John Wheatcroft dis­cov­ers that three is a magic num­ber. Let’s join him for an in-depth ex­plo­ration of three-string chords and arpeg­gios.

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

There’s a wealth of mu­sic con­tained in three notes says John Wheatcroft, whether played as chords, as chord arpeg­gios, or in riffs and so­los.

While it’s un­doubt­edly fair to say that the lux­u­ri­ant sound of six gui­tar strings ring­ing away in per­fect har­mony is a glo­ri­ous thing to be­hold – who can ar­gue with Yng­wie Malm­steen’s phi­los­o­phy that, in some in­stances, more is in­deed more? How­ever, it’s also ac­cu­rate to state that it can be an equally fruit­ful process to re­fine our gui­taris­tic gaze to su­per-spe­cific ar­eas of our fine in­stru­ment and ex­plore these lo­ca­tions in de­tail, to pro­vide us with an al­most in­fi­nite sup­ply of mu­si­cal gems that we can in­cor­po­rate as fun­da­men­tal tools within our mu­si­cal vo­cab­u­lary. This ar­ti­cle will lead you to a greater un­der­stand­ing of the ge­og­ra­phy of your in­stru­ment; it will give you more op­tions to draw from in both rhythm and lead sit­u­a­tions and will get you one step closer to ne­go­ti­at­ing your gui­tar with free­dom, flair, au­thor­ity and con­fi­dence. Sounds like a plan? Put the ket­tle on, grab your gui­tar and maybe a pen­cil and notepad and let’s get go­ing.

The gui­tar is a very so­cia­ble in­stru­ment and it works ex­cep­tion­ally well in the com­pany of oth­ers. In this en­sem­ble en­vi­ron­ment it’s of crit­i­cal im­por­tance to be a ‘team player’. To be a truly ef­fec­tive mu­si­cian, ir­re­spec­tive of style, you need to have the nec­es­sary skills to re­act to your sur­round­ings, of­ten in real time, and to able to cre­ate sym­pa­thetic parts that are mu­si­cally ap­pro­pri­ate and ful­fill­ing, both in­de­pen­dently and when com­bined with the group as a whole. One of the best ways to achieve this is to look at the gui­tar as a se­ries of four over­lap­ping three-string mini-gui­tars: bass, tenor, alto and so­prano ranges, if you like.

Why three-string groups you might ask? Well, even with­out con­sid­er­ing stretches, span­ning three strings gives you a range at least an oc­tave from low to high, so each and ev­ery note is avail­able to you. Also, a huge amount of mu­sic is con­structed around tri­ads, which are chords made up from three parts, so any of these can be ac­com­mo­dated in any of these ar­eas. We’re not re­stricted to just sim­ple triad har­mony, as you can ac­com­plish a great deal by pick­ing your notes care­fully and se­lect­ing specif­i­cally those notes in a par­tic­u­lar voic­ing you choose to high­light and those you choose leave out. The smaller, more nim­ble na­ture of these voic­ings and their ac­com­pa­ny­ing melodic equiv­a­lent en­cour­ages move­ment in your parts, which can cre­ate a greater sense of in­ter­est for both the lis­tener and for you, the per­former.

There are 10 stylis­ti­cally-based miniex­am­ples for you to learn, each based around a su­per-spe­cific ar­eas of the gui­tar, each bro­ken into two parts to pro­vide you with a pair of op­tions for each genre. This is fol­lowed by a four-part bass, tenor, alto and so­prano range piece that is de­signed to work in a loop, start­ing with just bass and adding all the other lay­ers as we go. Of course, you could prac­tice each part in­de­pen­dently against the back­ing and only move on when you’re com­pletely com­fort­able to pro­ceed.


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