JACL - Just Another Chord Lesson... Series....

DonLogan

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Part 1 - The 6-4-3-2 Set, C7, Cmaj7 and Cmin7


Here is my attempt to maybe shed some light on the whole chord voicing thing. Learning this is a daunting task, so I would like to share some concepts that helped me break a few barriers and open the fretboard a bit more.

What I found was that after months of attempting to learn random new chords, things just fell apart in the end. There was no real relation between them, in my view, so things didn't make any sense. I therefore decided to unlearn everything, and start again from scratch.

Nowadays I shun chord books and charts, this method will hopefully allow you to build chords on the spot.

What you will need: Knowledge of where notes are on the fretboard

All this has been vented before in some way or another, this is just my take on it all.


1. Okay... why?

Those guitarists who wish to venture beyond the regular cowboy chords will sooner or later run into a problem, or rather, realization. Even though the guitar is a wonderful instrument, there are... a lot of notes on it.

Let me explain. C chords are no picnic, there are basically hundreds of voicings of a regular C chord on a guitar neck. This is possible because musical theory dictates that you can, in essence, omit notes without a chord losing its actual fundamental structure.

A C triad can look like this: C E G.

A full chord can look like this: G C E G C E (think standard first ever C chord with a G in the bass)

However, any real guitarist is a guitarist that musical theory expects to have friends. Friends who play... the bass guitar for instance. So a bassist will usually play root notes, leaving the guitarist free to omit a root note in a chord, and still have it sound like a root noted chord.

A C triad could therefore look like this: E G E

Or this... : G E G

Or this...: E E G

Etc etc... all over the neck... if you think of all the string sets and variations, it becomes almost endless. Add extended notes, like 7ths and 9ths and the permutations will really have it in for you.

This is the mind **** that had me put the guitar down and not touch it for years, and I decided to find a system that was manageable. Also, the system would have to allow me to say to people: Yeah I know a couple of voicings... here... try this one...

By the way... a chord is characterized by at least three notes played in succession, think about it. The idea in this post is that you never actually have to play more than four notes.

It is perhaps a bit simplified and "Django-esque".

2. Fair and Unfair chords

A fair chord will be a chord where notes are present, but none are repeated. A C-triad would be a fair chord since it incorporates C-E-G, all the basics for a major chord without any repeated notes. An unfair chord is a chord with note repetitions, like a standard C chord.

I call them unfair, because there will simply be too many permutations of said chord to be learned at once (or in a lifetime), so for the sake of focus and "building from scratch", these are now out of bounds.

3. To begin with 6-4-3-2

Let me just, for reference sake, list some chords of interest:

Cmaj7 - C E G B

Cmin7 - C eb G Bb

C7 - C E G Bb

Let's begin with those. The smaller steps that are taken, the fewer problems in the future.

C7 looks spontaneously like this:

-0-
-1-
-3-
-2-
-3-
-0-

Nobody ever complains here, actually, everyone nods in content. Yep... that's a C7 alright, says so in that 'ere chord book...

But on closer inspection, you will notice something, the structure is the following (low to high):

E C E Bb C E

Where is the fifth... by George, it's gone! Instead you have three thirds (E), two roots (C) and one flattened seventh (Bb).

So for the sake of fairness, we need to find a fifth and obliterate the enemies, as such:

-x-
-1- C
-3- Bb
-2- E
-x-
-3- G

Here we have tidied things up a bit, omitting a second root and a superfluous third. We now have a fair C7 with each note in it represented with no repeated notes: G E Bb C

Don't worry about the unplayed strings, it is perfectly normal and falls under the category of String-Sets. This system of playing a chord is a 6-4-3-2 set. Why? Because you only play notes on the 6th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd string.

I say... that is kind of neat.

In the beginning of this article, I stated that you need to know where notes on the fretboard are. Why? Well, because to make things easier, you will want to be able to snipe out root notes in certain locations.

Check it out. The above example of a C7 might have left you a bit uneasy, since the root wasn't in the bass. The Fifth, a G, was in the bass instead. However, you would still be able to visualize the chord anyway, because you know where another root is (the second string).

Here, have a root in the bass:

-x-
-5- E
-3- Bb
-5- G
-3- C
-x-

You might recognize this as a Barre-Chord layout of C7, but we have killed off the extra G notes. Here the structure reads: C G Bb E. Thus, a fair chord.

However, forget this for now, since this is a chord on another string set (5-4-3-2).

Let's go back to the first chord and the 6-4-3-2 set.

-x-
-1-
-3-
-2-
-x-
-3-

Yes... that is nice. Anyway, recall that a C7 chord contains four notes: C E G Bb. Here the G is in the bass, so why not have the rest of the notes in the chord as bass notes too, following the same string set?

Check this out:

-x-
-5- E
-5- C
-5- G
-x-
-6- Bb

Here we have the Bb as a bass note. The structure is as follows: Bb G C E.

The next note after Bb is... C.

-x-
-8- G
-9- E
-8- Bb
-x-
-8- C

The structure here is: C Bb E G

Let's just hit the last one real quick: E.

-x-
-11- Bb
-12- G
-10- C
-x-
-12- E

Structure: E C G Bb


Okay, here is where the vizualisation comes in. In all these chord inversions, there are root notes present somewhere along the string sets. The task is to locate these root notes and build the chord around them. You think of what the original "unfair" chords look like and rearrange them.

-x-
-1- C
-3- Bb
-2- E
-x-
-3- G

Looks like:

-0- E
-1- C
-3- Bb
-2- E
-3- C
-0- E

Standard C7.


This one with the Bb in the bass:

-x-
-5- E
-5- C
-5- G
-x-
-6- Bb

Is part of this structure (the barred C chord on the 5-4-3-2 set), but since the Bb is in the bass, we can omit it on the third G string, and turn it into a root note instead.

-x-
-5- E
-5- C
-5- G
-3- C
-x-

The next one is the simplest one:

-x-
-8- G
-9- E
-8- Bb
-x-
-8- C

This is just a slimmed down version of a standard barred C7, 8th position:

-8- E
-8- G
-9- E
-8- Bb
-10- G
-8- C


However, the last one might turn a head or two:

-x-
-11- Bb
-12- G
-10- C
-x-
-12- E

How do we arrive at that one?

Well, if you have gone through the wonderful world of the CAGED system, you will know the following:

A standard D chord:

-2- F#
-3- D
-2- A
-0- D
-x-
-x-

Shifted down one step becomes a C triad on the top three strings (we omit the D string since it is not part of a standard C triad):

-0- E
-1- C
-0- G
-x-
-x-
-x-

Now this repeats itself at around the 12th fret (an unfair chord here C G C E), but bear with me:

-12- E
-13- C
-12- G
-10- C
-x-
-x-

This can be transformed into a fair C7 chord on the 4-3-2-1 set:

-12- E
-11- Bb
-12- G
-10- C
-x-
-x-

And since the top E is the same note as the low E, you shift the high E to the bottom E and you're home free:

-x-
-11- Bb
-12- G
-10- C
-x-
-12- E


Phew. Well, how about that? You now know four voicings of the C7 chord on the 6-4-3-2 string set. This is focusing, remember, we are limiting ourselves to one string set at a time, slowly expanding our vocabulary.

Oh yeah! There are other chords to be built! Cmaj7 and Cmin7 for instance.

Here, the formulas:

Maj7 - 1 3 5 7

min7 - 1 b3 5 b7

Dom7 - 1 3 5 b7

We did the last one above, doing the other two couldn't be simpler. It is all a matter of sharpening or flattening stuff.

I will post the first shapes, then you continue.

Cmaj7 - G bass

-x-
-1- C
-4- B
-2- E
-x-
-5- G

Cmin7 - G bass

-x-
-1- C
-3- Bb
-1- Eb
-x-
-5- G


Cmaj7 - B bass

-x-
-5- E
-5- C
-5- G
-x-
-7- B


Cmin7 - B bass

-x-
-4- Eb
-5- C
-5- G
-x-
-6- Bb

Get it? Oh what the hey... here are the rest of 'em:


Cmaj7 - C bass

-x-
-8- G
-9- E
-9- B
-x-
-8- C


Cmin7 - C bass

-x-
-8- G
-8- Eb
-8- Bb
-x-
-8- C


Cmaj7 - E bass

-x-
-12- B
-12- G
-10- C
-x-
-12- E


Cmin7 - Eb bass

-x-
-11- Bb
-12- G
-10- C
-x-
-11- Eb



So, that makes it... four voicings of four different chords... 16 voicings on only one set of strings. Not bad! We have three more sets of strings to go... so that will be... 16 different voicings per chord!

Oh yeah... since the fretboard repeats itself at the 12th fret, you can just keep going with the voicings until you run out of neck. So you can do more than 16 voicings per chord.

I never used the word inversion, I know.

Let me round this part up with the following rule for 6-4-3-2:

If you are playing a chord with a 5th in the bass, the root will be located on the SECOND string

If you are playing a chord with a 7th in the bass, the root will be located on the THIRD string

If you are playing a chord with a 3rd in the bass, the root will be located on the FOURTH string

If you are playing a chord with a root in the bass, the root will be located on the SIXTH string


Part 2 will follow.
 

LiveSimply

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Thank you for taking the time to write this thread. It is very helpful to see how more experienced players approach the instrument and how they deal with road blocks (or "mind ****" moments, as you put it. Ha!) along the way. You've highlighted various things that I had not given much thought to and will likely be helpful to me in the future. Looking forward to more of your thoughts.
 

DonLogan

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Part 2 - 5-4-3-2, C7, Cmaj7, Cmin7

This string set is pleasant, there is some stretching to be done, at times, but nothing too major.

C7 - Bb bass

-x-
-1- C
-0- G
-2- E
-1- Bb
-x-

Cmaj7 - B bass

-x-
-1- C
-0- G
-2- E
-2- B
-x-

Cmin7 - Bb bass

-x-
-1- C
-0- G
-1- Eb
-1- Bb
-x-



I know, starting with a seventh in the bass is a bit weird, but the next ones are not.


C7 - C bass

-x-
-5- E
-3- Bb
-5- G
-3- C
-x-

Cmaj7 - C bass

-x-
-5- E
-4- B
-5- G
-3- C
-x-

Cmin7 - C bass

-x-
-4- Eb
-3- Bb
-5- G
-3- C
-x-

Notice here how these are the standard everyday "barre-versions" of these C-chords. What follows is more interesting.

C7 - E bass

-x-
-8- G
-5- C
-8- Bb
-7- E
-x-

Cmaj7 - E bass

-x-
-8- G
-5- C
-9- B
-7- E
-x-

Cmin7 - Eb bass

-x-
-8- G
-5- C
-8- Bb
-6- Eb
-x-

Here some stretching is present, don't back down from this one! Once you get it under your fingers, you will LOVE this voicing.


C7 - G bass

-x-
-11- Bb
-9- E
-10- C
-10- G
-x-

Cmaj7 - G bass

-x-
-12- B
-9- E
-10- C
-10- G
-x-


Cmin7 - G bass

-x-
-11- Bb
-8- Eb
-10- C
-10- G
-x-

Some stretching on the minor chord here.


And that's it! The voicings then start over on Bb.

Here are some tasks:

1. Try to find the repeated voicings after and around the twelfth fret.

2. Visualize the chords you have just practiced, which unfair CAGED chords are they derived from?

3. Clear and empty your mind. Find and pick random root notes on this string set and construct the chords accordingly. Go from high to low, for instance, mix things up!

4. Clear and empty your mind completely. Do the same above, but for both string sets. Repetition is key.
 

DonLogan

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Part 3 - 4-3-2-1, C7, Cmaj7, Cmin7

This set is pure bliss, all chords will with a little practice feel and sound very good indeed.

C7 - E bass

-3- G
-1- C
-3- Bb
-2- E
-x-
-x-

Cmaj7 - E bass

-3- G
-1- C
-4- B
-2- E
-x-
-x-

Cmin7 - Eb bass

-3- G
-1- C
-3- Bb
-1- Eb
-x-
-x-


The stretch whilst playing the major chord is a bit annoying at first, keep at it!

C7 - G bass

-6- Bb
-5- E
-5- C
-5- G
-x-
-x-

Cmaj7 - G bass

-7- B
-5- E
-5- C
-5- G
-x-
-x-


Cmin7 - G bass

-6- Bb
-4- Eb
-5- C
-5- G
-x-
-x-


The best set of chords ever, really.


C7 - Bb bass

-8- C
-8- G
-9- E
-8- Bb
-x-
-x-

Cmaj7 - B bass

-8- C
-8- G
-9- E
-9- B
-x-
-x-


Cmin7 - Bb bass

-8- C
-8- G
-8- Eb
-8- Bb
-x-
-x-


Another very pleasant set.


C7 - C bass

-12- E
-11- Bb
-12- G
-10- C
-x-
-x-


Cmaj7 - C bass

-12- E
-12- B
-12- G
-10- C
-x-
-x-

Cmin7 - C bass

-11- Eb
-11- Bb
-12- G
-10- C
-x-
-x-

Experiment with barring the two top notes on the last one.


And that is that!

Try now to go through all the string sets, visualizing root notes, constructions and the unfair chords that all these are derived from.
 

DonLogan

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Part 4 - 6-5-4-3, C7, Cmaj7, Cmin7

This set is not very pleasant or nice. To me, the chords sound pretty muddy, but they are certainly useful at times.

There are also some pretty weird stretches here.

C7 - G bass

-x-
-x-
-3- Bb
-2- E
-3- C
-3- G

Cmaj 7 - G bass

-x-
-x-
-4- B
-2- E
-3- C
-3- G

Cmin7 - G bass

-x-
-x-
-3- Bb
-1- Eb
-3- C
-3- G


Nice and compact so far.

C7 - Bb bass

-x-
-x-
-5- C
-5- G
-7- E
-6- Bb

Cmaj7 - B bass

-x-
-x-
-5- C
-5- G
-7- E
-7- Bb

Cmin7 - Bb bass

-x-
-x-
-5- C
-5- G
-6- Eb
-6- Bb


Still no biggie.

C7 - C bass

-x-
-x-
-9- E
-8- Bb
-10- G
-8- C

Cmaj7 - C bass

-x-
-x-
-9- E
-9- B
-10- G
-8- C

Cmin 7 - C bass

-x-
-x-
-8- Eb
-8- Bb
-10- G
-8- C

This is one should be straight forward.

C7 - E bass

-x-
-x-
-12- G
-10- C
-13- Bb
-12- E

Cmaj7 - E bass

-x-
-x-
-12- G
-10- C
-14- B
-12- E

Cmin7 - Eb bass


-x-
-x-
-12- G
-10- C
-13- Bb
-11- Eb

Here the stretching comes in.


Well then, that is definitely that! Four string sets with all the voicings.

And now... well... keep pushing it. Go through all the voicings on all sets of strings. Keep visualizing and constructing.

Remember the roots, where are the roots!
 

huw

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Interesting thread, keep it up. :)

One slight comment though, and no offence intended, but it's "Bass", not "Base" (I wouldn't have even mentioned it, but you've typed it about a hundred times already)

:)
 

DonLogan

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Interesting thread, keep it up. :)

One slight coment though, and no offence intended, but it's "Bass", not "Base" (I wouldn;t have even mentioned it, but you've typed it about a hundred times already)

:)

You are most certainly right, but in this case it was intentional, since personally I prefer to think of these things as "based" on other things.

Although using bass makes more musical sense on a guitar forum =), may as well change it to avoid confusion.

Your comment is greatly appreciated =)
 

huw

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...Your comment is greatly appreciated...

:thumb: I'm glad that you took it that way & didn't think I was trying ti be a smart-arse about it.

I like the fair/unfair labelling you've devised for your chords, although I flip between the two types fairly freely as I play.

Putting it in your terms, when I play a lot of seventh-type/jazz-type chords I stick mainly to 6432 and 5432 voicings: there's just something so useable about the 432 string set that I love making chords there, and placing the bass note where I can.
 

DonLogan

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:thumb: I'm glad that you took it that way & didn't think I was trying ti be a smart-arse about it.

I like the fair/unfair labelling you've devised for your chords, although I flip between the two types fairly freely as I play.

Putting it in your terms, when I play a lot of seventh-type/jazz-type chords I stick mainly to 6432 and 5432 voicings: there's just something so useable about the 432 string set that I love making chords there, and placing the bass note where I can.

Word. I find it more fun to eliminate notes than add :thumb:

More to come.
 

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