Chord Extensions Lesson 1

by David OToole

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  • Hi GMCers and welcome to this 2-part Chord Extensions lesson which builds on our previous basic chord groups. In part 2 we'll be looking at moving these chords to cover the whole neck, and showing how to play lead arpeggios using them as the basis.

    This time we're going to be adding on to the basic C group and adding what's called 'extensions' to the basic chords.

    Here's a quick reminder of the basic C group or family of chords, but remember that this info applies to ALL keys:

    C Dm Em F G Am Bm7b5 C.

    No sharps or flats are used here and these are the basic chords needed to play the group. If you need to brush up on these basics, please check out the C group basic series at: Guitar Chords Lesson 1

    Now each of these chords from above uses 3 notes to form the chord. This is the minimum amount of notes needed to form a chord. What we are going to do here is add a 4th note to the chord. This 4th note will change the chord to a major or minor seventh.

    Here's the chords we will be using:

    1 C Major 7
    2 D Minor 7
    3 E Minor 7
    4 F Major 7
    5 G Dominant 7
    6 A Minor 7
    7 B Minor 7 flat 5 <<< same as used before
    8 C Major 7

    This progrssion, particularly with the Major 7s, has a 'Jazzish' feel to it (but not strict Jazz). When we start moving to the next section with the barres up the neck, you will hear the Jazzy feel these extensions lend to the progression as used here.

    But as stated in the talky vid these chord extensions are not restricted to Jazzy styles at all. For example a lot of slow Rock Ballads use minor 7 chords and so on. The Beatles used a lot of Dominant 7 chords in their early stuff in particular, and they are used a lot in authentic style Blues.

    Notice that the chord progression itself does not change, we have just added to the chords and made them a bit more complex. Only one note is added to the basic chord but this note makes a huge difference to the sound. Also there are no barre chords used here in this key and vid.

    Basically the major chords are being changed to Major 7 or Dominant 7 chords, and the minor chords are being changed to Minor 7s.

    Once again I recommend you check out GMC's very own Andrew Cockburn's theory breakdown lessons to get the complete info on how these chords are formed.

    In the main video the chords are played in the first position as before with the extra notes added. You will find these same chord shapes repeating themselves elsewhere in different keys.

    For example the C Major 7 chord used here is also used in the G group. So as you are learning these new chords you are building an 'arsenal' of useable chords which will crop up time and time again in lots of different songs and styles of music.

    And of course you can use this knowlege when writing original material. The advice given here is that when you have the basic rules under your belt, feel free to break any of them!

    Remember that these are just the basic guidelines used in most western music songs. If you come up with an original song with unusual chord progressions which are not the norm, well by all means go for it.

    These conventional guidelines are just that and are not written in stone. Basically if it sounds good to you, use it. Just use this info as a basic guide when working on originals.

    Working on covers, this knowledge takes a lot of guesswork out of the equation and can save you a lot of learning time over the years.

    You may find yourself having used some of these chord progressions naturally already, but knowing why and how they are put together opens up a lot of doors musically speaking.

    C Group Chord Extensions - 7ths


    .........................C Maj 7.............D min 7 ..........


    ..E min 7 ............F Maj 7 ............G7...............


    ..A min 7 .....


    ...Bm7-5 ..............C Maj 7 ........

    x - dead note
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