One of the wonders of studying music is the realization that the deeper you go into it the more there is to learn. This is particularly true of the method we have looked at throughout this book. This section will deal with some of the more interesting applications that can be supported by the use of intervals and chord theory; Alternate Tunings and Arranging Horn Sections.
If the world of alternate tunings is a mystery to you, now is a good time to start exploring. The whole approach to tuning the guitar is one of compromise. What you gain in one configuration you lose in another, so it would be a good idea to be able to tailor the guitar to your own requirements. Some tunings make use of drone strings to great effect while others are suited to the bottleneck style of playing by tuning the guitar to open chords. The best way to find your own unique tuning is experimentation coupled with intelligent analysis.
I have chosen the slack G tuning as a model to use since it is widely used and easy to access. It is referred to as a slack key because all the strings are lowered in pitch from the standard tuning.
D G D G B D
When all the strings are played open the resulting chord will be Gmaj. On closer inspection you will see that the chord is made up from the following intervals:
The most common use of this tuning is in slide guitar styles because of the ease the I-IV-V chord progression can be formed i.e. the IV chord is a barre across all strings at the 5th fret and the V chord is the same at the 7th fret where the open position and the 12th fret position act as the I or root.
There is much more to this tuning than that however. If you look at the last three strings of the tuning you will see that you have the basic major triad of I, III, V. The fingering can be changed from a barre shape to access a minor chord (lower the III), a diminished (lower the III and theV) and even a minor seventh (lower the I a tone, lower the III a semi-tone).
You are not restricted to playing chords in the key of Gmaj as you can work out the chord voicings for any chord you choose, even 7#9 and 7b5b9.
If you identify every alternate tuning this way, the scope for creating new sounds and textures is limitless. A good way of working out chord inversions, without having to relearn the fretboard for every new tuning you invent, is to use a guitar tuner to identify the notes in the chord you are looking for. This will make the process much quicker and may give you ideas you wouldn't otherwise have thought of. It is also very good if there are people waiting for you to come up with something for a song in the studio or rehearsal room.
By using the same principles to work out three note chords, hundreds of new shapes for every chord will be available to you, each with their own unique sound and feel.
Horn Sections , Harmony Vocals and more...
With the knowledge of chord construction comes the ability to suggest arrangements for horn sections, harmony vocals, twin guitar leads/ riffs and bass lines among others. You can use your fretboard and major scale pattern as a calculator for any of these applications using every thing we have covered so far.
The melodic accompaniment by any musical section, be it horns, vocals or strings, will always be based around the chord progression of the song they are playing. If you think of the constituent elements of that section (baritone, sax or violin) as individual strings on your guitar you can assign each element an individual interval each chord change.
For example: In a horn section you may have two tenor saxes, a trumpet, a trombone and an alto sax. The chord progression goes from Gmaj to D7 (I to V).
The intervals of the two chords will be:
You will notice that we have two chords made up of 3 and 4 intervals but we have 5 elements to our section. This will be dealt with in the same way that our guitar chord double up on the same notes. The notes you double up will alter the overall sound greatly and will be a matter of choice and experience.
I have suggested one solution below but there are many more, so just experiment.
If you look at the change in terms of notes you will see that the 1st Sax changes from G to A, the 2nd Sax changes from B to D, the Trumpet changes from B to C, the Trombone stays on D and the Alto-Sax changes from G to A.
This is a very basic example which does not incorporate any time signature. If the chords last for a bar or more the possibilities become greater still. I have only shown this basic example to show that this area of work is within your reach if you thought otherwise before.
The same method can be applied to strings and vocal arrangements just as effectively. By using the guitar as a composition tool you are able to become a more versatile, all round musician.
Copyright Dale Churchett © 1995. All Rights Reserved.