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Sam Bell - Extended Range Guitar Part 5: 7 and 8-String Chords

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 23 **

In this instalment of my extended range guitar lesson column, we're going to take a break from the guitar technique based side of things and take a look at some of the other incredibly cool possibilities on the extended range guitar. We're going to take a look at some ways of moving around and voicing chords on 7 and 8-string guitars. And then towards the end of the guitar lesson we are going to take a look at some of these concepts in action by taking a brief look into the chorus of a Mask of Judas tune that I put together using some of the 7 and 8-string guitar chord shapes we've looked at.

7 String Chords:

Ex: 1

First of all we are going to take a simple C shape major triad. If we take a look at what intervals the fretted notes take we find the root is placed on the A string, the 3rd is found on the D string and the 5th is located on the G string. If we play these strings only we already get a nice sounding major triad, however sometimes depending on what kind of tone you use having the root and 3rd that close to each other can mean a certain lack of definition in the sound and consistency of the chord. Enter the 7 string! We can spread the notes out a bit more and add more depth by dropping the root note an octave from the A string down to the low B string. We will have to adopt a new fingering (as you can see in the video) for this chord shape that might feel quite unusual at first, be sure to take things slow remembering to keep your fretting hand fingers relaxed and well on their fingertips. However once you can get used to this voicing it will unlock a whole new potential to any chord with the root on the 8-string. I highly encourage you to try this with other chords moving around the neck.

Ex: 2

Next we are going to take the general concept of Ex 1 however this time we are going to add some extension notes to our chords. First of all I chose a chord sequence that features Dmaj7, E11, F#m7, and C#7#5. Lets take a look at each chord in turn and break it down.

We take the exact same approach as we did with Ex 1, we take a C shaped Dmaj7 chord and we use our middle finger to fret the low D note on the low B string. This particular voicing sounds lovely with a bit of crunch for that progressive vibe.

An E11 chord can be seen as a D triad with an E note in the bass. So I kept the lower 3 triad notes from our Dmaj7 and stuck the E note on the low B string. We are going to have to alter our fingering a little bit from our last chord, but as with learning anything it will become easy with repetition and relaxed practice.

Here is where I change it up a bit in terms of what chord shapes I am using to get my triads etc. We are going to take the F# on the 7th fret low B string, E on the 7th fret A string, A on the 7th fret D string and finally C# on the 6th fret G string. Which presents us with the intervallic construction from low to high of the root, the minor 7th, the minor 3rd and the 5th.

Don’t be scared by the name, the 7#5 chord is a fantastic tool for emphasising tension and release between chords. This voicing is a closed voicing, meaning we aren’t skipping any strings, the whole chord can be seen as a block. I like to bar across the 2nd fret from the low B string up to the G string which covers our root note and an octave of our #5. Then we are going to add our #5 interval on the 5th fret E string, the bar is taking care of the minor 7th on the 2nd fret A string and we can quite conveniently access the 3rd on the 3rd fret D string.  

Ex 3:

In this example I want to share with you one of my favorite chord shapes on 7-string guitar, technically it’s a giant Major 9 chord. I discovered this when I first got my 8-string and I was moving around power chord shapes. I found out that if I played a Root, 5th, Root power chord with my 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers I could use my first finger to fret out other intervals. Naturally the first thing I tried was to bar across the nearest available fret which was the one immediately found behind the bar chord and what I heard I very much liked! Since then I have used it in many Mask of Judas compositions. I encourage all you extended range guitarists out there to try ‘making up’ chord shapes with the foundation in the shape of a power chord or any interval that you desire. Have fun!

8-String Chords:

The 8-string offers many possibilities. Extended range virtuoso guitarist Tosin Abasi tunes his low F# string down to E, which gives him three E strings! The idea makes complete sense however as it takes away a lot of the thinking and awkward stretches to create interesting sounding chords. I encourage you to try this tuning E, B, E, A, D, G, B and E. Now take a classic E shaped bar chord…Let's say its root is on the 5th fret E string so now technically we have an A chord. Now in this tuning all we have to do to make that chord bigger than life is extend our first finger bar on the 5th fret down across the low B and our now freshly tuned low E string. This puts a power chord in the lower bass strings giving us a really earthy deep sounding chord voicing. You can apply this concept to any E string root chord and I am sure you will agree the possibilities are endless.
Let's move back into standard 8-string tuning now (F#, B, E, A, D, G, B, and E) I want to share with you a chord that I personally think sounds great on the 8-string: F#7/11. I use it at the start and end of my tune ‘Gravity’ The concept is fairly simple, we take an E shaped bar chord on the 2nd fret (this gives us an F# triad) however we are going to keep the top two strings open which gives us the 11 and the 7th. This gives us our fundamental F#7/11 chord, however now we are going to extend our 2nd fret bar with the first finger over to the low B string 2nd fret and play the open low F#. Now we have a very large chord voicing with lots of colorful notes that sounds awesome!

Let’s take a look at some ways we could embellish this chord. We can use our middle finger which is holding the 3rd fret G string and do hammer-ons and pull-offs to the open G, you could also do this at the 2nd fret B and top E with the first finger whilst droning on the low F# string to get some Egyptian sounding ambience! Another thing we can do to this chord is whilst holding the shape down we can tap with our right hand different notes of a chosen scale higher up on the fretboard using our left hand chord as a kind of melodic capo. In the video improvisation I use F# Mixolydian and F# Phrygian Dominant as I feel those two scales describe the chord best and give it that Egyptian feel.

Song Example: ‘Ganymede’ by Mask of Judas

Without going into too much detail, this is an excerpt from one of my band's songs. There are some other techniques in this chorus riff that we have covered in previous columns and there are some other things that we will be taking a look at in the future. But I would like to write about the particular use of chords in the second half of the chorus. As always with these columns be sure to refer to the downloadable tab and video that comes with this lesson!

In the second half of this chorus I use a basis shape with the bass note moving down to the low B so we have the top strings droning out whilst the riff moves around underneath. The first chord is based around D major, we have the root on the low B string 3rd fret, the 5th on the 5th fret E, we have an open A string followed by 4th fret D, 6th fret G and we are left with the open B and E strings. This gives us a huge Dmajor13th chord, the bass line then descends to open B whilst holding the upper voicing of the chord. Towards the end of this chorus I move the fretted notes of the Dmajor13th up to the 8th fret low B string giving us a Gmajor7th chord which has a lovely strong resonant sound due to the spacing of notes. Because of this we can use this particular chord voicing with some distortion without it being too muddy, which is always a good thing!

That about brings us the end of this issue's installment of extended range guitar. I hope some of the chord voicings I have given you here spark some inspiration for finding your own crazy extended range chords that might just inspire whole new song ideas for you. The possibilities are endless, try taking every chord you can think of and explore different ways of playing them. One piece of advice that I can give you if you are finding it hard to start somewhere is take a chord progression of a song you already know and see how you can re-arrange it on the 8-string using all the techniques and concepts we have looked at here today. Get creative! Until next time, keep shredding and best of luck!

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