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!

The Un­mu­si­cal Box? Dear The­ory God­mother

I’ve de­cided that it’s high time I knuck­led down and started to learn about chords on the gui­tar prop­erly, rather than re­ly­ing on the box shapes I learned from di­a­grams when I be­gan play­ing. At present, if some­one wants me to play a D ma­jor chord I’ll play the lit­tle tri­an­gu­lar shape on the top three strings or a barre chord at the 5th fret. But the prob­lem is that I don’t re­ally know what I’m do­ing, I’m just re­spond­ing to a prompt with a shape I’ve mem­o­rised.

I want my choice of chord to be founded on a more mu­si­cal ba­sis, rather than just an au­to­matic re­sponse. Could you tell me a good way of kick­start­ing this, bear­ing in mind I’m go­ing to be a com­plete novice at it to be­gin with?

Gor­don One of the main bar­ri­ers be­tween gui­tarists and un­der­stand­ing har­mony is the way chords are taught. Pi­anists don’t learn from di­a­grams, they pro­gramme the in­for­ma­tion mu­si­cally, which is why they’re the smart-asses in a band when it comes to the­ory.

The first things to look for are the tri­ads at the heart of ev­ery chord. Tri­ads are formed from the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of a Ma­jor or Mi­nor scale and give us the names of the notes con­tained in the chord boxes with which we’re all fa­mil­iar. You men­tioned D Ma­jor: Ex 1 shows the D scale with the 1st, 3rd and 5th piled up to form the chord. The notes are D, F# and A. If you al­ready know the names of the notes on the fret­board – and if not, write your­self out a neck chart to re­fer to – then try to re­late this info to the chord shapes for D that you al­ready know (Ex 2).

Mi­nor chords are dealt with in the same man­ner. Look at the D Mi­nor scale in Ex 3: once again, we merely ex­tract the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the scale and that gives us D, F and A. Check it against the shape down at the nut (Ex 4) and you can see that this is cor­rect.

The same rule ap­plies to ev­ery chord in the book. Take the 1st, 3rd and 5th from any scale, and you’ll end up with the ba­sic triad.

Ver­ify all this by ex­plor­ing scales, ex­tract­ing the tri­ads and match­ing them to the shapes you’ve learned. Get a good scale book and another on har­mony, but don’t be dis­heart­ened that this is a lot of work, be­cause you’re quickly go­ing to be­gin see­ing pat­terns emerg­ing, and no­tice that vir­tu­ally all the chord shapes we learn em­anate from the CAGED sys­tem, which we’ve cov­ered of­ten in GT in the past.

Nearly all other chords are built from ba­sic tri­ads and so get­ting this in­for­ma­tion in­grained will help im­mea­sur­ably and pro­vide you with a strong ground­ing in gui­tar har­mony.

Count On Us Dear The­ory God­mother

I’m send­ing you a bar of mu­sic from a solo I’m work­ing on. The trou­ble is, I can hear what’s go­ing on when I play the CD, and come up with an ap­prox­i­ma­tion based on what I’m hear­ing, but I can’t com­pletely nail it be­cause I can’t count my way through the bar! How would you count it? If I can play it through slowly with a proper way of count­ing it, I will be able to bring it up to speed quicker than the hit-or-miss method I’m cur­rently us­ing. Thanks...

Ian Tech­ni­cally you’re cor­rect, but it’s just a short hand way to ref­er­ence the chords. The rule-break­ing an­tics of the blues are well known among mu­si­cians and so just say­ing, “Let’s play a blues in A” is all that’s nec­es­sary! But you’re right: a straight­for­ward I-IV-V se­quence in, say, A ma­jor would com­prise the chords of A ma­jor (the I), D ma­jor (the IV) and E7 (the V) and would sound less bluesy than you might be ex­pect­ing. Whereas a ‘proper’ blues in A (all chords are made dom­i­nant 7ths or sim­i­lar) would be A7 for the I chord, D7 for the IV and E7 for the V. So if you had to write the chords down, then I7, IV7, V7 in such-and-such a key would in­deed con­vey the text book cor­rect in­for­ma­tion.

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