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The art of changing chords


Hardtail

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The guitar players who shred their way across the fretboard are impressive.

 

What really impresses me are those old jazzers who go from one complex chord to another with no buzz, burp, or pause.

 

A couple of years ago, we watched some videos posted here when Roy Clark and Joe Pass collaborated on some Hank Williams songs. Do any of you remember seeing Joe's rhythm guitar player? That guy literally didn't miss a beat.

 

Anyway, I'm kind of suffering right now with a change from a G major to a C#dim7 chord.

 

I could give you the exact voicings but it really doesn't matter.

 

Maybe some of the "chord changing" pros here can offer some suggestions on how to make chord changes literally go more smoothly. It'll be interesting to see what comes up here.

 

 

 

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A lot of those classic jazz guys are not playing giant six-string voicings. They play two or three notes that make the essence of the chord, and the bass player supplies his part, the melody comes from the singer or a horn player, and the whole thing sounds bigger than it is.

 

Reducing the chords to their essence usually means using root, third and seventh. If you have a bass player, you can get away with third & seventh.

 

G maj 7 = G, B, F#

C# dim 7 = C#, E, A# (Bb)

 

Play with the inversions and find the most economical voice leading for each note of the chord

 

Oh, BTW, about those diminshed 7th chords. :wave:

 

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I hate to say it, but practise. If you remember back when you were learning to go from a G to a D and it was hard to do and took ten years to change between chords, then when you did change, the notes weren't quite right and it sounded bad. You had to instill the muscle memory for that chord. The same rule applies to new chords. Although you are much better now, you still need to practise with new, funky chords, that aren't quite the way your fingers want to play them. A bit of practise and you'll be getting it every time.
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Try figuring out inversions. Some are way more comfortable and switchable than others. Just figure out ways to get the same chord from different fingerings and positions on the neck. I've gotten to where I can usually find any note at any fret without looking at the neck anymore, but that takes time and repitition.

 

Tabs can be helpful, but I generally try to hear my way through, but the error factor is higher that way.

Never a DUH! moment! Well, almost never. OK, OK! Sometimes never!
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Or... don't play those chords.

 

What have those chords ever done for you, anyway?

They act all cocky and then never return your phone calls.

 

I say screw 'em.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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I hate to say it, but practise. If you remember back when you were learning to go from a G to a D and it was hard to do and took ten years to change between chords, then when you did change, the notes weren't quite right and it sounded bad. You had to instill the muscle memory for that chord. The same rule applies to new chords. Although you are much better now, you still need to practise with new, funky chords, that aren't quite the way your fingers want to play them. A bit of practise and you'll be getting it every time.

 

Craig, that is exactly what my teacher tells me to do. He also tells me to "think ahead" of where I want to be with the next chord. I find it to be helpful because it forces me to think about less finger movement when I do the next chord.

 

My only problem now is that I know two different ways of playing G (the 1-2-3 position and the 2-3-4 position) and my hand wants to do the 1-2-3 position when it is really better to do the 2-3-4 position.

 

Michelle

 

 

My new baby is a 2002 Collectors by Ovation

 

I think this is a cool song title -- "Can't Remember to Forget"

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Make your changes as economical as possible. When you change chords in the same position, try to find fingerings that allow you to leave fingers in place so you aren't changing all of your fingers. If you don't have to move all of your fingers for the chord change, don't. Where you have to move from one position to the next, try to use guide fingers...for instance, if in the first chord your 3rd finger is on D on the second string and you have a G on the second string in the next chord, try to find a fingering that allows you to leave that finger on the second string and then build your next chord starting with that finger. If you DO have to completely change all of your fingers to a completely different chord shape, try targeting one or two fingers first...what I mean is get the fingers you NEED first in place first, then form the rest of the chord...it allows you to start playing the chord before it's fully in place....that's particularly helpful when you are playing melodies around chord shapes, not so helpful for strumming chords. Look ahead...either in your mind's eye or with your real eyes to your next chord....don't get caught up in the moment. You need to be thinking about your next chord.

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My only problem now is that I know two different ways of playing G (the 1-2-3 position and the 2-3-4 position) and my hand wants to do the 1-2-3 position when it is really better to do the 2-3-4 position.

 

There are many ways to play a G. Many. There really isn't a right way, although with country, it is common to play it in the 2-3-4 position because it makes it easier to get to the C. I use both positions myself, depending on the chord that is coming up next, or what embellishments I may be adding.

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My only problem now is that I know two different ways of playing G (the 1-2-3 position and the 2-3-4 position) and my hand wants to do the 1-2-3 position when it is really better to do the 2-3-4 position.

 

There are many ways to play a G. Many. There really isn't a right way, although with country, it is common to play it in the 2-3-4 position because it makes it easier to get to the C. I use both positions myself, depending on the chord that is coming up next, or what embellishments I may be adding.

 

This is a good example of why it's so important to not get stuck in the "there is only one way of doing things" mentality. And the beauty of learning the guitar for me is that the lessons spill over into other areas of my life. I have come to realize that my way isn't always the best way of doing things.

 

Michelle

My new baby is a 2002 Collectors by Ovation

 

I think this is a cool song title -- "Can't Remember to Forget"

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Yeah, many ways and this is the one I always use:

 

Third fret:

 

Ring finger in low E string, mute the A string with pad of finger, pinky on high E string. Play the rest open.

 

 

I use a similar position for quick chord changes - except I fret the low E string with my thumb. Occasionally, for a bit of modality, I'll also barre the high E and B together to eliminate the 3rd completely.

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Make your changes as economical as possible. When you change chords in the same position, try to find fingerings that allow you to leave fingers in place so you aren't changing all of your fingers. If you don't have to move all of your fingers for the chord change, don't. Where you have to move from one position to the next, try to use guide fingers...for instance, if in the first chord your 3rd finger is on D on the second string and you have a G on the second string in the next chord, try to find a fingering that allows you to leave that finger on the second string and then build your next chord starting with that finger. If you DO have to completely change all of your fingers to a completely different chord shape, try targeting one or two fingers first...what I mean is get the fingers you NEED first in place first, then form the rest of the chord...it allows you to start playing the chord before it's fully in place....that's particularly helpful when you are playing melodies around chord shapes, not so helpful for strumming chords. Look ahead...either in your mind's eye or with your real eyes to your next chord....don't get caught up in the moment. You need to be thinking about your next chord.

 

I think the above is spot on linked to practice practice practice as always !!!! but for me the lead finger then the next one as Bigfoot says allows you to start playing the chord and giving you the time to fully form it is bang on the money.

And then practice a bit more, so much practice!!!!

 

G

 

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One thing I tell my students to do and it works for me too is to just watch the fingers and make the change over and over, back and forth. Go slow and don't put the fingers down till it right, do this 10 to 20 times. You will feel your fingers learning. And like someone else said, look for short cuts, like a finger that can stay down. Or like going from open D7 to G , the first and second finger keep the same shape they just move from one string pair to another and the finger on the high E just slides up one fret.

These concepts work no matter what the chords are.

Wonder what the new Linkin Park album would sound like if they didn't have Perfect Circle to steal from.
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I agree that trying to find efficient ways to play the chords.. and music in general, makes sense. And it tends to sound better too!

 

Sure, there are some beautiful things that are difficult, but to make things hard for no reason.. well, Chet Atkins said you can usually find an easier way to do most anything! And he certainly was no slouch technically!

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too true, I mean you can play A Maj 7 like this..

 

e a d g b e

5 x 6 6 5 x

 

or like this

e a d g b e

x x 7 9 9 9

 

The Dim7 is kind of a pain but I keep finding it things I'm playing, The Wanton Song, The Entertainer, jazz book I'm working through.

 

For the G to C# dim7 to me the easiest is standard open G with the first three fingers then moving the 2nd finger to the 4th fr C# and let the others catch up. I just did this 10 times slow while watching my left hand and now it's getting easy. Try this, it really works.

 

this is the dim7 I'm using

 

e a d g b e

x 4 5 3 5 x

 

Wonder what the new Linkin Park album would sound like if they didn't have Perfect Circle to steal from.
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Or... don't play those chords.

 

What have those chords ever done for you, anyway?

They act all cocky and then never return your phone calls.

 

I say screw 'em.

 

I probably fall more into this category than not. I know some of those funky chords and I know enough theory to figure out any one chord I didn't know on a spur of the moment if necessary. However, as someone who plays mostly rock, metal, and blues, I find very little use for C#dim7 chord anyway. I stick to my majors, minors, sevenths, and a few ninths and other suspensions and inversions and it works for me. Maybe one of these days I will bother to learn the other ones. Right now, I'd rather be a shred god. :D

 

Try figuring out inversions. Some are way more comfortable and switchable than others. Just figure out ways to get the same chord from different fingerings and positions on the neck.

 

Bluesape, I respectfully disagree with this philosophy. While inversions can be useful alternatives, I see them as musical alternatives. If a chord sounds better in one inversion than another or if you want a different voicing, that is a reason to use it, not because the fingering is easier.

 

There are many people on this forum who know a lot more about theory than I, but after taking a college course on it and watching several videos by Eric Johnson and John Petrucci, I adopted my philosophy: Inversions are for music, not laziness.

 

Not to suggest you're being lazy, I just don't think you should play an inversion if the part does not call for it. It sounds to me like you think otherwise.

Shut up and play.
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Chord inversions are very stylistic to the jazz genre (which is where this thread started). The idea is that you have voice leading within the chords, so that there are logical lines through every register. This sort of thing is particularly relevant to writing big band charts, and I'll compare to some rock tunes as well.

 

"Stairway to Heaven" is a great example of voice leading, because during the introduction, you have the low note of the various chords make a descending chromatic line. "Kashmir" is another great example of voice leading in a rock chord riff. The motion doesn't always have to be some sort of single step chromatic idea. Chet Atkins often created root/fifth bass lines with his chord inversion choices for example.

 

Back to the big bands, all of the parts for a horn section voicing a chord should have logical melodic development. If you have five trumpets, with the lead player carrying the tunes' written melody, the other four parts will voice the chords to support that melody - but the other four parts should all be realistic melodic ideas as well. If the fourth chair trumpet has a line that isn't melodic in and of itself, #1: it makes the whole section sound disjointed, and #2: it's difficult to play when the notes skip all over the place without any inherent phrasing.

 

It's hard enough writing this kind of music, much less assembling a single instrument performance, which is why guys like Joe Pass or pianist Bill Evans are held in such high regard.

 

[/end sermon]

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great discussion...

 

while all this is great, and helpful to HT and everyone else, it seems HT's concern on his first post was primarily technical, not theoretical/musical, so... HT: PRACTICE SAID SHIFT IN SLOW MOTION, MAKING SURE ALL THE FINGERS MOVE AT THE SAME TIME, AND "FLY LOW", MEANING NOT FAR FROM THE FRETBOARD AT ALL. WATCH THAT PINKY! Does the musical context require you to go from strummed chord to strummed chord, or are you "breaking" these chords? If you are breaking the chord, then after you practice the slow-mo way moving all the fingers at once, practice it in slo-mo again, but putting the fingers in the order necessary. Slo-mo means literally slo-mo. Make the simple act of going from one chord to the next a 3-to-5 second deal, which is ridiculous but is extremely good practice. What you're doing here is: 1) teaching/training your fingers to follow your brain's instructions--this is harder w/ chords than w/ single notes b/c there's more information; 2) training your fingers' and hands' muscles to do smooth and EFFICIENT movements that will result in quick, accurate and smooth chord changes. Muscle memory; 3) making you CONSCIOUSLY aware of the notes you're playing and how they're sounding--don't know it just by muscle memory, but also consciously.

 

After you do this, then start w/ the metronome playing slowly the part you're practicing, making sure your rhythms and your articulation/tone are the ones you want. Speed up.

 

If first step is horribly difficult, then you might want to do this exercise: practice playing/shifting one finger at a time. So, if the 4th finger on the first chord goes on the 1st/3rd fret, then just play that one note (without playing and/or gripping the rest of the chord) and move it to where it needs to be for the next chord (say, the 2nd string 5th fret).

 

...all this is along the lines of what Yeti and Smirk suggested: THINK OF "ECONOMY OF MOTION". Check out their posts w/ guitar on hand, LOL!

 

Want good lessons in voice-leading in a tonal setting? Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn, Mozart, etc. Get orchestral scores, w/ or w/o choir, or string quartets (Haydn, Mozart). Bach's harmonizations of church chorales. First-hand on the guitar?: Sor, Giuliani, Regondi. Then move on to the jazz guys...

 

There was an article on GP on the guy that plays on David Letterman maybe 3-4 years ago. He said something like this: harmony is more than just knowing what notes go in what chords--it's a lot about HOW you connect them. I think he gave a bit of a voice-leading lesson.

 

However, sometimes in order to get certain compin' styles you gotta go for NO real voice-leading, and more thinking of "grips".

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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I'm with Bill on this one. Inversions and voicings are your friends. Unless you really enjoy a game of "Finger Twister". ;)

G maj 7 = G, B, F#

C# dim 7 = C#, E, A# (Bb)

I've enjoyed experimenting with the bottom three strings only (G B E) for chord voicings. (Nothing new, I'm sure.) Using this approach the Gmaj7 is trivial and voiced as Bill has it: open G, open B, 2nd fret F# (choose your finger, or "finger's choice"). Inverting Bill's C#dim7 to A# C# E gives you 3rd fret A#, 2nd fret C# and an open E. Switching between these two should be quite easy.

 

Staying up by the nut there may be other interesting voicings to try. I'd be tempted to voice the Gmaj7 as B D F#, a fairly easy shape to grab. Sure, 5ths are optional and I'm missing the root, but that's what bass players are for, right? ;) Now it's a simple matter of sliding the shape down a fret and lifting one finger to get to A# C# E. And probably has better leading than the other change.

 

For even more variety you can change up the voicings/inversions. Using just what I've given above you can alternate the Gmaj7s, especially if there is a passage that repeats Gmaj7 C#dim7 Gmaj7 C#dim7 etc.

 

Once you free yourself from the idea that each chord can only be played one or maybe two ways it opens up a whole new world of music.

 

Having said that, I like to voice my open C major chord with all 6 strings vibrating, playing a G on the top E string. I will alternate this the 1 2 3 version of an open G major chord even though it is more economical to play the 2 3 4. :eek: It's just a habit I've gotten into and it works for me.

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Two more quick points.

 

You can try alternating voicings/inversions for the same chord if the chord duration is long enough, say a whole measure. I did this with one of my own compositions, where I play an E major chord a whole bunch of different ways in the same measure.

 

And, uh, I forgot my other point. Maybe I'll remember on the drive home.

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Thanks for the info guys. Lots of good stuff here.

 

It is indeed the mechanical act of changing certain chords that was my concern but I don't mind the voice leading lessons. In fact, I am studying voice leading right now. Mostly with the basic triads (major, minor, augmented, diminished).

 

I'm doing a lot of chord progressions trying to keep the chords as close as possible so that, as much as possible, there's a common note between the chord changed from and changed to.

 

Now... what got me frustrated this morning was I was trying to lay down a chord progression in B harmonic minor so that I can practice improvising in the harmonic minor scale. Like I said, I was trying to make a change between Gmaj and C#dim7 and found it very awkward.

 

I'll read this entire thread over, try some of the principles out and go from there. Like AString says, it takes practice. Practicing is something I know well.

 

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What really impresses me are those old jazzers who go from one complex chord to another with no buzz, burp, or pause.

 

A couple of years ago, we watched some videos posted here when Roy Clark and Joe Pass collaborated on some Hank Williams songs. Do any of you remember seeing Joe's rhythm guitar player? That guy literally didn't miss a beat.

 

That was John Pisano, and he is truly extraordinary. You can tell he really listens to the soloist and supports whatever direction they go in. Learning inversions and triads all over the board is essential to that style of playing. Knowing lots of standard progressions and different ways to play them, chord substitutions, etc. are also key to playing that way.

 

Paul

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If you do try to come up with a different fingering for one or both chords there, decide what the most im portant chord-tones are that you want in the "soprano", or "melody" voice- the highest of them that you play. Perhaps the 3rd or 7th, but whatever sounds melodically best to you in the tune's context.

 

Then find what works best in the lowest, bass voice, playing just the two notes in your changes. Not necessarily the root, unless you really need to emphasize it, don't have a bass or keys going on in the final version, etc. Find what works musically and physically.

 

Then work out another note or two in the middle; the don't have to be sounded simultaneously with the others, and you don't have to have the same number of notes in each grip; they can be arpeggiated or otherwise lyrically phrased, in any way that works. Or, Hell, just stick with your first two-note grips if they're able to stand-alone and sea-worthy.

 

The thing is, don't sweat whether any of what you play fullfills anything other than sounding right for the tune.

 

Any help? Probably not, huh! :D

 

Or... don't play those chords.

 

What have those chords ever done for you, anyway?

They act all cocky and then never return your phone calls.

 

I say screw 'em.

 

Yeeeeeeeeeeeah, but they're dead-sexy and soooo good in bed!

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

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So you obviously know A#dim7 has the same notes as C#dim7.

 

As you might know, the C#dim7-to-G Major is a very common movement in blues, except that major chord would be more like a dominant chord (7, 9, 13 whatever)

 

//:G7/C7/G7/G7/C7/C#dim7/G7/G7/D7/C7/G7/D7://

 

In the context of B harmonic minor, when moving from A#dim7 to Bm you can turn the A# to B, C# to D, G to F#, and E to either D or F#. "Traditionally", to get what some people might call a "cleaner" sound you don't want to repeat the third of the chord. Of course, that's up to you.

"Without music, life would be a mistake."

--from 'Beyond Good and Evil', by Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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Im going through the same thing right now. I am trying to learn some chord solos, and it is tough. Once I commit it to memory it becomes easier and easier the more I practice.

 

I too respect players who can go sick with chords like that. Look at Paul Dil. He is a chord switching GOD..

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