In The Woodshed
This month Charlie Griffiths takes a peek through the purple haze to see what we can learn from ‘beyond the Hendrix chord’.
The most common fingering for the 7#9 chord is the one with the second finger playing the root note on the fifth-string, 7th fret. But Example 1 shows how you can apply the notes to five positions on the neck, or in a CAGED arrangement. The chord is essentially a regular dominant 7th (1-3-5- b7) with an added #9 interval. ‘Sharp 9’ is another way of saying ‘minor 3rd’, so in fact the chord contains both a major and a minor 3rd, which inherently has a dissonance, but a familiar one as blues music has played with this majorminor ambiguity for nigh-on 100 years. Play through the five shapes and try naming the notes and intervals as you go as this will help you put the shapes into context. Example 2 demonstrates the most common voicing for the chord with a George Harrison ‘Beatles’ inspired riff. This shows how the #9 interval can be added to a static dominant riff in order to add some extra spice with a cool sounding interval.
The chord also has roots in jazz music and is a common ‘altered’ chord. Whenever a dominant chord is used as a functioning V chord, you can add alterations to it. Two alterations are the b9 and #9. Example 3 demonstrates the A7 chord as a ‘functioning’ V chord as it is resolving to a chord a 4th higher (or a 5th lower), in the context of a minor IIm-V-Im progression. To add some b9 extra dissonance we have used both the b9 and #9 intervals in this example, to make the resolution all the more effective.
The name ‘altered’ refers to the Altered scale, which has the intervals 1-b2-b3-3-b5-#5 b7); which is essentially a dominant 7th with all the altered notes added (b9 #9, and #5). This scale is also known as Superlocrian mode and is a sound used a lot in fusion music by players like Scott Henderson and Robben Ford. Example 4 shows a cool fusion-blues style riff based around the E Superlocrian mode, with two different E7#9 chord shapes included.
Finally, we look at a more relaxed example inspired by Dave Gilmour. Here we are in the key of E minor, or E Aeolian mode. In this key the altered dominant chord is D and, as we can hear, the altered b9 and #9
Eb intervals ( and F respectively) work very well in this context too.
NEXT MONTH Charlie looks at using the waltz flavoured 3/4 time signature in rock
shar p 9 is an other way of saying min or 3rd so in fact the 7#9 chord contain s both major an d min or 3rd
On Purple Haze Jimi actually played the 7#9 at the open position
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