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Tom Quayle Modern Guitar Part 3 - Expanding Your Chord Vocabulary - Using Triad Slash Chords

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 11 **

Welcome back to my column - I hope your guitar chord vocabulary is slowly expanding and providing you with some new sounds. For this guitar lesson we’re going to raise the theory bar quite a bit before returning back to normal for next tutorial. Previously we looked at taking a static melody note and harmonising it using a chord built from all twelve available root notes, finding a relevant chord structure and possibly trying to match it with a scale that will allow us to construct melodies over the top. For this guitar lesson we’ll be taking a similar approach but instead of using a single melody note we’ll be using a major triad for the top part of our chord voicing, changing the bass note to all twelve possible root notes. By doing this we’ll end up with twelve different triad and bass note combinations that will give us a series of new sounds to use within out chordal playing. As usual I’ll also be outlining a scale choice that you can use for each of the chords so that you can start to construct not only guitar chord progressions but melodic ideas too.

Some of the chords and scales here may seem frightening or overwhelming to some of you guys who aren’t into theory in a big way. Don’t worry, simply find the sounds that you like and disregard the ones that you don’t. Some of these sounds are certainly dissonant but in the right context they can sound stunning.

We’ll be starting with a basic D major triad containing the notes D, F# and A, played with the root note on the A string as a simple barre chord. From here we’ll be keeping the top three notes of the chord static and moving the bass note down from D to C#, C, B, A# etc, allowing us to play all twelve bass notes against this D major triad. When we do this we produce a type of chord known as a ‘Slash Chord’ - very appropriate for this issue! Whilst they have very little to do with the big man himself, they are actually just a simple way of writing a triad with a different bass note underneath. The triad is written on the left and the bass note on the right, separated by a slash mark. So, D/C would be played as a D major triad with a C bass note.

By using this approach to finding chord voicings you can easily create new sounds by taking an existing triad and moving its bass note to another note - you have twelve to choose from so a lot of combinations can be achieved when you consider that you can also use any inversion of the triad.

In the video I play each combination of the D triad with each bass note and explain how I visualise that chord and which scale I would play over the top of them. A very important point to make here is that I’m not thinking in a particular key whilst doing this. I chose the D major triad purely at random - you could do this with any triad and produce chord progressions using different triads and bass notes or using the same triad as a static structure and simply moving the bass note around. The choice is yours. At the end of the video I produce a simple chord progression using the latter method.

In the included tablature/notation you’ll find each of the shapes written in standard tuning with the associated scale through one octave. I’m not really outlining the theory behind each of these chords - that would require many lessons in of itself. I’m simply presenting another method that you can use to expand your existing chord vocabulary in a simple manner.

Good luck and I’ll see you in the next lesson!

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