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- Understanding Closed Chords
Thus chords that contain open notes are more easily played and hence more frequently played in popular music , such as folk music. Many of the most popular tunings—standard tuning, open tunings , and new standard tuning —are rich in the open notes used by popular chords.
Open tunings allow major triads to be played by barring one fret with only one finger, using the finger like a capo. On guitars without a zeroth fret after the nut , the intonation of an open note may differ from then note when fretted on other strings; consequently, on some guitars, the sound of an open note may be inferior to that of a fretted note. Unlike the piano, the guitar has the same notes on different strings. Consequently, guitar players often double notes in chord, so increasing the volume of sound.
Doubled notes also changes the chordal timbre : Having different "string widths, tensions and tunings, the doubled notes reinforce each other, like the doubled strings of a twelve-string guitar add chorusing and depth". For triadic chords, doubling the third interval, which is either a major third or a minor third, clarifies whether the chord is major or minor.
Unlike a piano or the voices of a choir, the guitar in standard tuning has difficulty playing the chords as stacks of thirds, which would require the left hand to span too many frets,  particularly for dominant seventh chords, as explained below. If in a particular tuning chords cannot be played in closed position, then they often can be played in open position; similarly, if in a particular tuning chords cannot be played in root position, they can often be played in inverted positions.
A chord is inverted when the bass note is not the root note. Additional chords can be generated with drop-2 or drop-3 voicing, which are discussed for standard tuning's implementation of dominant seventh chords below. When providing harmony in accompanying a melody, guitarists may play chords all-at-once or as arpeggios. Arpeggiation was the traditional method of playing chords for guitarists for example in the time of Mozart. Contemporary guitarists using arpeggios include Johnny Marr of The Smiths.
A six-string guitar has five musical-intervals between its consecutive strings. In standard tuning, the intervals are four perfect-fourths and one major-third, the comparatively irregular interval for the G,B pair. Consequently, standard tuning requires four chord-shapes for the major chords.
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Another feature of standard tuning is that the ordering of notes often differs from root position. Notes are often inverted or otherwise permuted, particularly with seventh chords in standard tuning,  as discussed below. Triads are usually played with doubled notes,  as the following examples illustrate. Commonly used major-chords are convenient to play in standard tuning, in which fundamental chords are available in open position , that is, the first three frets and additional open strings.
For the C major chord C,E,G , the conventional left-hand fingering doubles the C and E notes in the next octave; this fingering uses two open-notes, E and G:. For the other commonly used chords, the conventional fingerings also double notes and feature open-string notes:. Besides doubling the fifth note, the conventional E-major chord features a tripled bass-note.
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The B major and F major chords are commonly played as barre chords , with the first finger depressing five—six strings. B major chord has the same shape as the A major chord but it is located two frets further up the fretboard. The F major chord is the same shape as E major but it is located one fret further up the fretboard. Minor chords commonly notated as C- , Cm , Cmi or Cmin are the same as major chords except that they have a minor third instead of a major third.
This is a difference of one semitone. To create F minor from the F major chord in E major shape , the second finger should be lifted so that the third string plays onto the barre. Compare the F major to F minor:. These chords are used extensively by My Bloody Valentine, on the album Loveless. They are also used on the Who song "Pinball Wizard" and many, many more songs. As previously stated, a dominant seventh is a four-note chord combining a major chord and a minor seventh.
Drop-two chords are used particularly in jazz guitar. A list of fret-number configurations for some common chords follows:. Already in basic guitar-playing, inversion is important for sevenths chords in standard tuning. It is also important for playing major chords. In standard tuning, chord inversion depends on the bass note's string, and so there are three different forms for the inversion of each major chord, depending on the position of the irregular major-thirds interval between the G and B strings.
For example, if the note E the open sixth string is played over the A minor chord, then the chord would be [0 0 2 2 1 0]. This has the note E as its lowest tone instead of A. However, in popular music it is usual to play inverted chords on the guitar when they are not part of the harmony, since the bass guitar can play the root pitch. There are many alternate tunings. These change the way chords are played, making some chords easier to play and others harder. An open tuning allows a chord to be played by strumming the strings when "open", or while fretting no strings.
The base chord consists of at least three notes and may include all the strings or a subset. The tuning is named for the base chord when played open, typically a major triad, and each major-triad can be played by barring exactly one fret.
Open tunings improve the intonation of major chords by reducing the error of third intervals in equal temperaments. For example, in the open-G overtones tuning G-G-D-G-B-D, the G,B interval is a major third , and of course each successive pair of notes on the G- and B-strings is also a major third; similarly, the open-string minor-third B,D induces minor thirds among all the frets of the B-D strings. The thirds of equal temperament have audible deviations from the thirds of just intonation : Equal temperaments is used in modern music because it facilitates music in all keys, while on a piano and other instruments just intonation provided better-sounding major-third intervals for only a subset of keys.
This adjustment dials out the dissonance, and makes those big one-finger major-chords come alive. Repetitive open-tunings are used for two non-Spanish classical-guitars. While on-average major-thirds tunings are conventional open tunings, properly major-thirds tunings are unconventional open-tunings, because they have augmented triads as their open chords. Guitar chords are dramatically simplified by the class of alternative tunings called regular tunings. Regular tunings include major-thirds M3 , all-fourths , augmented-fourths , and all-fifths tunings.
Further simplifications occur for the regular tunings that are repetitive , that is, which repeat their strings. Such repetition further simplifies the learning of chords and improvisation;  This repetition results in two copies of the three open-strings' notes, each in a different octave. Chord inversion is especially simple in M3 tuning. Chords are inverted simply by raising one or two notes by three strings; each raised note is played with the same finger as the original note.
Inverted major and minor chords can be played on two frets in M3 tuning. It is a challenge to adapt conventional guitar-chords to new standard tuning , which is based on all-fifths tuning. The fundamental guitar-chords—major and minor triads and dominant sevenths—are tertian chords, which concatenate third intervals , with each such third being either major M3 or minor m3. Stacking thirds also constructs the most used seventh-chords. The most important seventh-chords concatenate a major triad with a third interval, supplementing it with a seventh interval:.
Four of these five seventh-chords—all but the diminished seventh—are constructed via the tertian harmonization of a major scale. Besides these five types there are many more seventh-chords, which are less used in the tonal harmony of the common-practice period. When playing seventh chords, guitarists often play only subset of notes from the chord. The fifth is often omitted.
When a guitar is accompanied by a bass, the guitarist may omit the bass note from a chord. As discussed earlier, the third of a triad is doubled to emphasize its major or minor quality; similarly, the third of a seventh is doubled to emphasize its major or minor quality. The most frequent seventh is the dominant seventh; the minor, half-diminished, and major sevenths are also popular.
The previously discussed I-IV-V chord progressions of major triads is a subsequence of the circle progression , which ascends by perfect fourths and descends by perfect fifths: Perfect fifths and perfect fourths are inverse intervals , because one reaches the same pitch class by either ascending by a perfect fourth five semitones or descending by a perfect fifth seven semitones. In particular, the ii-V-I progression is the most important chord progression in jazz music. Major inversions for guitar in standard tuning. The low E is on the left. The A demonstrates three of the different movable shapes.
Besides the dominant seventh chords discussed above, other seventh chords—especially minor seventh chords and major seventh chords—are used in guitar music. In major-thirds M3 tuning , the chromatic scale is arranged on three consecutive strings in four consecutive frets.
Other chords— seconds , fourths , sevenths , and ninths —are played on only three successive frets. The circle of fifths was discussed in the section on intermediate guitar-chords. Other progressions are also based on sequences of third intervals;  progressions are occasionally based on sequences of second intervals.
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In closed position, extended chords contain dissonant intervals or may sound supersaturated, particularly thirteenth chords with their seven notes. Consequently, extended chords are often played with the omission of one or more tones, especially the fifth and often the third,   as already noted for seventh chords; similarly, eleventh chords often omit the ninth, and thirteenth chords the ninth or eleventh. Often, the third is raised an octave, mimicking its position in the root's sequence of harmonics. Dominant ninth chords were used by Beethoven, and eleventh chords appeared in Impressionist music.
Thirteenth chords appeared in the twentieth century. Gm9: . Conventional music uses diatonic harmony , the major and minor keys and major and minor scales, as sketched above. Jazz guitarists must be fluent with jazz chords and also with many scales and modes ; "of all the forms of music, jazz In popular music, chords are often extended also with added tones , especially added sixths.
Chords are also systematically constructed by stacking not only thirds but also fourths and fifths, supplementing tertian major—minor harmony with quartal and quintal harmonies. Quartal and quintal harmonies are used by guitarists who play jazz, folk, and rock music. Harmonies based on fourths and fifths also appear in folk guitar. On her debut album Song to a Seagull , Joni Mitchell used both quartal and quintal harmony in "Dawntreader", and she used quintal harmony in "Seagull".
Understanding Closed Chords
Quartal and quintal harmonies also appear in alternate tunings. It is easier to finger the chords that are based on perfect fifths in new standard tuning than in standard tuning. New standard tuning was invented by Robert Fripp , a guitarist for King Crimson. Preferring to base chords on perfect intervals—especially octaves, fifths, and fourths—Fripp often avoids minor thirds and especially major thirds ,  which are sharp in equal temperament tuning in comparison to thirds in just intonation. Alternative harmonies can also be generated by stacking second intervals major or minor.
Benitez, Vincent Perez Professors at the Department of Guitar at the Berklee College of Music wrote the following books, which like their colleagues' Chapman and Willmott are Berklee-course textbooks:. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. C major scale. One octave played up and down in the c major scale on the piano. Main article: Interval music. Tunings especially for the keys of G and Gm. Tunings especially for the keys of F and Fm. Tunings especially for the keys of E and Em. Tunings especially for the keys of Eb and Ebm. Tunings especially for the keys of D and Dm. Tunings especially for the keys of B and Bm.
Tunings especially for the keys of Bb and Bbm. Tunings especially for the key of A and Am. Other tunings, not meant for any particular key, or for which the intended key is not obvious Tunings used by Nick Drake. For the key of G. For the key of E. For the key of D. For the key of C. For the key of B. For the key of A. Tunings used by Michael Hedges. For the keys of G and Gm.
For the key of Ebm. For the keys of D and Dm. For the keys of B and Bm. For the key of Bb. For the key of Am. A few General tuning topics and quotations.
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Links and other resources for alternate tunings. George Winston's Dancing Cat Slack Key Guitar Artists — an extraordinary and authoritative listing of more than 60 Hawaiian 'slack key' guitar tunings. My Secret Place - The guitar odyssey of Joni Mitchell by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers -- a highly detailed recounting, mostly by Joni herself, of her first attempts to play Elizabeth-Cotton-style in standard tuning, and then of her lifelong inventive explorations into uncharted realms of alternative tunings.
Mary McCaslin's Selected Guitar Tunings page for her notes on the G , Gm , A and D tunings she employs, including her favorite chords for each tuning, and a list of songs that she applies them to. HyperRust Database's Neil's Alternate Tunings page, which lists the six variants of standard tuning that Neil Young uses, and list the dozens of songs that he uses them for. Soul, Cinnamon Girl, The Loner?
Mark Greyland's book Guitar Tuning Reference , wherein he explains much about the internal logic of alternate tunings. It includes more than tunings, many in use by well-known players. Tables list the string-to-string 'interval code' for each tuning, and show the numerical 'displacement' of each string from standard tuning.
Wikipedia's Guitar Tunings entry, which categorizes tunings by genre, and includes much information about lowered tunings favored by metal bands to convey pretty and hum-able melodies. Wikipedia's Sonic Youth article which discusses Thurston Moore's and Lee Renaldo's approach to creating and using alternative tunings but without actually 'spelling' any of them. Here's one , at least. Did you find the information here helpful? If so, please consider a small donation to help offset the staggering quantities time and energy I've expended to build it all into this webpage!
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