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Old 01-30-2019, 06:47 AM
LiveMusic LiveMusic is offline
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Default Unusual chord shapes

First of all, realize that I play acoustic guitar, not electric. I dunno if that matters. I've been playing for decades and I can play just about any chord I need to play. Not every single one but enough I can get by just fine to play most any song. (My focus is songwriting but I play lots of covers for pleasure and at gigs.) I can play majors, minors, sevenths, diminished, augmented, barres, whatever, in general. Some jazz chords might challenge me but there's always a workaround.

I could sum up my question by pasting something I just saw on an ad for guitar lessons that popped up on my screen -- "How to play any chord anywhere on the neck by understanding chord movement." That kind of sums up what I am after.

I should also mention that I am a singer-songwriter and I play solo a lot, so, making arrangements sound interesting is appealing. It's often just one voice, one guitar.

I often see artists play a song and it takes me awhile to figure out what the heck they are playing. I might hear the chords, I might pick them out pretty easily, but they are playing some strange chord shape. And it sounds more interesting than my cowboy chords.

So, my question is... how do guitar players get to this point? Did somebody show them this? Did they just naturally think to themselves, "I wonder how I could play this and it won't sound like the normal cowboy chord shapes, what would sound cool?" Are guitar players who do this a step above in innate talent, just some natural skillset that is inherently above the rest of us? I don't say this in jest, it's a real question.

So, what say you guys about this, it's very appealing to a solo dude wanting to spice up the sound. I use alt-tunings and also partial capos to get cool sounds, and it does inspire me for songwriting. I also noodle around on the guitar and find some gems but, in general, the subject of this thread, I am not proficient at. I guess I could sign up for that online lesson! Thanks if you have any insight!

EXAMPLES, if you care to read further...

An example would be watching Paul Simon play "Scarborough Fair." Another example...

If you watch Gordon Lightfoot play "Sundown," he has a capo at fret 2. Now, relative to the capo, you see that he plays a chord that sounds like an E-chord shape. Again, that is relative to the capo. The actual chord would be F#. Go back now relative to the capo. So, if I play a cowboy chord shape, 022100, that's the chord. Except he is playing what appears to be 022400, with the A-string and D-string being barred with his index finger. The next chord, relative to the capo is a B-chord. Except he doesn't play a cowboy chord shape, such as a barred 224442. He simply moves his finger to the D-string at fret 4 (relative to the capo) and plays what appears to be 024x00. Sounds to me like he is muting the G-string to get the B-chord sound. It took me awhile to be able to play these chord shapes fluidly but I think I got it now. Cool!

What prompted this thread was this video of Sir Paul playing "I Got A Feeling." I think he is tuned down a whole step and playing an unusual A-shape, adding a couple of fingers to get an unusual D-shape. Since he's tuned down, it's G and C. Point is, the fingered shapes are not cowboy chords. It sounds way cooler than what a G-shape and C-shape (tuned E to e) would give.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eg8dFvAQF4c
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Old 01-30-2019, 09:07 AM
Dreadfulnaught Dreadfulnaught is offline
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Learning the CAGED system will free you from the first position. Also, try “closed” or as I call them “Jormatic” chords. Merle Travis also used them a lot-when all strings are fretted you can move the chords anywhere you want. (It’s not a barre chord.)
And when you play partial chords in passing you can really get different sounds and voicing.
Capoing up high really gives you a different sound, California Dreaming is played capoed on 4 and Here Comes The Sun is capoed on 7 I believe.
I don’t get overly analytical about my music, and don’t have the musical knowledge to do so. If someone asks what chord I just played, I say “One I liked”.
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Old 01-30-2019, 09:28 AM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LiveMusic View Post
"How to play any chord anywhere on the neck by understanding chord movement." That kind of sums up what I am after.

...making arrangements sound interesting is appealing...

...they are playing some strange chord shape. And it sounds more interesting than my cowboy chords.

So, my question is... how do guitar players get to this point? Did somebody show them this? Did they just naturally think to themselves, "I wonder how I could play this and it won't sound like the normal cowboy chord shapes, what would sound cool?" Are guitar players who do this a step above in innate talent, just some natural skillset that is inherently above the rest of us? I don't say this in jest, it's a real question.
There are a few different routes to attaining that ability. One route is to "just noodle around" for enough years that you discover things "that work". Another is to just be "gifted", though few of us are. Another route, the one that I took, is to study and understand music and how that can be applied to a specific instrument, such as the guitar.

I won't go too far off topic but will say that most guitar players are hampered by the approach they use. For example, understanding "chords" to be an arrangement of where to put your fingers/press frets, is self-limiting. (See repeating discussions on "The F Chord", suggesting that there is one chord called "F".) Instead, if one understand that music of Western culture is largely based upon keys, keys are represented by scales, scales are an arrangement of intervals, there are four - and only four - types of triads, which are three notes comprised of intervals separated by a third, and chords are based on triads. The traditional study of "harmony" is the study of the movement of chords - why one chord follows another and how to build and release musical tension. (Build and release of tension is one of the things that adds musical interest.)

Armed with the above knowledge, one understands that there are many, many possible ways (voicings) to finger, on a guitar, even a simple triad. One isn't limited by specified shapes such as "cowboy chords" or the CAGED system. One is free to "spell" a chord in whatever voicing or inversion suits the occasion. This is a basis for "chord-melody" style of playing, or, simply, adding a bass run - as part of the chords - under a harmonization of a song, or adding a harmony to a melody one is singing.

"Cowboy chords" are fine if they produce the sound you want to hear when you play your instrument. If they don't produce the sounds you want to hear, move on, learn the theory necessary to understand chords, melodies, harmonies...
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Old 01-30-2019, 09:38 AM
LiveMusic LiveMusic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charles Tauber View Post
...Another is to just be "gifted", though few of us are...
thanks. Do you guys think that is how most artists who do this came to this ability, that they are gifted?

In addition to learning this skill set, I am curious about famous artists who I see do this, even way back when, and that is why I wrote "how do guitar players get to this point? Did somebody show them this? Did they just naturally think to themselves, "I wonder how I could play this and it won't sound like the normal cowboy chord shapes, what would sound cool?" Are guitar players who do this a step above in innate talent, just some natural skillset that is inherently above the rest of us? I don't say this in jest, it's a real question."
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Old 01-30-2019, 09:53 AM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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thanks. Do you guys think that is how most artists who do this came to this ability, that they are gifted?
No. Very, very few are "gifted". Many spend years and years of trial and error, with many hours of experimentation.

Others shorten that journey and study how to do what they want to do from people who can already do it.

Quote:
In addition to learning this skill set, I am curious about famous artists who I see do this, even way back when, and that is why I wrote "how do guitar players get to this point? Did somebody show them this? Did they just naturally think to themselves, "I wonder how I could play this and it won't sound like the normal cowboy chord shapes, what would sound cool?" Are guitar players who do this a step above in innate talent, just some natural skillset that is inherently above the rest of us? I don't say this in jest, it's a real question."
I attempted to answer these questions in my previous post. Short answer, most spend a lot of years randomly experimenting. Very few are "gifted". Some study music with people who can already do what one wants to be able to do.

Music begins with what you hear in your head. Some people naturally hear more than others. If what you hear in your head doesn't extend beyond hearing cowboy chords, and you want to hear more than that, you'll need to expand what you hear - in your head. One way is through formal study. Another way is through "exposure" to a wider variety of music. Another way is random experimentation. None of your famous artists emerged from a vacuum. All of them did some combination of the above: study, exposure, experimentation. Regardless of how much effort one puts in, not everyone becomes "gifted" or "inspired". That's true in all of life's endeavours: not everyone is "great" at everything. That one might not attain "greatness" at an endeavour should not deter one from pursuing and enjoying that endeavour.
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Old 01-30-2019, 09:54 AM
Dreadfulnaught Dreadfulnaught is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LiveMusic View Post
thanks. Do you guys think that is how most artists who do this came to this ability, that they are gifted?

In addition to learning this skill set, I am curious about famous artists who I see do this, even way back when, and that is why I wrote "how do guitar players get to this point? Did somebody show them this? Did they just naturally think to themselves, "I wonder how I could play this and it won't sound like the normal cowboy chord shapes, what would sound cool?" Are guitar players who do this a step above in innate talent, just some natural skillset that is inherently above the rest of us? I don't say this in jest, it's a real question."
They probably are gifted. Listen to the early Beatles. They did not really play their instruments well, but grew up musically in a hurry, especially George. None of them had a music degree. Paul still canít read music. On the other hand, there are plenty of Carnegie Mellon music grads who are selling insurance.

I have known a few.
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Old 01-30-2019, 10:04 AM
charles Tauber charles Tauber is offline
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They probably are gifted. Listen to the early Beatles.
The very early Beatles played popular songs of the day and copied them. With continued experimentation, they developed their own "style" and sound. Lennon and McCartney are gifted song writers.


Quote:
On the other hand, there are plenty of Carnegie Mellon music grads who are selling insurance.
That's very true. By definition, not many are gifted. Many can be technically competent, but few reach the level of "inspired". History tends to sort out the difference.
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Old 01-30-2019, 10:23 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LiveMusic View Post
So, my question is... how do guitar players get to this point? Did somebody show them this? Did they just naturally think to themselves, "I wonder how I could play this and it won't sound like the normal cowboy chord shapes, what would sound cool?"
Pretty much, yes (I guess).
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiveMusic View Post
Are guitar players who do this a step above in innate talent, just some natural skillset that is inherently above the rest of us?
No. Unless you define "talented" as not being hidebound by rules.
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiveMusic View Post
An example would be watching Paul Simon play "Scarborough Fair."
Yes, those are interesting chords, from someone who is theoretically pretty knowledgeable.

It's worth mentioning that he got one of those chord shapes - x04030 - from Martin Carthy's arrangement of the tune:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCjUDUshHdQ
Carthy has made a career (since then) of experimental guitar tunings and chord voicings, and knows exactly what he's doing.
Sample of his intellect and immense (but modest) knowledge here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-lAqiaLBTo

Paul Simon added the Asus2 shape - x02200 - realising it formed a perfect partner to x04030 as a dorian vamp. Note that neither chord contains a C, and yet it suits the A dorian vibe. (This is a jazz sensibility, although I don't know how knowledgeable about jazz Simon was at that time, or whether this was just intuitive.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiveMusic View Post
If you watch Gordon Lightfoot play "Sundown," he has a capo at fret 2. Now, relative to the capo, you see that he plays a chord that sounds like an E-chord shape. Again, that is relative to the capo. The actual chord would be F#. Go back now relative to the capo. So, if I play a cowboy chord shape, 022100, that's the chord. Except he is playing what appears to be 022400, with the A-string and D-string being barred with his index finger. The next chord, relative to the capo is a B-chord. Except he doesn't play a cowboy chord shape, such as a barred 224442. He simply moves his finger to the D-string at fret 4 (relative to the capo) and plays what appears to be 024x00. Sounds to me like he is muting the G-string to get the B-chord sound. It took me awhile to be able to play these chord shapes fluidly but I think I got it now. Cool!
Yes - there's a kind of light-bulb moment with shapes like this, where you realise how little you need to imply the chords you want. I think it does take a certain attitude or viewpoint to be open to that way of thinking.
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Originally Posted by LiveMusic View Post
What prompted this thread was this video of Sir Paul playing "I Got A Feeling." I think he is tuned down a whole step and playing an unusual A-shape, adding a couple of fingers to get an unusual D-shape. Since he's tuned down, it's G and C. Point is, the fingered shapes are not cowboy chords. It sounds way cooler than what a G-shape and C-shape (tuned E to e) would give.
Sure. The downtuning is for his voice, primarily. He plays Yesterday in that tuning, using G shapes for the actual key of F.

Here, he's using what I think of as Keith Richard chord shapes. In open G tuning (losing the 6th string), a G chord (obviously) is x00000, and C is x02010 (C/G to be precise, but does the job). To play any of Keef's famous chord riffs, all you need to do is covert those to barre shapes, which is easy enough. Two (easy) chord shapes, to cover any major chord you want, anywhere!
But you can emulate that in standard tuning, at least in key of A, by doing with Paul is doing here: x02225 for A and x04235 for D.

However, all of this is nothing compared to the kinds of chord voicings Bert Jansch worked out and employed all the time: Such as in this one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmVA7BHsF1I (drop D)
or this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsL-2cHKgMc (DADGAD)
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Old 01-30-2019, 10:38 AM
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At least some of the time pay more attention to individual notes on individual strings than to full chords and their typical shapes and fingerings.
You will start to hear things differently and your options will considerably expand.
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Old 01-30-2019, 10:54 AM
Dreadfulnaught Dreadfulnaught is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonPR;5964681
Paul Simon added the Asus2 shape - x02200 - realising it formed a perfect partner to x04030 as a [I
dorian vamp[/I].
Ah yes, the great thing about that Dorian Vamp is that it never gets old. I can picture it now.....
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Old 01-30-2019, 10:56 AM
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take piano lessons and you will go ah-ha.
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Old 01-30-2019, 11:20 AM
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Listening for notes, like on the above referenced x02200 to x04030 what note really jump out in that change and makes the effect?
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Old 01-30-2019, 11:53 AM
LiveMusic LiveMusic is offline
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Quote:
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take piano lessons and you will go ah-ha.
That's probably a good answer. Do you think guitar players who get that actually go through the motions to see just how many ways they could come up with to play most chords? Might be a good idea to figure that out and play them regularly lol! Fingerstyle might lend itself better to this.
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Old 01-30-2019, 09:15 PM
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I bought a couple books by Jay Friedman about 40 years ago - imaginatively titled Guitar Tricks and More Guitar Tricks. They showed lots of chord inversions up the neck that incorporate open strings as well. Sadly I lent them to a neighbor kid who was learning to play and they are gone for good.
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Old 01-31-2019, 05:38 AM
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There's an old story about Lennon & McCartney hearing about guitar player in a band in another town who played a B7th chord... They hopped on a bus & rode to go see it.

The Beatles played for hour long sets while in Germany playing a wide variety of songs.

By the time they "became famous" they had an extensive knowledge of chord progressions in their head. It more than likely became almost intuitive that they knew what chord sounds they wanted in songs and where to use them.

That knowledge combined with their song writing skills became amazing.
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