** As featured in issue 69 **
Extended range guitars open up so many creative avenues for guitarists willing to take the plunge. The addition of a low B (or F#, or even C#) string can take your riffs to whole new levels of heavy with comparatively little readjustment, but chords require more consideration before dipping one’s toe into the baritone register.
There’s a simple principle that’s as true for arranging for big band/orchestra as it is for voicing chords on extended range guitars: *the lower the register, the more spread out the notes have to be*. There’s a solid reason for this, and it’s that pitches exist on a logarithmic scale. The distance between the open A string (110hz) and the next octave up at the 2nd fret on the G string (220hz) is 110 hz. From there, the next octave up is 440hz, followed by 880hz, 1760hz, 3520hz and so on - basically, every time you move up an octave, you double the frequency. This has the effect of putting the notes in a close voiced chord played in the low register much closer together than the same voicing played in a much higher register. Combine this with the longer wavelengths of lower pitches and the tight clustering of their upper harmonics (which are exaggerated with distortion) and you have a recipe for mud.
The fix is really rather simple though: shift some of those notes up one octave! Let’s go through the examples from the video - be sure to consult the tab too!
EXAMPLE 1: Two D major triads - one in a high register, another in a low register. Notice how much clearer the high voice is, especially with distortion.
EXAMPLE 2: A close voiced F# major in the low register, followed by a much clearersounding spread voiced F# major - with two potential fingerings.
EXAMPLE 3: The same, as Ex.2, but this time with minor chords.
EXAMPLE 4: Two ways to play a B major chord using the open B string.
EXAMPLE 5: A movable major chord voicing on the low three strings. NB: Ex.5c is a G major, not a Gb like I said in the video - my mistake!
EXAMPLE 6: A minor variant of the chords found in Ex.5 - along with a muddy-sounding close voiced Dm triad for contrast!
EXAMPLE 7: Some spread-voiced power chords, along with a spread voiced tritone voicing.
EXAMPLE 8: A quick improvisation using spread voiced power chords, demonstrating how these shapes can easily be moved around the neck.
EXAMPLE 9: A Gmaj7#11 using speed voicings on the low three strings (once again, I misspoke and called this a Gb in the video - my bad!)
EXAMPLE 10: Another improvisation - this time setting the extended chord in Ex.9 in context. These kinds of chord voicings are a lot of fun, and can really open up your sonic palate when it comes to writing progressions on extended range instruments.
Obviously, we’re only scratching the surface in this lesson, so make sure you take these examples as a jumping-off point for your own experiments - hopefully, they lead you to some really interesting sounds!