The­ory God­mother

Guitar Techniques - - Q&a -

Post your play­ing posers and tech­ni­cal teasers to: The­ory God­mother, Guitar Tech­niques, 30 Mon­mouth Street, Bath, BA1 2BW; or email me at info@david­mead.net – ev­ery wish is your God­mother’s com­mand!

Shap­ing Up Dear The­ory God­mother

The open chords of A, C, D, E, F and G seem unique in their shape, but B is just an A shape only two frets up with the first fin­ger on the 2nd fret, A string. So why isn’t a B just an E shape but dropped down the strings e.g. E string, 2nd fret, A string 2nd fret and D string 1st fret? This would be eas­ier to learn for begin­ners.

Mark The sim­ple an­swer is that the chord you de­scribe is a B ma­jor (see Ex 1), but only a three-note ver­sion – as the minute you play the open G, you run into trou­ble be­cause it turns the chord into B aug­mented. It’s also rather low in pitch, too, which is prob­a­bly why it’s dis­re­garded in many chord books.

You’re ab­so­lutely right in say­ing that A, C, D, E, F and G are unique shapes – the only thing I’d say there is that F is merely an edited form of the E shape (see Ex 2), which leaves us with the other five, and gives us the ba­sis for the in­fa­mous CAGED sys­tem. Most ma­jor chord shapes are based on those five shapes moved to var­i­ous points on the fret­board ei­ther as barre ver­sions or plain mov­able shapes, which makes mem­o­ris­ing mul­ti­ple shapes much eas­ier. As an ex­am­ple, I’ve plot­ted some dif­fer­ent shapes for a C chord in Ex 3, us­ing the CAGED idea. If you study these you should find the is­sue of map­ping chords on the fret­board be­comes far more log­i­cal.

Mute Point Dear The­ory God­mother

Af­ter years of try­ing, I’m still not able to mute strings very well. The thing I have the most prob­lem with is rhythm parts where you play a chord, mute the strings with the pick­ing hand and strike them again for a per­cus­sive at­tack. I’ve scoured the in­ter­net for lessons on mut­ing and watched my fill of YouTube videos, but I still don’t seem to be able to make the grade. All of my muted chords still seem to have notes – mainly open strings – in them, which ring on an­noy­ingly when they should be silent.

Martin It’s a dif­fi­cult prob­lem to ad­dress with­out see­ing what you’re do­ing, Martin. But pick­ing-hand mut­ing is per­formed by lay­ing the fleshy edge of the palm on the strings near the bridge, and the way in which the hand is po­si­tioned can greatly in­flu­ence mut­ing ef­fi­ciency. For in­stance, do you make a fist with your pick­ing hand when hold­ing a pick? If so, try re­lax­ing it and let­ting the fin­gers flex in an ‘open palm’ sort of con­fig­u­ra­tion. This makes that all-im­por­tant fleshy palm edge more ex­tended, as the fourth fin­ger in par­tic­u­lar is no longer curled into the palm, giv­ing you a greater area with which to mute the strings. Another thing worth not­ing is that mut­ing is a job shared by both hands. While the pick­ing hand mutes as above, the fret­ting hand helps by re­lax­ing its grip on the strings just enough to pro­duce ‘dead’ notes. So if the chord you’re play­ing is a com­bi­na­tion of open and fret­ted strings, both ends are cov­ered by the hands col­lab­o­rat­ing. You will also find play­ers us­ing un­oc­cu­pied dig­its of ei­ther hand to mute them.

Ex­per­i­ment with bring­ing the fret­ting hand into play, and also check your fret­ting hand po­si­tion – I’m con­fi­dent your mut­ing will im­prove.

Sub­sti­tute Teacher Dear The­ory God­mother

Re­gard­ing chord sub­sti­tu­tion, one thing puzzles me, and that is find­ing an able sub­sti­tute for the V chord. This is a chord that per­forms such a unique role that it’s hard to find any­thing that will fit in its place. Could you tell me which chords I should be look­ing at, please?

Alan The power of the V chord re­sides in the di­min­ished 5th (flat 5th) in­ter­val buried (see Ex 4) be­tween the chord’s 3rd and 7th, and how this re­solves into the I chord. Play through the ex­am­ple and you will hear how the res­o­lu­tion works. In the­ory, any chord that con­tains the same in­ter­val will per­form a sim­i­lar res­o­lu­tion, although it will sound dif­fer­ent. As Ex 4 shows, in a G7 chord the two notes that form the b5th are B and F. Now look at the Db7 in Ex 5; it has the same two notes – B and F (de­spite the B be­ing re­ferred to as Cb be­cause of the key sig­na­ture!), so a res­o­lu­tion into C will still work: try it and com­pare the two – the G7 to C and Db7 to C – and you should hear the same res­o­lu­tion, de­spite its dif­fer­ent sur­round­ings.

Other chords that con­tain the b5th be­tween B and F in­clude C ma­jor’s VII chord, Bm7b5 (Ex 6) and D di­min­ished (Ex 7) – try both of them be­fore C and you will hear a res­o­lu­tion. Whether these sub­sti­tu­tions suit the mu­sic at hand is another ques­tion – it’s the prin­ci­ple of res­o­lu­tion we are dis­cussing here.

The stan­dard V-I move that we find at the end of many pro­gres­sions, will al­ways be the strong­est res­o­lu­tion, but there are plenty of al­ter­na­tives that can be called upon to bring their own par­tic­u­lar ef­fect to a piece.

Try ex­plor­ing other chord voic­ings that have the same res­o­lu­tion at their cen­tre, and I’m sure you’ll dis­cover many more ways of sub­sti­tut­ing the V-I.

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