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Chords for do-it-yorselvers
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Chords for do-it-yourselvers

Chords for do-it-yourselvers

First, you have to know, what tones you need for the chord, you want to assemble and on what string you want to place the root note. The last depends on the context, that means what chords you'll play before or after the chord, that has to be constructed. Sure, you can play all chords with the root on the 6th (E) string, but it will be hard to get a good voicing this way and you have to move around the entire neck a lot, which might slow down your playing.

E.g. if you play a Bb-7 with the root on the 6th string, and want to play a Eb7/b13 after it (Eb is a 4th higher than Bb) you will probably place the root of this chord on the 5th (A) string. So you don't have to move your hand to another fret - if you would have placed it on the 6th string you had to move your hand from the 6th to the 11th fret!

Ok sometimes you can't avoid a thing like this.

So, what tones do we need for a chord that has to be "invented"? The root, the 3rd (minor or major), the 5th (can be diminished or augmented) the 7th (minor or major), the 9th (b9, 9, #9), the 11th (or #11th) and the (b)13th. Sure, if your highest option is a 7th, you don't need a 9th or everything higher, if your highest option is a #11th, you don't need a 13th and so on. But that are still a lot of notes, probably more than we have strings on our guitar.

But there are simple rules for the notes, we can leave out. I don't know, if they are written down in any textbook, but I do it this way (in the same sequence).

Never leave out the 3rd, the 7th (if it is part of the "original" chord) [and the highest option]. The 3rd contains the information, whether it is a minor or a major chord, the 7th is needed for distinguishing between a major7th or a dominant7th chord. The higest option should be played, but can be substituted by another option in many cases If you always play a piece in the way, it is written down, that gets boring pretty soon. Itís always good to find different ways to play achord progression, that spices up your playing a lot.

In may cases it is not possible to place the notes of the chords on the strings in the sequence of the piled up 3rds. It doesn`t matter, though. If a note can`t be played at it`s original position, just transpose it up one octave. It even sounds better!

That means if you replace e.g. the 3rd by a note that is an octave higher it still sounds like the 3rd. In case you have a string left, just repeat a note one octave higher, that doesn`t change the feeling of the chord.

Now some patterns, that will help you to locate the notes:

Root at the 6th string...
1.E -|-----|- 7--|maj7-|root-|- b9-|- #9-|- -3 |---
2.B -|-----|-11--|b5#11|
- 5 -|- +5 |6/13-|- 7 -|---
3.G -|-----|-----|- b9 |
#9/-3|- 3 -|- 11 |-#11-|---
4.D -|-----| +5 -|- 6 -|
- 7 -|maj7 |root |- b9 |---
5.A -|-----| -3 -|- 3 -|
- 11-|- b5 |- 5 -|- +5 |---
6.E -|-----|- 7 -|maj7-|
root-|-----|-----|-----|---

Root at the 5th string...
1.E -|-----|- 11 |b5#11|--5--| +5 -| 6/13|- 7 -|---
2.B -|-----|-root|- b9 |
- 9 -|#9/-3|- 3 -|-11--|---
3.G -|-----|- +5 |- 6--|
- 7 -|maj7-|root-| b9 -|---
4.D -|-----|- -3 |- 3 -|
- 11-|- b5-|- 5 -|- +5 |---
5.A -|-----|- 7 -|maj7-|
root-|- b9-|- 9 -|- -3 |---
6.E -|-----|-----|-----|
- 5 -|- +5-|- 6 -|-----|---

This is less complicated than it looks...
You just need to know a few tones on a vertical line through the root. The other notes can be figured out easily by counting up (to the right) or down (to the left) from the note on the certain string.

You'll find e.g. the major 3rd one fret right of the minor 3rd (it is one semitone higher). The 13th is a 6th plus an octave (please refer to the "Intervals" chapter), so you'll place it 2 frets left of the 5th.

If you know just some basic chords by heart (with the funktion of each not in those chords), it`s pretty simple to derive new chords from those basic chords.

You can extend both pattern a bit to figure out some "extra long finger chords".

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Last modified on Friday, 2. January 2009