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Lesson Series

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Sam Bell Rhythm Guitar Concepts Part 5: Utilising Chord Fragments, Using Thirds and Articulation

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 57 **

In this instalment of Rhythm Guitar Concepts, I am going to take a look at how we can use larger chord formations to visualise smaller chunks of information. In today’s example we are going to take a simple Am, G, and F chord sequence using E Shaped Bar chords, search for the 3rd intervals for each chord on the D and G strings and create a cool rhythm guitar part. These kinds of parts can be heard on 80s Michael Jackson records all the way through to modern artists such as ‘The 1975’. The main purpose of this issues lesson column, however, is to look at the different ways we can articulate the same riff to get different sonic results. The second example in this column utilises larger chord fragments to create a moving thirds sound through a chord shape using some of the articulations we cover in this lesson.


For this issue's column, I used a compressed clean tone with a medium thickness pick. This adds a little ‘snap’ to the tone and enables me to get different textures from various angles of the pick. For this example I am attacking the strings with a more parallel pick angle, I am letting the pick rest on each string before pushing through to the next string and I am utilising various amounts of palm muting to create different articulations. For this column, I am going to demonstrate several ways of playing this rhythm guitar part with various amounts of muting and pick attack to create different levels of texture.

Heavy Muting, Fast Pick Strokes:

I first played the riff with heavy palm muting and letting the pick softly but quickly pass through the strings. This is a great way of sitting back in a live or recorded mix whilst suggesting harmonic information, leaving space for the bass player, vocals, drums and any synths or pads.

Hard Attack, Quick Muting:

The second way of playing this riff is to attack the notes with no palm muting with a heavy attack but quickly and lightly mute towards the end of the sustain. This is a great way of creating a little dynamic flare to the part if combined with the first option, or as a way of building the same part through a verse section for example.

Heavy Muting, Slow Pick Attack:

This is a much more percussive sound, slightly akin to the early 1950s muted raked arpeggios you can hear in Buddy Hollys playing. This technique uses muting with a slower pick attack, to the point that the two notes in the chord fragment almost sound like they are being played in sequence rather than at the same time. This is a great way of really building energy in a part, especially when played tightly with a rhythm section. It keeps the subtle edge of the first example but the percussive energy needed to build the part up textually.

Moving Thirds:

Later in the video I demonstrate an improvised rhythm guitar part that outlines the same chord sequence as the first example however this time I use more of the E Shaped chord formations on the top 4 strings (D, G, B and E) and grab the strings in pairs (D,G – G,B – B,E) in order to create a moving triad sound through each chord change. This creates more movement for each chord, combining this technique with other CAGED shapes will give you almost infinite possibilities when coming up with cool rhythm parts like these.


Articulation can change the direction of a guitar part, using smaller chord fragments can really add a melodic edge to your rhythm playing and fretboard knowledge can really expand where you take your rhythm playing in a big way. Be sure to dig deep and have fun utilising some of these approaches in your every day playing!

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