Post your posers and teasers to: Theory Godmother, Unit 5, Pinesway Industrial Estate, Ivo Peters Way, Bath, BA2 3QS; or email me at info@ davidmead.net - your every wish is Fairy Godmother’s command!
Play It Like Guthrie? Dear Theory Godmother
I’ve been watching various videos of Guthrie Govan on YouTube and I’ve noticed that he tends to use fingers one to three to play regular scale patterns on the guitar neck, saving his fourth finger for longer stretches. I was taught the old ‘one-finger-per-fret’ system and I’m wondering if I ought to review my style a little. Are there benefits to playing scales the way Guthrie does it?
Jed We’ll hear from Guthrie in a minute, Jed, so I’ll take a paragraph to illustrate what you mean and add my own comments. In Example 1 I’ve taken a scale pattern and shown the fingering in ‘one-fingerper-fret’ configuration. This is the more natural feeling way of fingering a scale and represents good basic training for the fretting fingers. Example 2 is the same pattern using just three fingers, with the exception of the B on the fourth string. Whichever fingering you use in the practice room is fine, but remember certain licks, riffs or solos are going to call for some customisation. As an example, the third finger is better for bending strings so anything blues based is best worked out to facilitate this. There are other occasions where what you do in practice might need to be reviewed in the real world. So use the fingering that suits the music.
I’ll leave the last word to Guthrie: “I would urge you not to pay too much attention to my fingerings: you’d almost certainly be better off sticking with your current system. I started playing a fullsized guitar when I was very young and there was definitely a period where only the bigger fingers on my fretting hand were capable of sounding any good. Plus, I was playing a lot of blues-rock at the time and that genre isn’t exactly associated with perfect one-finger-perfret technique! What you’ve observed in those videos is just a remnant of my shady (and entirely self-taught) past.”
A Page Unturned? Dear Theory Godmother
In Led Zeppelin’s version of Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You there’s the chord that I’ve tabbed out and enclosed at the end of the main verse. The music says that this is a Dm add9 chord, but it sounds too dissonant to me. Have
Thre8e-finAgreprevgegrsioiopnicking they got this chord name right or is it something else entirely?
Rick When a guitarist writes a song he will often use personal favourite shapes that might not seem that logical. GT’s editor Nev said he was sure Jimmy is not playing the transcribed shape but is creating Spanish style ‘dissonance’ with the chord played in the open position, not at the 5th fret. He said play ‘X-0-3-2-3-0’ and you’ll see that, after the Am-Am7 (also open position) it sounds right. However, having too watched footage he now concedes that Jimmy does play it at the 5th fret. In terms of what to call it we’d say ‘Dm add9/A’, as it’s that open fifth string (A) and open first string (E) that give it dissonance. Nev’s shape has the same two open strings, but while the other notes are the same they are in a different order - F (b3rd) on the fourth string and D (5th) on the second, so the ‘clash’ between F and E is less obvious than in Jimmy’s shape, where the two notes sit directly adjacent to one another. The bass note is definitely an A though, so we’d still say ‘Dm add9/A’ is a better call as regards naming the chord.
The Lost Chord? Dear Theo4ry Godmother
som4ethb wá This is ing that as sweeping
tá through Facebook recently. Apparently from a pro musical score, this chord is allegedly impossible to playAon the guitar. I’ve ried to work out if there’s a way around it, but so far I’m floored. Firstly, can you think of a way of making the chord playable? And secondly, do composers and/or arrangers actually make this kind of mistake in professional scores?
EYes, Rob, sometimes composers and arrangers get it wrong. Anyone who is unfamiliar with the way the guitar works as a harmony instrument is going to make this kind of error every so often. There are stories of some very famous composers who have accidentally written impossible chords in their pieces and so this particular instance doesn’t surprise me. As far as the chord in question is concerned (Example 4) the problem is that both the A and G note fall on the same string and the Eb on the fourth string means that the G isn’t available here either. Furthermore, the low F keeps the hand firmly planted down near the nut - so what’s the way out of this hole? I believe the context in which this was posted on Facebook originally was a sort of, ‘anyone got a solution to this one?’ type of thing and I believe I know a way around it - or at least a workable solution should the full chord be crucial to the harmony.
One way is to miss out one of the offending notes and hope no one will notice. In Example 5 I’ve shown the easiest way out; a straightforward F13, which omits the G - the 9th note of F13. A more elegant solution might be to play the chord as F13 sus2 but sound an A harmonic at the 12th fret on the fifth string, producing all the notes that the arranger asked for (Ex 6). This would have to be done with the picking hand in the manner of an artificial harmonic.
Of course, because I’m not aware of the exact musical context of the chord in question, faffing around with smartAlec fixes like this might be completely unnecessary, but it satisfies my OCD particularly well - and chimes well with the whole Zeppelin chord shape and naming debate. Plus it goes to show that guitar theory and technique are never-ending sources of fascination!