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Sam Bell Acoustic 101: Part 2

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 67 **

Welcome to Part 2 of acoustic guitar 101. In the last lesson, we took a look at picking hand dynamics and how much they can affect the tone, timbre, rhythm and dynamic of what we play on the acoustic guitar. In this column, I am going to talk about creating full sounding parts on the acoustic, plus a bit about the writing process.

Open Strings:

The more string there is that's vibrating, the more harmonics and overtones 'appear' to pop out of the string. The texture of open strings mixed with fretted notes is something that sounds very satisfying. My general ethos on acoustic guitar is to utilise as many open strings as possible! This creates a very in-depth, resonant sound that we all know and love. In today's example, I will be using the open B and high E strings to my advantage!

Moving Voices:

The example piece uses 7th chords; the voicings that I'm playing on the A, D and G string's highlight the 1, 3rd and 7th of each chord voicing. The open strings underneath cement the sequence together, and the parallel movement of the same voice through the different 7th chords also creates a nice cohesion to the chord movement.

The Example:

In the video section of this column, I demonstrate the chord sequence in two different ways. One using blocky sounding, full CAGED voices, this is great, and in certain songwriting situations, it's all that is needed. However, in order to create some size and uniqueness to this guitar Part example, I decided to use the Root, 3rd, 7th voicings as previously discussed, moving around on the same string set. I chose the key with the open B and E string in mind. The basic chord sequence with the voicings is as follows:

F#m7 – Dmaj7 – Bm7 

F#m7 – Dmaj7 – C#7

F#m7 – Gmaj7 – Dmaj7

F#m7 – Dmaj7 – C#7

When the Open B and E string are added, we find ourselves with some extensions on these basic 7thg chords.

F#m11 – Dmaj13 – Bm7 

F#m11 – Dmaj13 – C#7#9

F#m11 – Gmaj13 – Dmaj13

F#m11 – Dmaj13 – C#7#9

These chords may look scary on paper, and I may not have actually come up with them if I hadn't approached this part with the voicings and open strings in mind.

We can add more spice to each voicing (as demonstrated in the video) by adding the 5th below each root note of each chord. This adds a lovely earthy texture to the guitar part; however, you have to be careful when playing these lower intervals; if you dig in too much, the 5th can become quite overpowering, however, when appropriately brushed (as demonstrated in the video) can really add some weight and size to the acoustic guitar part.


Try this with your own writing, try it with a CAPO, try it with different tunings; there are tons of great-sounding, unique guitar parts to be found in your guitar. The only limit is your imagination!

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