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Many guitarists use chords for rhythm guitar without considering another option: intervals. While a chord has at least three notes, an interval has two. This might seem a trivial difference, but using just part of a chord lets you play intervals for specific reasons, and using only two fingers creates other more advanced possibilities. Let's take a look at chords and see the two main intervals at our disposal. Chords It may seem that with only two pitches, the sound would be thinner than a chord, but hard rock and metal players have been going with two notes for decades. A healthy distortion more than makes up for a thin sound. Playing a full barre chord is mostly avoided because many players feel the higher notes don't sound good with distortion. Significantly, one of the higher pitches omitted is the chord's third. In theory, all chords have at least a root, third, and fifth. Simply put, the third is what makes a chord major or minor, without it you have a somewhat empty voicing, which is why it sounds more stable and more powerful with distortion. Consider the case of the octave, which is the same note at a higher or lower pitch. All octaves are "perfect", and along with the unison, are as stable as an interval can be. Similarly, the fifth is also perfect (usually) and also very stable. When distortion is added, this stability is exaggerated. This is why the "power chord" of root-fifth-octave is a "sure fire" voicing that always sounds strong. In the same way, the sound of a third is also exaggerated, but it is a less stable interval, a fact that becomes increasingly apparent if the interval is held alone for several seconds. The interval will "wobble" just like when you're tuning your guitar, a dissonant effect that is tolerated by some listeners more than others. It is less noticeable in the midst of a larger chord, but with the third removed, stability is easier. Intervals If a guitarist isn’t going to play full chords or single notes, there are several intervals to choose from (in the order of increasing dissonance and decreasing stability): perfect octave or perfect unison perfect fifth, perfect fourth major third and major sixth minor third and minor sixth major second and minor seventh major seventh, diminished fifth, minor second Our purpose is to use parts of a chord instead of the entire thing, so our two main choices are fifths and thirds. The other intervals will be used when we get to ornamentation, but let's have a look and listen to our core intervals.
For most guitar players, the fifth needs no introduction. It's what you get when you only play the two lowest notes of a barre chord As shown in the example, some also play the octave, which adds some brightness and stability but otherwise has no effect. This is one reason many people don't play it, especially in heavier or darker music. Another reason to omit the octave is that, instead of using your pinky for that note, your pinky can hold down the fifth, which is a more comfortable hand position for many. One advantage is that in standard tuning, the same hand position can be moved around the guitar neck without much thought. All a player has to do is know which notes are in the key, put the index finger there, and retain the same hand "shape". This has one unintended side effect, however. There is always one diminished fifth, not perfect fifth, in a key, but players tend to ignore this as if a fifth is a fifth is a fifth. In E minor, for example, the F# voicing should include a C natural, but most players use C#, introducing a raised sixth scale degree to the music (Example 2). This is fine, but be aware that this might affect lead guitar work.
Thirds Intervals of a third are not very common, which is odd because thirds are the building block of chords, and one would expect to see them frequently. We can only guess the reason is the aforementioned effect of distortion. A big advantage to thirds is that they are richer intervals, with more tone colour. They are moodier, more dramatic, and thicker. The intervals are E minor 3rd, D major 3rd, and C major 3rd, as shown in Example 3.
Thirds come in two varieties: major thirds and minor thirds. This is more diverse than playing a perfect fifth everywhere, but is also one deterrent to using them. To play and/or write an entire riff in thirds, you must know which one you're supposed to play as you move through a key and change your hand shape accordingly.
If a full chord would be minor, then you want to play a minor 3rd at each of those points. The same is true of major thirds. In E minor, the first, second, fourth, and fifth intervals would be minor, and the third, sixth, and seventh intervals are major: E minor, F# minor, G major, A minor, B minor, C major, D major. The tonality of major or minor is immediately apparent, which can be useful for making a noticeable key change, such as from E major to E minor. If you were to do this with fifths in the rhythm, the change wouldn't be noticed at first. In addition, if you want to play an unexpected sound, such as using an E major chord where an E minor one is expected, using a third easily accomplishes this. Like the fifth, thirds can also be played with the octave included (Example 4). Unlike the fifth, a third has more than just added brightness this way, for the character is changed somewhat. This shape is unusually difficult to move around the guitar.
As mentioned earlier, the third is less stable than a fifth and sounds less desirable the longer it is held. One trick for using it successfully is to play it briefly. While this might seem too limiting, consider that many metal players have a palm-muting style, the interval is momentarily sounded in between muted 8th-notes, meaning it never has the chance to deteriorate. On the repeat, the interval is held open longer to provide a clearer example of the sound. As a final note, thirds become muddier and less useful lower on the guitar, but this can be overcome with the above technique. Alternating Intervals Switching between thirds and fifths can help provide variety within a riff and between two music sections. One simple trick is to take the same chord succession and do it twice: once using fifths and once with thirds. Another is write two sections of music where the first interval is different. This helps creates separation between musical ideas. Coda Though chords and fifths are frequently used, the addition of thirds to your repertoire will give you other options, which is always a good thing. This simple technique can be the foundation for an empire of ideas. Counterpoint Counterpoint is defined as two or more simultaneous melodies that maintain their independence while still forming a harmonic relationship. A single instrument like classical guitar can perform counterpoint with three or four lines seeming like a single part. However, rock guitarists seldom do this for a variety of reasons, but that doesn't mean it can't be done.
Previously we examined intervals, how to write riffs with them, and different ways to melodically ornament them. The two main intervals were fifths and thirds, with each having neighbor and/or passing tones. Now we'll go further to using mixed intervals and introduce two basic ideas in counterpoint: oblique motion and contrary motion. Mixed Intervals Using three implied chords: E minor, D major, and C major, in that order. The lower line has also been E, D, and C, and the main interval has either been thirds or fifths. What we'll look at now is retaining that bass line, but changing what interval is above it. Take a look at Example 1.
Using three different intervals, a third, fourth, and fifth, we have this riff as performed in Example 2.
The upper part remains on G while the lower line descends. As this happens, the G forms an E minor third with the E below it, and when the passage ends, a fifth with the C below it. G is a common tone for E minor and C major (it is in both the first and last chords). In between at measures 5-6, while the lower note is D, G seems like a non-chord tone. After all, the notes of D major are D, F#, and A. There's no G, but we're playing it anyway. There are two interpretations. One: G is a non-chord tone that works with D because G is in the chord before and after it. This makes the temporary dissonance of G not being in the chord smoother.
Two: The chord has changed from D major to being G major in second inversion (i.e., the fifth, D, is the lowest note). G major is spelled G, B, and D. Any time you're playing a perfect fourth, the higher note is the root, as if it's a root-fifth-octave voicing without the lower root (Example 3).
Simple Counterpoint In previous examples, when using thirds or fifths, we were always doing parallel motion, which means the two notes were a third apart on the first chord and remained that way as the notes moved to other chords (Example 4). Fifths were always a fifth apart.
Now, one line moves and the other one doesn't, which is called oblique motion. It might seem that less note movement would be less interesting, but both oblique and contrary motion create a sense of depth and space within the guitar part. The stationary note causes the following changes in this case: 1. There are two independent parts 2. Three different intervals and sounds are used: a third, fourth, and fifth. 3. The chord changed from D major to G major, which also gives the bassist two options: playing D or G. If you listen carefully to the mp3s, you will hear the bass move from D up to G and then walk down to the C chord. A good use of oblique motion is to perform a V-I progression, since the fifth note of a key is in both chords. In E minor, that note is B. The V chord of B major is B, D#, F# and I chord of E minor is E, G, B). You can hold down the B while alternating the E with a D# (Example 5).
Contrary Motion When the highest and lowest lines move in opposite directions, it's called contrary motion. This technique is useful for switching between a third and fifth in particular.
Contrary motion in a ii – V – I
Putting It All Together
The most important chord progression in jazz is the ii-V, which may or may not resolve to I. Most tunes will have ii-V progressions in several different keys sprinkled throughout. For example, consider the chord progression:
| Cmaj7 | Dm7 G7 | Em7 | A7 | Dm7 | G7 | Cmaj7 |.
There are three ii-V progressions here. Bar two forms a ii-V in the key of C, although there is no actual C (I) chord in bar three. Bars three through five form a ii-V-I in the key of D minor, and bars five through seven form a ii-V-I in C again. There are many devices that can be used when playing over ii-V progressions. After the I - IV - V progression , the ii-V-I progression is the second most common because it uses the cycle of fifths to move through the changes. Recognizing the ii-V-I progression by ear will help you sketch out tunes you don't have the tab for. When you hear a new key occur in a piece of music, chances are it's part of a ii-V7-I or some variation of it. Knowing that lets you work out a song's chords much quicker.” The ii-V-I progression is a succession of chords whose roots descend in fifths from the supertonic to the dominant and finally to the tonic. In a major key, the supertonic (II) triad is minor, while in a minor key, this triad is diminished. The dominant chord is, in its most basic form, a major triad. With the addition of chord alterations and extensions (most often sevenths), limitless variations exist on this simple formula. The ii-V-I progression in the key of C would yield the following chords: Dm7 (ii), G7 (V), and Cmaj. 7 Notes in C Major: CDEFGABC Next, we must build the chord. Since we're talking jazz, most chords are 4-part chords (triads + some form of 7th usually). We use the I, III, V, and VII notes from the appropriate mode of the C scale. For the II chord, the appropriate mode would be D Dorian. Using the notes from C, but using D as a root, we arrive at our first chord: D F A C - Also known as a Dminor 7th chord. Next, we would be interested in making the V chord. Using the above process, we arrive at: G B D F - Also known as G dominant seventh. Finally, the I chord, is C E G B - Also known as C Major 7. The same thing is done for a minor progression; however, the minor C scale would be substituted in for the major one to arrive at the chords. Actually, you can substitute
Harmonic and Melodic minor scales in, but it just gets more and more confusing from there on. Also, parts of the major II-V-I and minor II-V-I can be mixed and such, resulting in an exponential increase in exhileration.. The minor II-V-I is a bit more complicated. The fifth mode of the natural minor scale is a minor seventh chord. This doesn't sound dominant, and doesn't want to resolve to the I. So the harmonic minor scale was invented, with a raised seventh. In C natural minor, the fifth is Gm7, which as you can see by looking at its notes: G Bb D F doesn't have a tritone, and doesn't sound dominant, so naturally, we'll take the fifth mode of the C harmonic minor scale: G7: G B D F. So, using the harmonic minor scale (C D Eb F G Ab B C), we get the following II-V-I progression: Dm7b5 (D F Ab C) G7 (G B D F) C minor major 7 (C Eb G B). However, the minor sound we are more used to hearing, and that occurs much more often than the minor major seventh chord is the minor seventh chord. The minor major seventh chord is rather harsh sounding, and so is rarely used. So the regular minor II-V-I progression will be IIm7b5 - V7 - Im7. Or in C minor - Dm7b5 - G7 - Cm7. Although the C is taken from the natural minor scale (has a minor seventh), the II and the V are taken from the harmonic minor scale. (As a note - the minor chord can be Cm7, C minor major 7, Cm6, or simply a C minor triad, but in jazz it is most often a minor seventh.). Obviously, we have different scales here, (Cm7 has a Bb, G7 has a natural B), so what scales can we play over the chords? Over Dm7b5, we could theoretically play the second mode of the harmonic minor scale, locrian natural 6. In fact, theoretically, this is the most logical scale to play, as it is from this mode that the chord was constructed. In practice, this is rarely done. Why?, you may ask. And it is a good question. The answer I got was "because it sounds like crap," which is basically the only reason that matters, and is true. The natural 6 doesn't sound good (that would be B on Dm7b5), and it makes it sound too much like a diminished chord. So the locrian scale is used. The locrian was virtually the only scale used over m7b5 chords until somewhere areound the 1950's, when the locrian natural 9 started being used. This is much better as it has no avoid notes. However, you have to learn to recognise the sound, before you can play it well, so I suggest starting on the locrian. (So on Dm7b5 that would be D Eb F G Ab Bb C). Over G7, the possibilities are just about endless. The most basic scale to play here is the mixolydian b9 b13, which is the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale. This is a good choice, because it has the flat 13, which is the minor third of the minor chord it resolves to (i.e on G7, the Eb is the b13, and Eb is the minor 3rd of Cm.) Also, it has the b9, which is the b13 of the minor chord it resloves to (On G7, the b9 is Ab, which is the b13 on Cm). The b13 is very important, the b9 less so. The b13 is so important, because it helps make clear that the dominant chord is going to resolve to a minor chord.
If we played a natural 13 (E on G7), it would give the feeling of resolution to C major. This is generally bad, so you will usually want to play scales with the b13 on a minor II-V-I. Other options include the G7b13 (the fifth mode of the melodic minor scale), though this is hardly ever used, and the altered scale and combination scale (aka half step-whole step diminished). These are both good choices, especially the altered, although you are going to have to get to know the sound before you attempt to play it. This takes a lot of practice, as the sound is rather foreign to the untrained ear. On the Im7, the most obvious scale to play is the aeolian scale, the scale corresponding to the natural minor. The natural minor is the most natural sounding minor to the ear, so this makes sense as a resolution chord. Despite this, though, it is possible to play the dorian scale on the Im7 as well. This is because the dorian sound is very deep-rooted into jazz. Again, in order to play the dorian scale, you should first get acquainted with its sound. If the resulting chord is a minor major 7th, it is possible to play the melodic or harmonic minors. In this case, the melodic is often the preferred scale, as it does not have the troublesome augmented second of the harmonic minor. Here is a II V I progression in C with embellished chords used to create a chromatic melody
The 12 bar blues Playing the blues scale over the basic three chord I IV V blues progression in a jazz setting gets boring very rapidly. Musicians began to make additions to this simple formula. One common adaptation of the blues progression, which is still considered the standard for jam sessions, is:
This progression offers a wider range of scale possibilities than does the basic three chord blues.
In most songs from cultures in the Western hemisphere, the notes of a song's melody usually match a chord tone, when those melody notes fall on strong beats. For example, if I'm playing a C major chord during a tune, and I'm also singing along, and tapping my foot on the strong beats, when my foot hits the ground, chances are pretty good that the note I'll be singing will be one of the notes in the C major chord: C, E, or G. At the least, *most* of the strong beats will have chord tones in the melody. To test this fact about melody notes and chord tones yourself, strum a C chord, and sing various notes from the C major scale over it: C, D, E, etc. When you sing notes D, F, A or B, they should sound a bit uncommon to you, compared to the notes C, E, and G. Here’s a procedure you can use to come up with chords to any song. Remember to let the final decision on what chords to use rest with your ears. Also note that this is just one of many ways you can use to choose chords for a melody. To choose chords for a melody: 1. Play the melody. 2. List the notes on the strong beats. 3. For each note, list all chords in the key that have that note. 4. Select the chord that sounds best.
In general, a chord with the 3rd on top sounds sweeter than a chord with the root, fifth or another note on top. However, sweeter isn’t always better. Remember, a chord and its top note have to be neighborly and get along well with the notes of the chords before and after it. A similar notion applies to a chord's bass note. A strong chord progression will generally have chords whose root notes are the lowest (bass) notes. To verify this, play a short progression like Dm, G7, C, with the B in the bass of the G7, instead of the G. Then put the G back in the bass and decide which sounds better to you. Here's one approach you should definitely *not* take to learning a new chord: do not learn a new chord or chord shape by simply playing it all by itself, up and down the fretboard. This is not music, and it's not fun. You could ruin your motivation to learn by doing this. Trying to learn chords in isolation is like trying to learn the meaning of a word by spelling out all its letters. How do I practice and learn a new chord? Here's one way: Ask yourself, "Where does this chord fit in a ii-V7-I progression?" Example: if the chord is a C7, that's our V7. That means we need two more chords to round out our ii-V7-I: the ii and the I. What are they? Use your knowledge of theory, or a chart like the one following this procedure, to answer this. - The chart tells me that if my V7 is a C7, then my I (One) is F major. - The chart also tells me the ii is G minor. - I now have all the chords I need: G minor, C7 and F. The following is list of ii-V-I progressions for each key. Here's how to read this. "Key: Two (ii), Five-seven (V7), One (I)" C: Dm, G7, C Db: Ebm, Ab7, Db D: Em, A7, D Eb: Fm, Bb7, Eb E: F#m, B7, E F: Gm, C7, F Gb: Abm, Db7, Gb G: Am, D7, G Ab: Bbm, Eb7, Ab A: Bm, E7, A Bb: Cm, F7, Bb B: C#m, F#7, B
Once you know the ii-V-I progression to use for practicing a new chord, where on the fretboard do you play the ii-V-I progression? For example, there are lots of G minors, C7s and F majors all over the fretboard. How do I choose where to play each? For maximum comprehension of the fretboard, you'd want to practice a new chord with each of its notes as the melody note. For example, for a C7 chord, you would find a chord shape that puts the C as the top note or melody note, then play shapes that have the remaining notes -- E, G, and Bb -- on top. Then, for the other chords in the ii-V-I progression, the F and the G minor in this case, you'd find places to play them where their melody notes were close to the melody note of the C major. For example, if you're playnig a C7 with the E on top, like the good ol' C7 in open position, you'd do well to choose the F major bar chord that has the F note on top, fret 1, string 1. And for the G minor, you might choose the G minor bar chord with the G on top, fret 3, string 1. In short, if you want to truly know a new chord, practice it with each of its notes as the melody note within a ii-V-I progression. And keep the melody notes of each of the ii-V-I chords close together.