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Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

David Mead an­swers your the­ory queries.

Root Of The Prob­lem Dear The­ory God­mother

I am try­ing to learn and prac­tise scales. The prob­lem is how am I sup­posed to prac­tise them in dif­fer­ent keys? I’m told all you need to do is find the root notes, but it isn’t that sim­ple is it? Any ad­vice would be greatly ap­pre­ci­ated.

Louis When you first start out prac­tis­ing the scales in dif­fer­ent keys it can seem a lit­tle be­wil­der­ing. But there is a sys­tem and, once you’ve mas­tered it, you’ll find it be­comes eas­ier and eas­ier to tra­verse from one key to an­other. The first thing you need is a chart of the gui­tar neck that shows you where all the notes are. I’ve pro­vided one in Ex 1, but it would be bet­ter if you copy it out onto a large sheet of pa­per and hang it some­where that you’ll see ev­ery day. Don’t worry about the sharps and flats for now; it makes things a lot clearer if you no­tate only the ‘whole notes’ and re­mem­ber that ‘sharp’ means one fret to the right and ‘flat’ means one fret to the left as you view the fret­board from the play­ing po­si­tion.

Next, I’m as­sum­ing that you have a book de­tail­ing the scales you want to learn and I’m hop­ing that, in all in­stances, the root notes are clearly marked. Then, all you have to do is take a scale pat­tern, lo­cate the rel­e­vant root and play it. To begin with, you’ll have to per­form this task slowly and me­thod­i­cally, but as you get more used to the sys­tem you’ll find that match­ing up a scale with any par­tic­u­lar root note takes no time at all.

In Ex 2 I’ve writ­ten out a cou­ple of ex­am­ples of scale di­a­grams with the root marked; one ma­jor scale, the other mi­nor. If I wanted to play the ma­jor scale ex­am­ple in the key of B, all I have to do is find a B on the sixth string – at the 7th fret – match it to the root and play the shape in the di­a­gram.

It’s very im­por­tant that you begin on the root, as I’ve out­lined in Ex 3. Even if there are a few ‘spare’ notes at ei­ther end of the scale, al­ways begin and end on the root note as this will go a long way to­wards tun­ing your ear into the cor­rect sound of each scale

Eco­nomic Sanc­tions Dear The­ory God­mother

I gave up the idea of ever be­com­ing a flashy lead player a long time ago. I can pull off a rea­son­able solo as long as it’s short, sweet and fairly slow but any­thing else is vir­tu­ally out of the ques­tion. So I’m turn­ing my at­ten­tion to rhythm, my goal be­ing that I can one day join a band and play a use­ful role as a solid ac­com­pa­nist. The trou­ble I’m hav­ing is trans­lat­ing the chords I see in song­books into some­thing that sounds right. If I play whole barre chords in some rock songs, it just sounds wrong, too crowded and not at all like the record. I know that rhythm play­ers of­ten play re­duced ver­sions of chords, but how do I know how much is enough? How eco­nom­i­cal can you be with a chord and still get the point across?

Jed You can be amazingly eco­nom­i­cal with chord voic­ings, Jed. The ba­sic ma­jor or mi­nor chord com­prises only three notes so it’s fea­si­ble to break the fuller chord shapes on the gui­tar neck down to root, 3rd and 5th (Ex 4). You can even go with root and 5th or root and 3rd. Dom­i­nant 7ths can be pruned down to essen­tials, as in Ex 5 where we’re only play­ing the 7th, 3rd and 5th.

Get a chord book to see where the in­ter­vals fall within the var­i­ous shapes, then try trim­ming them down and play­ing them in dif­fer­ent songs to see if they sound more like what you’re hear­ing on records. And get tran­scrip­tions of rhythm parts so you can see specif­i­cally what dif­fer­ent play­ers do to trim their chords down.

Jazz Nines Dear The­ory God­mother

I have been play­ing gui­tar for a few years and can play open and barre chords suc­cess­fully and with rel­a­tive ease. I am now try­ing to move into jazz and add 9ths but, apart from the dom­i­nant 9th shape, I find the ma­jor 9th and mi­nor 9th such a fin­ger-twis­ter that I can’t get to ei­ther fast enough. I know prac­tice makes per­fect, but can you tell me if there is an eas­ier, fin­ger-happy con­fig­u­ra­tion to play ma­jor and mi­nor ninths?

An­drew Of the chord shapes you sent me (see Ex 6) the ma­jor ver­sion is a bit of a hand­ful, but the mi­nor shape is quite com­mon and shouldn’t be caus­ing you too much of a prob­lem. Re­gard­ing the mi­nor 9 chord, a lot of play­ers leave out the two lower bass strings and just play the top four strings as a barre with the 9th played by the fourth fin­ger. It’s a lot eas­ier and, in con­text with bass and even keys, no one will hear any dif­fer­ence.

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