Published On: Mon, Oct 27th, 2014

Guitar Techniques: New Directions

Sevenths! Sixths! Minor sixths! Your life is about to change. Forever…

We’ve got a real finger-twister of a chord progression for you in this feature, using extended jazz chords. The basic formula for a chord, of course, is root, third and fifth – but chords in jazz are very often ‘extended’ to include additional notes such as the seventh and ninth.

The progression we’re going to use this month is a variation on the standard progression of I, IV, IVm – that is, A, D and Dm in the key of A major. The technique we’re working on is co-ordinating the four fretting-hand fingers in a chord progression, in which each chord requires the use of all four fingers – and not only that, but each chord change requires a complete rearrangement of the shape from one chord to the next. Don’t be scared…

1: Amaj7, Amaj6, Dmaj7, Dmin6

4/4 Time
Now concentrate, because it’s chord formula time. The formula for Amaj7, our first chord, is root, major third, fifth and major seventh – that’s A, C#, E and G# respectively (although the notes don’t have to appear in this order).

The formula for the second, Amaj6, is root, major third, fifth and major sixth – in this case A, C#, E and F#. The formula for Dmaj7 is root, major third, fifth and major seventh – D, F#, A and C# – and for Dmin6 it’s root, flattened third, fifth and major sixth, which makes D, F#, A and B.

Note that Dmin6 contains the major sixth degree of the scale, B, on the third string at the fourth fret; Dmin b6 would include the minor scale degree of the scale Bb. Try converting Dmin6 into Dmin b6 by moving the first finger one fret lower. Also notice that Amaj6 and Dmin6 are the same fretboard shape, but simply played on different strings.

Be sure to damp the unwanted strings in each chord as shown by the ‘x’s in the chord diagrams by lightly touching the strings; just use whichever part of the fretting hand seems most convenient.

2: Chord Sequence

4/4 Time
Usually, when you change from the basic open D chord to the basic open A7, the third finger can be slid down the second string to help ‘guide’ you into place. Here, though, no ‘guide fingers’ are possible, so you’re going to have to completely rearrange your fretting-hand fingers each time.

Relax: you can do it. Strike each chord four times before changing, and – this is important – play as slowly as you like, just as long as the chord change happens in time with the strumming.

3: Two Chords Per Bar

4/4 Time
This is essentially the same progression as Exercise 1, but played in a more expressive, staccato manner with a more demanding, more frequent chord change. The dots below the chords means play them staccato, cutting each chord short by releasing the fretting-hand’s finger pressure just after you’ve struck each one, but not as far as to make the fingers actually leave the strings.

This is a common jazz guitar accompaniment technique. The chord changes occur every two beats, which makes this exercise more demanding than Exercise 2. Practise slowly, then gradually increase the tempo.

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