Justin Sandercoe of justinguitar.com lends GT his insight as one of the world’s most successful guitar teachers. This month: Beauty in dissonance (pt 2).
Justin, Instrumental Inquisition, Mitch, Jam Tracks, Phil’s One-Minute Lick and more.
In the previous instalment of Food For Thought we looked at the concept of adding the minor 9th degree to a minor chord to get a semitone ‘clash’ b3rd between 2nd and scale degrees (2nd and 9th are the same note, and while the 9 suggests it’s an octave higher, in practice this may not always be the case). Anyway, I hope you had some fun exploring other minor shapes and how you can use this dissonance to create beautiful and interesting chords.
The interval of a tone (major 2nd) is also quite dissonant and can give a similar effect to major chords - when we add the 9th it has a tone distance between the root and the major 3rd so it’s possible (though the fingerings can be tricky) to have a tone clash ‘either side’ of the 9th.
If you start by playing a B note, on the 4th fret, third string and the note C# on the 2nd fret, second string, you will hear the sound of that major 2nd clash.
Maj 2 interval Now let’s add that into a common open A major chord which is a really pleasing sound – note that the first string is optional and if you don’t play it you can barre the notes on the 2nd fret with your first finger.
Aadd9 Another really nice way of playing this chord is to play an E shape barre chord and leave the top two strings open. You might like to explore this chord shape on other parts of the neck too.
Aadd9 v2 Going back to the first shape, it’s lovely to play as an open G shape as well. I suggest using the second finger and muting the fifth string (that low B often just makes the chord sound muddy).
Gadd9 And one more common add9 shape is the one from an E shape which can be played as an open chord...
E add9 ...or as a barre chord form – but it’s quite a stretch. This is ‘that’ chord from the Police hit Every Breath You Take, just lift off the second finger for the minor variation. Another lovely sound.
Aadd9 One more tasty and common open shape is the Cadd9 for which we just add the fourth finger at the 3rd fret, second string which is adding the note D and gives us a tone clash with the open first string. It’s a really nice chord you can use almost any time you have a regular C chord in a song.
Cadd9 In this article, I’ve just explored the 9th, but you can also get tone clashes by adding the 6th b7 (a tone from the 5th) or the (a tone from the root) so there is plenty more to explore.
Beginner to intermediate players should really try and put this stuff into practice and create a new pool of chords that you can use in most circumstances – add9 shapes (both major and minor) are usually easy to substitute for a regular chord but do use your ears and if it sounds bad, it is!
We are just scratching the surface here but those with decent harmonic understanding should be able to take this concept and run far with it. For those that like the blues I would recommend exploring the idea using the Mixolydian mode notes for major chords (which will give you dominant shapes) and Dorian for minors (as covered in the previous article).
You might also explore the idea using diatonic chords and the parent Major scale, then adding any note from the scale to any of the chords in the key… it’s a deep adventure and you’ll find many amazing chords there. Do it with bass notes to create chords with a different bottom note than their own root (slash chords).
Hope you enjoyed this further journey into dissonance land.
beginner to intermediate players should put this stuff into practice to create a new pool of chords
Justin looking anything but dissonant!