy to visualize (and therefore easy to manipulate when improvising).

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Here’s how it sounds at tempo. 

Note:

When I improvised this- I played it as transcribed – but when I recorded it – I played the last 2 notes as 1/8th notes instead – please take any of the ideas here and manipulate them as you see fit.

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Here’s a similar (but shorter) idea with a scalar pattern at the end.

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4ths lick 2

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed.

Here’s how it sounds at tempo.

Lick 3:

Here’s an arpeggio idea that incorporates chromaticism.

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arpeggio lick w. chromatics

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed and then at tempo.

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A couple of notes:

  • In the beginning I’m visualizing a C# min7 arpeggio (C#, E, G#, B) starting on the B.
  • The chromatic motion isn’t random – instead it specifically emphasizes the A and the C# in the A Major chord.
  • In the 3rds pattern that ends the lick – I’m skipping the middle note of the 3 note per string pattern in Lick 1.  I like using 3rds in patterns because it breaks up the monotony of just running scales up and down.


Going Further – Dominant Superimposition:

Now that some initial options have been explored – I’ll take a look at the upper notes of the voicing.  If I take the previous fretboard diagram and extend a note on the g string I’ll have something that looks like the diagram below:

Here’s a chord voicing I discussed in part 2 of this series (B7/A)

And here’s how it sounds.

Short cut 1:

Playing a dominant 7th chord on the second scale degree of a major chord will get you all of the upper extensions and the root)

(i.e. B7 over A major)

Short cut 2:

When soloing over a major chord – you can play a dominant arpeggio on the second scale degree (i.e. B7 over A major).

In the example below, I’m combining a B9 arpeggio and an A major arpeggio to create a melodic idea.  The A and C# on the D string are the linking material between the 2 arpeggios (they act as the 7 and 9 in the B9 chord, or as the root and 3rd of the A Major).

The important thing with any superimposition like this is to resolve it to a chord tone in the chord you’re soloing over (in this case A).

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed.

Here’s how it sounds at tempo.

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Going Further – Minor Superimposition:

Here’s another chord voicing I discussed in part 2 of this series (G# min7/A)

Short cut 1:

Playing a minor chord on the seventh scale degree of a major chord will get you upper extensions (7, 9, #11 and 13)  of the chord.

(i.e. G# min7 played over A major)

Short cut 2:

When soloing over a major chord – you can play a minor arpeggio on the second scale degree (i.e. G# min7/A).

In the example below, I’m combining a sextuplet idea from the earlier licks and a  G#min arpeggio to create a melodic idea. Again, an important thing with any superimposition like this is to resolve it to a chord tone in the chord you’re soloing over (in this case A).

I’m not a fan of the shift from E to D# in this fingering as it requires quickly barring to get the rest of the arpeggio.  As an alternate fingering, I  recommend this:

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The “picking” is just a suggestion.  (For example: you could also pull off the D# to the B on the g string and then just continue the sweep picking motion.)

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Here’s how it sounds at 1/2 speed.

Here’s how it sounds at tempo.

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Wrapping it up:

This is really only the beginning of where these approaches can go.  Hopefully this will give you some ideas to explore both in comping and soloing.  If there’s enough interest, I’ll expand this approach to minor and dominant chords in future posts.

Final Tech Note:

For those of you who are interested, these are the approximate settings I’m using in Pod farm for the distorted tone here:

Thanks for reading!

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Getting Hipness From A Major Triad Or More Chord Recycling Part 2

In part one of this post, I looked at generating different major chord variations based on flatting the root and the 5th.  In this post, I’m looking at sharping those pitches and combining the two for additional textures (if you came here directly – you may want to review the A major variations in  part one before continuing).

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Start with a map:

Adapting chord forms requires the ability to visualize chord tones around the shape you’re using.  As a starting point, here’s a fretboard diagram of an A major chord (with the A being on the 7th fret of the D string).  I’ve added some additional chordal extensions on the E and B strings (but this process could be applied to any string-set).

In the last lesson, I looked at creating sounds with the 6th (or 13 – see post 1 for the difference between the 2) on the E string.  This time, I’ll add the 6th (6th or 13th) on the B string by raising the E  up to F#.

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A Major 6th no 5th

Here is the sound of the A Major 6th (no 5th) chord.

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Comparing this to the A major 6th voicing in part 1:

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A Major 6 - Watch the 1st finger stretch - if it hurts - stop Immediately!!

Here’s an mp3 of this chord.

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The new voicing is certainly easier.  If I was really stuck on the close voicing of the E and the F# in the A major 6th, I could simply move the F# to the B string and move the E to the open string like this:

A maj 6 with open E string

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Several Notes:

  • This voicing wasn’t included in the first lesson as I wanted to show the process of how to derive these chords.
  • The upside to this approach is it makes this specific voicing easier to play – but the downside is it’s not movable – which may or may not be problematic for you.
  • If a chord is really difficult to finger – there is always an easier way.  You may not get the specific notes or voicings you’re looking for – but there’s always an easier way.

Now I’ll extend the initial Major 6th sound by flatting the 7th.  This is done by lowering the A to G#.

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A Maj 7 add 13 no 5th

Here’s how it sounds.

Again,  I’m a sucker for chords with seconds in the voicing (in this case the F# and G#).  It adds a little but of tension and elevates the chord a bit.

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Adding in the 9th:

First let’s create an A major add 9 chord.

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A add 9

Here’s how it sounds.

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Note:

The reason this is an add 9 chord and not a major 9 chord is the lack of a 7th.

Since the chord is a major chord with a 9th added, it’s called an add 9.

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Now I’ll add a sharp #11.  This is done by lowering the E to D#.

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A maj 9 sharp 11 no 7th no 5th

Here’s how it sounds.

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Another Note:


The further you extend the harmony and remove initial chord tones, the more vague the sound of the chord is as related to the tonic.

For example:  The chord above could be analyzed as an A major 9 # 11 with no 7th and no 5th. But the notes are A,  C#, D# and B.  If those tones are centered around B – you have a B, D#, A and C# or a B dominant 9 (no 5th)/A.

If you have to analyze a chord with more than 1 elimination (i.e. “no 7th no 5th”) there’s probably a simpler analysis of the chord.


Going Further:

Now that some initial options have been explored – I’ll take a look at the upper notes of the voicing.  If I take the previous fretboard diagram and extend a note on the G string I’ll have something that looks like the diagram below (again the A listed below is on the 7th fret of the D string):

If I’m willing to be a little adventurous and replace the 3rd of the chord (C#) with the #11 (D#) , I’ll get a voicing with a root and then all upper tensions (9, #11 and 13).  Here it is notated:

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B7/A

And here’s how it sounds.

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While you could analyse this related to the key of A Major (A major 13, #11, no 3rd, no 5th, no 7th) you may have noticed that shape is the upper chord voicing for a VII position B 7 barre chord.

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Short cut 1:

Playing a dominant 7th chord on the second scale degree of a major chord will get you all of the upper extensions and the root).

(i.e. B7 over A major)

But isn’t a stable sound on its own.  If you play this chord and then the standard A major, it will probably feel resolved to you when you play the A.  If you have a song with a number of bars of A major – switching between these two chords is a nice way to generate a little harmonic motion.

Now, I’ll take this idea a little further by lowering the A to a G#:

G# min 7/A

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Here’s how it sounds.

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This gives the chord a 7 (G#), 9 (B), #11 (D#) and 13 (F#) – or all of the upper chord tones.

Short cut 2:

Playing a minor 7th chord on the seventh scale degree of a major chord will get you all of the upper extensions of the chord.

(i.e. G# minor 7 over A major)

Like the B7/A, this isn’t a stable sound on its own.  If you play this chord and then the standard A major, it will probably feel resolved to you when you play the A.

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Quartal for your thoughts?

Here’s one last transformation for now.  Here I’m going to lower the D# to C# to create a quartal chord.

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Quartal Chord

And here’s how it sounds:

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A quartal chord is a chord that is built on 4ths (G#, C#, F#, B) as opposed to being built on 3rds like A Major (A, C#, E).  To me, quartal voicings have a nice “airy” or “floating” quality .  This is just one of many  possible quartal voicings built from A major.  Quartal voicings will be discussed more in-depth in a future post.

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How to double the number of chords that have been covered.

So far, I’ve looked at a series of chords that either work as substitutions and/or extensions for major chords  I’m going to go into more depth about why this works in the next post but for right now – here’s a quick tip that gives a whole other dimension to using these chords.

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Every chord presented here also works over the relative minor (i.e. F# minor chord).

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Try taking this chord:

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and after you play it add an F# by tapping a fret hand finger on the 2nd fret F# on the low E string for a very hip F# min 9 extension.

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F# min 9 add 13 no 11

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Hopefully this has given you some new chordal ideas!!  You may want to go back to the first post and apply this idea by playing through all of the voicings covered there and adding the F# as a root.

In addition to explaining this approach more in-depth, in part 3 of these posts I’m going to explore a number of ways to use these ideas in your soloing.

Thanks for reading!!  Please feel free to post any questions you might have.

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Getting Hipness From A Major Triad Or More Chord Recycling Part 1

When I was at Berklee, one thing that took a while for me to really get my ear around was upper chord tones (7ths, 9ths, 11ths and 13ths).  Growing  up listening to a great deal of rock music – basic triads sounded “right” to me.   I learned a lot of esoteric chord voicings to try to expand on those forms – but my ear wasn’t ready for it and so I had no real motivation to develop it at the time.

As I mentioned in the getting through the gig and the recycling chords posts, simple triadic forms can be manipulated in a way that allows players to get more complex harmonic textures in real-time.  Additionally, these approaches can be adapted to lead playing as well.  This short series of posts are going to go deeper into adapting one specific chord voicing.  As a starting point I’ll use the major triad.

The following examples are based around a 5th position A major chord played on the D, G, B, and E strings.


The reason I’m using this specific voicing is to allow the open A string to ring while playing the chord to help reinforce the root.  Here’s the basic rhythm of the chordal examples:

While notated this way for simplicity, all the examples are played with a slight arpeggiation to help accent the different notes.

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Here’s an mp3 of an A Major Triad.

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Rooting around for extra tones:

The first way to generate some additional substitutions for a simple major chord  is to lower the root chromatically.

While there is a root on both the D and the high E string, for now these examples will focus on manipulating the root on the high E string.

Lowering the root of a major triad a 1/2 step (1 fret) produces a Major 7th chord:

(This can be used in place of any A major triad)

A Major 7 Chord

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Here’s an mp3 of this A Major 7 chord.

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Lowering the root of a major triad a step (2 frets) produces a Dominant 7th chord:

(This can sometimes be used in place of an A major triad

Example: When the A acts as a V chord in a chord progression (A -> D becomes A7–>D))

A7 Chord

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Here’s an mp3 of this A 7 chord.

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Note:

While dominant 7th chords contain a major triad in them – they are their own unique animal.  A future post will go into generating dominant chords – in depth – but this voicing is presented here as part of the process of generating chords by altering the root.

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Lowering the root of a major triad a step  and a 1/2 (3 frets) produces a Major 6th chord:

(Typically this can be used in place of any A major triad)

A Major 6 - Watch the 1st finger stretch - if it hurts - stop Immediately!!

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Here’s an mp3 of this A Major 6th chord.

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Another Note:

There are certainly easier ways to generate this chord – but any chord form with  a 1/2 or whole step between notes on the B and E strings will require some limber hands.  Again, this voicing is not the only possible voicing of this chord but instead is just one possibility.

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6th chord/13th chord Tip:

Frequently, I’m asked about the difference between a 6th chord and a 13th chord.  Since the note is the same for both the 6th and the 13th, the terms are sometimes used interchangably – but the difference is based around whether the chord has a 7th in it.  In the example above, the F# acts as a 6th, because no 7th is present in the chord.  If a seventh was in the chord, the F# would be viewed as a 13th.

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The #4/#11:

One hip tone to use in a Major based chord is the #4 (or #11).  This is generated by flatting the 5th a 1/2 step (1 fret).

A Major add #4

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Here’s an mp3 of this A Major add #4 chord.

I like voicings like this where the top voices (C#, D# and E in this case) are all close voiced (i.e. in the same octave). The technique of combining these close voiced ideas with open strings is a favorite approach of mine.

This idea can be expanded on by flatting the root as well.

This produces an A major 7 add #11 (no 5th) chord (A favorite substitution of mine for a major chord).

A Maj 7 # 11 no 5th

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Here’s an mp3 of this chord.

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Shortcut:

If you flat the top two notes of a major barre chord with the fifth and root on the B and high E string – you get a pretty hip major chord substitution.  This works in any key.

In part 2 of this series, I’ll look at sharping the 5th and the root to generate more chord voicings, combining both approaches and extrapolating lead ideas from these approaches as well.

Thanks for reading!!

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Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 3

I took the wrong weekend to sleep in!  Guitar Squid distributed a link to part one of the post and by the time I got to check my stats for the weekend I had already missed my record keeping days.

However, you got here – welcome.

In the previous posts (part 1 and part 2), I talked about deciphering chord symbols and developing shortcuts for playing them.  In this post I’m going to talk about my approach and  how I ended up reading the chart.

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One final time – here’s the 232 chart with upper extension triads written in:

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Full Triadic Substitutions / Shortcuts

Here’s an mp3 of the track.  This was recorded with an FnH Ultrasonic recorded directly into AU Lab with PodFarm 2.0 @ 44.1.  The goal was an ambient wash of sound but in retrospect, I should have gone with a longer delay time/wetter reverb to hold the sustain.

Here’s the PodFarm Patch:

Here’s Bar 1 of the chart:

232 Measure 1

Notes:

  • Simple is better.  I usually start with 3-4 note voicings and then add from there on subsequent passes.
  • I chose the F minor chord in the first position to make the C in the chart the top note of the voicing (and thus accent the melody) – this kept my initial focus on voicings primarily on the D, G and B strings.
  • I added the bass note on the E and A strings so I could get a little more of the chord texture.
  • On the B minor 11 chord, I made some alterations on the fly.  To get the melody note on top of the voicing I doubled the 11 (E on the 5th fret).  Technically this isn’t a minor 11 chord as there’s no 3rd – but in this case Chris was playing the full voicing anyway, so I’m just adding texture.  Depending on what the bass was doing on the second pass I would probably add the 3rd of the chord (D) on the 5th fret of the A string.
  • The 3rd and 4th chords follow a similar pattern so I used the same voicing.
  • I decided to drop down to 1st position for the last chord to get some low-end emphasis.  I’d probably add some harp harmonics as well.
  • The same voicings and approach are used in Bar 2.

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Bar 2

232 Measure 2

Bars 3-4


232 Measures 3-4

Notes:

  • A 9 (sus4) – This went to g,b and e strings to facilitate the melody note.  With the kind of ambient swell sounds that I used – muting the strings with the pick hand between chord changes becomes important to maintain smooth delay.
  • Bb Maj 9 – Here I was actually thinking Dm 7/Bb.  So I’m just using the top notes of the voicing.
  • E min 9 – This is a stock A string minor 9 voicing I use.  I have a couple of these for E and A strings I throw in when I need to.
  • F#9 (sus 4) – E maj/F# voicing based off of a VII position E barre chord.
  • G maj 9  – I was thinking B min but then added the A on the 10th fret for the melody and the G on the A string for the root.
  • C#min 9 – I moved the melody up an octave on the last 3 chords to amp up the arrangement.  Stock E string rooted voicing.  Sometimes I’d play the B on the D string and sometimes not.
  • D Maj 9 – Variation on the C#min9 shape – 2 useful voicings to have at your disposal.
  • E9 sus 4 – Just kept the D Maj 9 voicing, added the F# on the top string and played the low octave E.  I addition to filling out the chord the voicing puts me in a good spot space wise if we decide to repeat bars 1-4.

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This has been a long series of instruction for a pretty simple chord chart, but the purpose of it was to detail the process behind those short cuts.  It might seem long and involved – but it gets easier over time.  In reality – the voicings took about a minute to suss out.

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I hope this helps!  Please feel free to reply here or send an email to guitar.blueprint@gmail.com with any other questions you might have about this.

-SC

Getting Through The Gig – Negotiating A Chord Chart Part 2

In the previous getting through the gig post, I talked about how to interpret chord symbols to determine what a song is asking for.  Today, I’m going to use upper structure triads (triads built on chord tones other than the root) to simplify the chart.  If you’re unfamiliar with the chord symbols below, you may want to start with Part 1 of this lesson.

This lesson will continue to use the  232 chart used in part 1.

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(232 © Chris Lavender 2011 used with permission)

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For now – let’s assume that you know how to play at least some major and minor triad shapes.  (If you didn’t take my advice to review the triadic inversions at the end of  the last post – you may want to do so now.)

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Getting through the Charts part 1 – Unfamiliar and familiar


When sight-reading a chart, my goal isn’t neccessarilly to have a brilliant interpretation playing it the first time (although if I can make it better – great) . I just want to make sure that I’m playing the chords as written and then try to adapt it to the song.  So if I have stock voicings at my fingers for chords on the chart and they make sense, I’ll play those and then voice lead or tailor the approach from there.

Let’s assume for a moment that it’s a worse case scenario – you’re given this chart to play and all of these chords are alien to you.

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Step 1:

Look for common chord types.

In this case, there are only a few different types of chords in the piece:

  • major9 #11
  • minor 11,
  • 9sus4,
  • major 9 and
  • minor 9.

If generic voicings can be developed they can just be moved to the roots of the chords that need to be played.

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Step 2:

Convert to the key of C and figure out the chord formula.

The reason to convert to the key of C – is that the lack of sharps or flats in the key signature makes it easy to alter chord formulas as need be.

Here are the chords in question in the key of C:

C major9 #11:  C, E, G, B, D, F# (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, #11)

C minor 11:  C, Eb, G, Bb, D, F (1, b3, 5, b7, 9, 11)

C 9sus4: C, F, G, Bb, D,  (1, 4, 5, b7, 9)

C major 9: C, E, G, B, D (1, 3, 5, 7, 9)

C minor 9: C, Eb, G, Bb, D (1, b3, 5, b7, 9)

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Step 3:

Focus on the upper notes (7, 9, 11, 13) of the voicing (and/or any alterations) and make a short cut:

Note:

This process assumes that there’s a bass player who will be playing the root.  You also loose the 3rd in the voicing, but you can always add the root, 3rd or any other chord tone  in later. The initial step is to just get through the chart, and then spruce it up as you gain familiarity.

 

In the C major9 #11, the upper notes are the 7, 9 and #11 (B, D, F# ) this is a B minor triad with a C in the bass (also written B min/C).

 

The shortcut here is –

if you play a minor triad a ½ step down from the root

you’ll have the upper extension of the major 9 #11 chord.


Here are the transposed voicings


Gb major 9 #11 = F minor/Gb

A major 9 #11 = G# minor/A

F major 9 #11 = E minor/F

C major 9 #11 = B minor/E

D major 9 #11 = C# minor/D

Bb major 9 #11 = A minor/Bb

Here they are penciled into the chart:

Maj. 9 sharp 11 Shortcut

Note:

I’m going to into specific voicings in the third and final post – the idea here is to just to document how to figure out some basic chord substitutions.  While I haven’t written in the bass note (i.e. Gb major 9 #11 = F minor/Gb  – written on the chart as simply Fm), the bass note is still in the original chord voicing, so I can work it into the tonic as necessary.


In the C minor 11, the upper notes are the b7, 9 and 11 (Bb, D, F) this is a Bb major triad with a C in the bass (also written B/C).

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The shortcut here is –

if you play a major triad a step down from the root

you’ll have the upper extension of the minor 11 chord.


Here are the transposed voicings:


B minor 11 = A/B

C# minor 11 = B/C#

E minor 11 = D/E

Gb minor 11 = Fb(E)/Gb

and applied to the chart:

Minor 11 Triadic shortcuts

 

Next, let’s look at the 9 sus4 chord


C 9sus4: C, F, G, Bb, D,  (1, 4, 5, b7, 9)

Here the upper extensions are the b7, 9 and the added sus4 (Bb, D, F)

The real difference between the C9 Sus4 and the C minor 11 is the Eb.

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The shortcut here is –

if you play a major triad a step down from the root

you’ll also have the primary tones of the 9sus4 chord.


Here are the transposed voicings:


A9 sus 4 = G/A

F#9 sus 4 = E/F#

E9 sus 4 = D/E

and applied to the chart:

9 sus 4 Triadic Shortcuts

 

For 11 and 13th chords, I tend to think in terms of  triads based on the 7th or the 9th.  Major and Minor 9th chords can be seen as triads starting from the 5th (but I usually see them as 7th chords from the 3rd – more on that in part 3 of these posts).

 

Major 9th shortcut –

if you play a major triad chord a 5th up from the root

you’ll have the upper extension of the major 9th chord.

 

Here are the transposed voicings:


C major 9: C, E, G, B, D (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) = G/C

Bb major 9 = F/Bb

G major 9 = D/G

D major 9 = A/D

and applied to the chart:

Major 9th Triad Shortcuts

 

Minor 9th shortcut –

if you play a minor triad a 5th up from the root

you’ll have the upper extension of the minor 9th chord.

 

Here are the transposed voicings:


C minor 9: C, Eb, G, Bb, D (1, b3, 5, b7, 9)  = G Minor

Emin9 = B min/E

C#min9 = G# min/ C#

And the big reveal or…

 

GET ON WITH IT ALREADY SCOTT – WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?


Okay here’s the initial chart again:

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and here’s the modified chart with triadic substitutions written in (click on the chart to see it full-sized).

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Full Triadic Substitutions / Shortcuts

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Which do you find easier to read chord-wise?

 

“Hey take a solo…”

As an additional bonus to this approach, these upper extension triads can also be approached as arpeggios that can be played over each chord for soloing or as a simpler tonal center for chord scales (just realize that not all chord scales that work for the upper extension triad will work for the initial chord – but experiment and use your ear to guide you for what works.)

In the final post of this series, I’ll show how I ended up voicing the tune.

Thanks for reading!

-SC