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> Question About What Defines A Chord
Guitar1969
post Aug 1 2008, 01:07 AM
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Andrew:
I Really am enjoying your tutorials on theory- I've studied a bit of theory previously but you present it in a simple and comprehensive way. I have a question that may seem a bit weird.

Does the lowest note of a particular chord define what chord it is?

Let me explain why I ask and give an example.

I am trying to find new shapes of chords - I have been stuck mainly on open chords and E and A string Barre shapes, and am trying figure out easy alternate voicings. I really only know some major and minor chords, and a few sevenths, and feel I am lacking and need to expand my chord choices, but not sure how to go about it

Lets say I am looking at an open voicing of a D Major - which consists of the D(root on the open D string), an A on the G string(2nd Fret), another D on the B string(3rd Fret), and a F# on the high E string(2nd fret), so we have the I III V triad (D F# A notes). Now lets say I play the same shape but without playing the open D string, so I am just playing the top 3 strings (G B E Strings) I still have the same 3 notes(D F# A), but now the A note(G string 2nd fret) is on the lowest string in my chord shape. Is this still considered a D major , or would it be something else because the A is like the root note now.

I have seen guitarists just play the upper strings(In Funk for example) and Im wondering how they figured out these chords. I have also seen chords made with just 2 notes on high strings that are not necessarily power chords as far as I can tell. I guess what I am tring to determine is if there is some standard shapes other than barre chords(Such as the C A G E D shapes) that I don't know about, are moveable and are easy to finger togive me some other voicings.

Secondly, besides the major, minor and seventh chords, what are the most important chord variations to know typical for Rock and Blues.

Tnnaks for your help.

Michael


This post has been edited by Guitar1969: Aug 1 2008, 01:08 AM


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Muris Varajic
post Aug 1 2008, 01:15 AM
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I'll just give a quick answer since Andrew is ofline,
he'll fill it more in deep I'm sure. smile.gif

Lowest note isn't always the root,
those are inversions,you can have 3rd as lowest note,
or 5th etc.

Cheers. smile.gif


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Andrew Cockburn
post Aug 1 2008, 01:05 PM
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Hi There, Muris is right, here is the complex version though!

The trick here is to look at the context of the whole song, not just the guitar parts. Let me explain ...

Lets look at an example, C major.

We have the notes C-E-G.

These three notes always make a chord of C major no matter what order they are in, BUT they also make 2 other chords as well depending on our point of view, and what is going on overall.

If we make E the lowest note (but not the root), and play E-G-C, well since C is still the root, this is still a chord of C major, we call it the first inversion. Not surprisingly, we can also start on G, play G-C-E and that is the second inversion.

However, in isolation, there is nothing stopping us looking at the chord a different way. Lets take that first inversion again:

E-G-C - going back to our triad theory, we have a root, a minor 3rd between E and G, and a major 6th between E and C. Now, root, minor 3rd, major 6th isn't any of our main triad types, but it is still a chord of sorts, although a little hard to name

We can do the same thing for the second inversion:

G-C-E. We make G the root, C is a perfect 4th, E is a major 6th - again, root, perfect 4th major 6th is not a well known triad type.

So, here is our first clue - if we try to interpret them based on the lower note, we end up with unusual and unfamiliar chords that are difficult to name, and our ear prefers to interpret them as inversions of more usual chords.

The next clue is that we can't look at these chords in isolation, we need to understand what the rest of the musical piece is doing. What if we play C in 2nd inversion - E-G-C. We could try and call it some sort of weird E based chord, but more likely than not, the bass will be playing a C note, and that bass note, being lower than the rest will also have the effect of firmly establishing in our minds that the chord is an inversion of C.

This leads us to the final point you made about players just playing a couple of notes or the upper half of the chord - again, if you look at this in the context of the whole song, other parts of the arrangement will serve to contribute the missing notes and provide a grounding in the root note.

So, you can see that it is our perception of what the root note is that makes these chords what they are, not the actual lowest note. I say perception deliberately, because as long as we have in our minds what the root note is, even if it is not played anywhere else, like a kind of optical illusion, our minds interpret the notes in light of that root note, especially if the root is played elsewhere in the arrangement.


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JVM
post Aug 1 2008, 01:14 PM
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Great explanation Andrew. Cleared some things up for me too smile.gif Really weird, like you say, it's almost like an "audio illusion".


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Andrew Cockburn
post Aug 1 2008, 01:33 PM
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QUOTE (JVM @ Aug 1 2008, 08:14 AM) *
Great explanation Andrew. Cleared some things up for me too smile.gif Really weird, like you say, it's almost like an "audio illusion".


Yes, perception is very important here, especially of root notes - the same is true of modes as well, sometimes you have to hear the root note in your head to get the mode you are after smile.gif


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Guitar1969
post Aug 1 2008, 07:53 PM
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QUOTE (Andrew Cockburn @ Aug 1 2008, 05:05 AM) *
Hi There, Muris is right, here is the complex version though!

The trick here is to look at the context of the whole song, not just the guitar parts. Let me explain ...

Lets look at an example, C major.

We have the notes C-E-G.

These three notes always make a chord of C major no matter what order they are in, BUT they also make 2 other chords as well depending on our point of view, and what is going on overall.

If we make E the lowest note (but not the root), and play E-G-C, well since C is still the root, this is still a chord of C major, we call it the first inversion. Not surprisingly, we can also start on G, play G-C-E and that is the second inversion.

However, in isolation, there is nothing stopping us looking at the chord a different way. Lets take that first inversion again:

E-G-C - going back to our triad theory, we have a root, a minor 3rd between E and G, and a major 6th between E and C. Now, root, minor 3rd, major 6th isn't any of our main triad types, but it is still a chord of sorts, although a little hard to name

We can do the same thing for the second inversion:

G-C-E. We make G the root, C is a perfect 4th, E is a major 6th - again, root, perfect 4th major 6th is not a well known triad type.

So, here is our first clue - if we try to interpret them based on the lower note, we end up with unusual and unfamiliar chords that are difficult to name, and our ear prefers to interpret them as inversions of more usual chords.

The next clue is that we can't look at these chords in isolation, we need to understand what the rest of the musical piece is doing. What if we play C in 2nd inversion - E-G-C. We could try and call it some sort of weird E based chord, but more likely than not, the bass will be playing a C note, and that bass note, being lower than the rest will also have the effect of firmly establishing in our minds that the chord is an inversion of C.

This leads us to the final point you made about players just playing a couple of notes or the upper half of the chord - again, if you look at this in the context of the whole song, other parts of the arrangement will serve to contribute the missing notes and provide a grounding in the root note.

So, you can see that it is our perception of what the root note is that makes these chords what they are, not the actual lowest note. I say perception deliberately, because as long as we have in our minds what the root note is, even if it is not played anywhere else, like a kind of optical illusion, our minds interpret the notes in light of that root note, especially if the root is played elsewhere in the arrangement.


That clears it up alot - Since I am taking about playing my newly created chord(such as my D major) over a progression with a band that would be playing a D at that point, it should mesh nicely together and give a nice alternate voicing.

As I said before, I am tryig to find some common alternate major/minor chord voicings other than the C A G E D barre chord shapes and the open chords (And other than power chords). Do any particular fingurings come to mind - Or can you direct me to a lesson here. I have reviewed the Chord lessons(Such as David oToole) and its not really what I'm after and the problem with chord genrators(online) and the Chord Dictionaries that they show chords that may or may not be practical in fingering(Such as a muted string in the middle of a chord).

Thanks for all of your help

This post has been edited by Guitar1969: Aug 1 2008, 07:54 PM


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Andrew Cockburn
post Aug 1 2008, 09:17 PM
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QUOTE (Guitar1969 @ Aug 1 2008, 02:53 PM) *
a muted string in the middle of a chord).


These are in fact perfectly practical chords - just harder to play that's all, and used a lot in Jazz.

Regarding voicings, there is no substitute for trying things out. If you know where the chords come from, and can get hold of a diagram with all the possible notes, you can work out the voicings yourself - CAGED is in fact very useful here, as a lot of voicings are 2 or 3 notes taken from open or bar chords without the open notes and moved up and down the neck.


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