Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Chapter 4: Cutting the Chord

My good friend, Patrick, of Philo T. Farnsworth and the Glass Popes, offered this advice:
Practice every way to play that chord. Starting with the basic E and A barre forms, learn what you have to change to make it major, minor, maj7, min7, dom7, 9, sus2, sus4, and dim. Learn it so thoroughly you don't have to think about the best way to play that G#maj7, you just play it. Learn to transpose in your head, as you go.


Here is where I have commentary. One of the first times I played out, I found myself playing a song featuring G minor, while I was playing acoustic. Wednesday night worship gigs, you get the song list, you pull your chord sheets, and if you didn't know the song at the beginning, by gum, you knew enough to fake it by the end.

Anyway, I knew the E barre form of G minor, but when you're playing acoustic, you want to play open strings as much as possible. So, while I was playing the rest, waiting for the Gmin to come around again, I started thinking "What's a G chord? G, B and D. The Gminor is G, Bb and D. So, where are my Bs?" Next time I hit that chord, I did 310033. It worked, but it isn't a fun stretch for the index finger. So, 3x0033, muting everything that isn't a G or D. In a full band, one with two guitarists, keys and bass, you can do that instead of G7, G6, Gsus4 or whatever variation of G you need, besides diminished, because the rhythm guitar is more there as a tuned drum. Flavor the chords if you feel comfortable, but it isn't altogether necessary.

Let's start out with "Every way to play a chord". Thinking three-note chords, not jazz chords, there are five ways of playing a chord. You may have heard of the CAGED system. This is the point. There are five chord shapes. C, A, G, E and D. Put in that order because it makes a word, but also because of the order.

C-form C

E ||--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|
B ||--X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|
G |X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|
D ||--|--X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|
A ||--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|
E |X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|


A-form C

E ||--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|
B ||--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|
G ||--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|
D ||--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|
A ||--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|
E ||--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|


G-form C

E ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|
B ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|
G ||--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|
D ||--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|
A ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|--|
E ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|


E-form C

E ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|
B ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|
G ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|
D ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|
A ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|
E ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|--|--|


D-form C

E ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|
B ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X
G ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|
D ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|
A ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|--|--|
E ||--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--|--X--|


(I've really got to write a PNG-creating Guitar Tool so I can imbed this stuff. Text-mode sucks.)

CAGED is considered a scale-learning thing, but it works for chords. The first song that showed me that you could barre more than the E and A was Richard Thompson's "Shoot Out The Lights", where he goes from a D-barre E (x00450) to a D and then standard E. "You can do that?", I asked. You can do that if it sounds cool, if you can get away with it.

I've seen a primer on jazz chords I'll cover later. But if you're worried about jazz chords, you're probably beyond what I say here. I'll also get to the basics of transposition.

2 comments:

Patrick said...

Practically speaking, I always got the most mileage out of the E and A forms for chords. C, G, and D involve difficult stretching, usually. There was an aha! moment when I figured out that A form and G form are pretty much the same thing, and C form and D form are really pretty close too.

Dave Jacoby said...

Yeah, there's that. D-form barres aren't that much of a stretch to me (especially if you drop the high E string) but they're awfully high and mostly useful if you're skanking reggae or doing Clash stuff.