Trick Chords

Trick Voicings

As you will sno doubt recall from your study of previous lessons and video views I have taken the approach in this course of organizing and knowledge of chords into what I call the four pillars of chord knowledge.

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To this point, we have covered the first three pillars, and you should be comfortable with playing a wide variety of open string chords as well as root 6, root 5 and root 4 chords. Also, if you have been studying the lesson sequentially you most certainly understand the five position CAGED system that is most often associated with professional level guitar playing. The purpose of this lesson is to explore the fascinating world of trick voicings.

As you can see here, check voicings can produce lots of unusual fingerings and interesting sounds. These chords can be explained quite simply in theoretical terms: the open strings (E, A, D, G, B & E) can be analyzed and labeled in any key. In other words and E note means something different in the key of C, where it is the 3rd, than it does in the key of G where it is this 6th.

Or to look at it in another way each one of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale can be analyzed and labeled in any one of the 12 keys of music. In any key, each one of the 12 note chromatic scale is either a chord tone or a tension. This concept is illustrated below in the key of C.

Analyzing Every Chromatic Note In Reference To A Root Note Of C

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Analyzing Open Strings In All 12 Keys

As you can see from the illustration above, relative to the key of C, every note in the chromatic scale means something, every note can be analyzed in the key of C. Therefore, in every key, every note in the chromatic scale means something, that is to say each and every note is either a chord tone, a member of the scale or a harmony, also called a tension, such as 9 or 11, or an altered tension such as sharp 9 or sharp 11. Since some of the notes in the chromatic scale are playable on the guitar as open strings, each and every open string means something and every one of the 12 keys of music. Each and every open string is either a chord tone, a tension or an altered tension in each one of the 12 keys of music. The table below shows you how to theoretically analyze each and every open string in all 12 keys.

KEY>
C
G
D
A
E
B
F#
F
Bb
Eb
Ab
Db
Gb
E 1 String
3rd

6th,13th

2nd, 9th
5th
Root
4th, 11th
b7
7
#11, b5
b9
#5
b3, #9
b7
B 2 String
7th
3rd
6th, 13th
2nd, 9th
5th
Root
4th, 11th
#11, b5
b9
#5
b3, #9
b7
4th, 11th
G 3 String
5th
Root
4th,11th
b7
b3, #9
#5
b9
9th

6th,13th

3rd
7
#11, b5
b9
D 4 String
2nd, 9th
5th
Root
4th, 11th
b7
b3
#5

6th,13th

3rd
7
#11, b5
b9
#5
A 5 String
6th, 13th
2nd, 9th
5th
Root
4th, 11th
b7
b3
3rd
7
#11, b5
b9
#5
b3, #9
E 6 String
3rd
6th, 13th
2nd, 9th
5th
Root
4th, 11th
b7
7
#11, b5
b9
#5
b3, #9
b7

Practical Applications

Now that we have gotten to sink our teeth into the theory behind the wonderful topic of trick voicings, it’s easy to see that it’s sort of a bottomless pit, mental quicksand and a guitar players no man’s land all rolled into one. Because there are so many variables and wildcards in the subject it is virtually impossible to systematize or codify a useful and meaningful system for knowing, learning and playing trick voicings, believe me I’ve tried. I’ve also seen entire books dedicated to the subject and I’m reluctant to recommend any of them since these books quickly become random in nature by merely showing page after page of trick voicings that may or may not sound good on their own. So the question remains what do we do with this concept and how do we apply it to our lives as guitar players? I think the answer is to learn your music theory really well, to the point of being able to spell any chord as well as you can spell your name, and to apply this methodology in certain and specific examples, meaning songs in your repertoire, on a case-by-case basis. Create trick voicings when you need them, and when you want haunting or mysterious harp like sounds to color your arrangement.

Below, I’ve created a few examples to illustrate what I mean by creating trick voicings to and interest and spice to chord progressions I often play. These exercises are just the starting point for you. When you learn them pick a few of your favorite songs or chord progressions and create your own interesting and unusual arrangements by figuring out trick voicings for the chords in those tunes and progressions.

1st Trick: A Minor To G Major Vamp

Having played and heard the trick voicings let me remind you of what makes the trick tick! The answer is twofold: (1) unisons, the exact same note being repeated as a fretted note and an open string and (2) the interval of a major or minor second. When the normally dissonant intervals of a minor second (two notes seperated by half step) or a major second (two notes seperated by whole step) are buried in a chord, it causes the chord to ring, giving it a type of ambience. In fact, I have seen these chord voicinf refered to as ‘ambi-chords’ or ambient chords in various arranging methods. When a unison (two notes of the same pith) is introduced the harp-like or ambient sound is also achieved.

Our first example is a creative solution for use when playing an A minor to G major two chord vamp. I ask you now; who among us has enjoyed playing these simple two chord progressions. The illustration below is a good visual on what makes this trick tick!

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Next, use the interactive diagrem below to hear and play the chords and also get a feel for what they sound like in a musical context. The track uses ther trick voicings with both a picking and a strumming pattern. Either way, the ambient, mysterious and harp-like sound is a wonderful change of pace.

2nd Trick: I – IV – V In The Key Of C

Again I ask; Who among us has not played, written, or jammed out on a tried and true I – IV – V progression in the key of C? In the example below I am using the C -F – G (I – IV – V) progression in a rock ballad setting. It’s a creative solution to keep astandard progression fresh and interesting, giving your song or arrangement a unique personality.

To discuss the chords on a case-by-case basis let’s begin with trick voicing for C major seven, the G note located on fret 10 of string five is doubled by the open G string creating a unison. The open B string together with the fretted C-note on fret 10 of string four creates a minor second interval buried within the structure of the chord, this is the interval responsible for the ambience in the chord.

F major seven sharp 11 (F Ma7 #11) is an interesting and arresting sound, the sharp 11 note also called flat five, is indeed available on major 7 chord forms and is quite a sophisticated sound. The effect is created by a unison with the open E string and the E note located on fret 9 of string 3 and by the half-step (minor second) interval between the open B (#11) and the fretted C note on fret 10 of string 4.

For the G dominant chord, in this case G 13, the same forces are at work: intervals of a second and unisons. Note that the B string is doubled with the fretted B note and the minor second interval is between the open E string and the F note located on fret 10 of string three.

3rd Trick: I – IV – II – V In The Key Of D

For my third trick I have chosen to work with a I –VI – II – V progression in the key of D major. Once again the sound effect is achieved by playing unisons with fretted notes and open strings and by placing the interval of a major or minor second within the structure of the chord. This is my take on a smooth jazz are instrumental rhythm and blues. Usually be able to recognize this chord structure as being part of many well-known and favorite songs but by using the trick voicings you can add new life to this old favorite progression.

4th Trick: 8 Bar Diatonic Progression In The Key Of A

For my fourth and final example of how to employ trick voicings I have written an eight bar diatonic chord progression in the key of A. Naturally, you will be able to find all sorts of unisons with open strings and lots of half step and whole step intervals to create the ambient, harp-like effect which you have been studying here in this lesson. It is quite a simple progression, which uses a stream of steady eighth notes to create the rhythm guitar backing sound -a very simple but effective approach. The progression is essentially based on I – IV – V (A – D – E7) in the key of A but uses one of my favorite chord tricks for the IV chord: IV to IV minor.

For Paul And Art

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