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Chord Inversions/Voicings for Dummies - Explain to me like I’m 5!

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by dreamingtele, Mar 28, 2021.

  1. oldunc

    oldunc Tele-Meister

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    In a band setting voicings on a guitar aren't that important harmonically, as the bass and, most likely, the melody, are carried by other instruments. More important, and too often ignored, is voice leading- the voices within your chords will bed far more meaningful if they form coherent patterns. Guitarists, particularly rhythm players, are far too inclined to run their chords in parallel. This is easy, since you can use the same fingering up and down the neck, but it robs the chords of any real harmonic significance.
     
  2. Blackshadowrider

    Blackshadowrider TDPRI Member

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    There is a lot of great theory here that has nailed inversions pretty good. I will add some real simple thought for all.
    Listen to the sound of the inversions as your are playing with the same base notes but each inversion will sound a little different.
    Think of an open position E chord, now place a capo on the 2nd fret and play a D shape (it is still an E chord) but it sounds different.
    Place the capo on the 4th fret and play a C shape (it is still an E chord) it sounds different again.
    You can use a Drop D style capo and let that open bass E in ring through as well.
    I have been in a band for 15+ years now with a core group and guitar players that come and go. We always have too many guitars but the leader can never say no.
    I will take the song we are doing and transpose the chords using various capo positions to fill in the sounds, I am basically playing inversions.
    One of these days I am going to Nashville high-tune a Tele and really flip them out. Maybe a long neck baritone?
    Cheers!
     
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  3. Captdan61

    Captdan61 TDPRI Member

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    You're not alone my friend I aspired understand jazz I'm 59 I'm hoping to learn before I die
     
  4. Captdan61

    Captdan61 TDPRI Member

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    I could not ask this question but I am curious are you saying you simply would play the existing C or he or G chord and then add another note as the bass note? So if you're playing and easy chords you be adding a g to the E chord on the bass string am I understanding that? Obviously confused
     
  5. pbenn

    pbenn Tele-Afflicted

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    Maybe he means starting the cowboy C chord (x32010) from the 4th string E/2nd fret and the next two strings higher. Don't change grip, just select different three strings. (xx201x)?
     
  6. Mark the Moose

    Mark the Moose Tele-Afflicted

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    Maybe this was covered and I missed it, but let's distinguish between "inversion" and "voicing". Every triad has three notes (root-3rd-5th), 7th chords have four (root-3rd-5th-7th)...assuming nothing is omitted.

    The INVERSION is defined by which chord tone is the lowest sounding. So if the lowest sounding chord tone in the band is the root, you have a root position chord. If the lowest sounding note is the third then you have a first inversion chord, and so on.

    The VOICING is the arrangement of chord tones (and color tones or extension if applicable) above the bass note. So if my band is playing a G chord and my bass player is playing a low G, how I arrange the pitches of the G chord above that do not change the inversion, our chord is in root position. I can then play G's, B's and D's in a variety of configurations on top to create different chord voicing.

    I'm first a pianist, so I'm particularly keen on chord voicings and how they relate to bass notes. On guitar, there are a few shapes that give you access to many useful 3-note voicings on the high (G-B-E) strings. Likewise, there are a few shapes that give you many useful 3-note voicings on the D-G-B strings. It's all part of learning your neck.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2021
  7. GuruAtma

    GuruAtma TDPRI Member

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    I just want to add that in the context of a band, it's important to communicate with the other members. Depending what the guitar, bass and keyboards do, it may dictate what's the best voicing for your chord. Basically try to give each other space so that you're not doing the exact same voicing as the others (unless you specifically want to)
     
  8. warchol

    warchol TDPRI Member

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    Good thread, lots of good advice here. I can't help much with the 2 week timeline, but I can offer something for next 2 years:

    Ted Greene

    The man was a great guitar player and a Master teacher.
    I learned a lot about chord voicings from working on just
    a few of his arrangements over the course of few years.
    There is a huge, free archive of his lessons here (donations
    gratefully accepted):

    https://www.tedgreene.com/

    He has lessons covering every aspect of playing in many
    genres.

    Tim Lerch is teacher on YouTube who also does excellent
    Ted Greene lessons:

    https://www.youtube.com/user/telebasher

    IMO, you can't find a better way to learn chord voicing than to choose a couple of Ted's arrangements and work on them long term. They are not easy, and some of the finger reaches are beyond smaller hands, but well worth the time invested.
     
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  9. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I find it interesting to watch YouTube videos where pianists, especially jazz pianists, talk about chord voicing. They say things like "avoid doubling any notes, especially the third"

    Meanwhile, guitarists: 320003 (G, third doubled, root tripled)
     
  10. Gary135r

    Gary135r Tele-Meister

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    His guitar is a beauty!
     
  11. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

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    You could spend your life studying chords. Ted Greene will blow your mind. However, unless your goal is to be a virtuoso jazz dude, chances are high that this is not going to happen. Maybe just dip into the rabbit hole now and then and pull a few new chord voicings out that you can add to your kit bag of chords. But I find it just as easy to start with knowing the chord notes and then hunting around for interesting two-note (dyad) and three note (triad) fingerings on my own. Note-- if it's really hard to grab, I'm probably not going to play it. I look for interesting chords that feel natural in my left hand.

    I highly doubt that many of the musicians that created some of the most the iconic chord progressions were deeply schooled in chord theory. And yet just by noodling around they found some beautifully voiced progressions that are now very famous.

    Take these five ideas to the bank and work with them:

    1) Every chord has its notes. For example, root, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and maybe a 9th. With other players also playing chords, your goal is to find and play just two or three notes of the chord and make them be nice and tasty so they actually add something nice to the music. They fit in the moment and they have a nice movement from the preceding and to the next chords. The root and 5th are not that important-- it's the other ones that provide the harmonic content, presuming someone else is covering the root.

    2) If everyone else is playing low, you go high. If everyone else is playing high, you go low. Find a sonic space. Finding ways to play chords differently up and down the neck and on different strings will help you find your spot.

    3) It sounds like you are playing a set list of songs. If you have a chance to work on them, you can mess around and figure out the way you want to play the chords for each song. You don't have to be a virtuoso and figure all of this out on the fly. You can take your time, play along with your band recordings, plan it all out, and get it under your fingers.

    4) Syncopation. If everyone is just playing the same strumming pattern, you can have your instrument's voice stick out by playing a complementary rhythm that is syncopated with the other instruments. For example, if they're playing on the downbeats you play something nice on the upbeats. It's not just what you play that helps it stick out in the mix, it's also when you play it. Listen to any funk band and that's what it's all about. That's how they can have 16 players up there and not have it sound like mud.

    5) Open strings-- having voicings that combine fretted notes with some open, ringing notes, can create really interesting sounds, especially on acoustic and/or where the chords ring out and are held for more than a moment. You can only get this kind of timbre from a guitar, not a keyboard. By taking advantage of this you can make your rhythm more iconic and distinctive.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2021
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  12. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Afflicted

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    Ah, good question! (I kind of thought this might come up after I posted initially).

    Short answer: well, you could. But really, the idea is primarily about rearranging the notes in the chord (that's the short laymen's explanation). In other words, just change which note is played in the bass (lowest note), the melody (the highest note) and the note in the middle. For practical purposes here, it's about learning the 3 basic inversions of a major (or minor) chord. They all get used -- A LOT!

    And, to follow up, the most common form (well, one of the most common..) is the one that puts the root in the bass and treble voice, so: C,E,G,C -- the root is doubled ( <-- think of a Barre chord here). So, that 'sound' of the chord is root 'heavy' (emphasizes the root a great deal). Whereas, in a lot of classical music you'll often see a major triad played with the 3rd in the bass (E natural in the example) and the root up on top in the melody (the C root in the example). Putting the 5th in the bass is a bit less common. Of course in jazz, 'all the rules are off' [well, mostly] and the rules that exist are adhered to more loosely and more variation exists generally (and, very little jazz centers around 3-note major triads to boot!)

    Hope that helps.. :)
     
  13. E5RSY

    E5RSY Doctor of Teleocity

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    If you're like me and learn better out of books, get this one by Arnie Berle:

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. GearGeek01

    GearGeek01 Tele-Meister

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    First off, you don't need ANY music theory to play guitar. Robert Conti has a complete teaching style of "No Modes, No Scales" https://www.robertconti.com/ I studied privately with Bob Conti for 2 years in the early 1980s, he opened my eyes to just PLAYING music, not being a Music Scientist.

    Now some 40-ish years later I teach my student shapes, not music theory. Because on the guitar once you learn the shape of a chord, the name of that shape, and where the root is in the chord, you don't need to know why and become a rocket scientist to describe the thing... just play.

    You already have the right idea. Instead of playing a G open chord or a G batrre chord at the 3rd fret, play the G chord of the D shape farther up the neck. Its got to be hard for the 2 keyboard players to keep off of each other's feet... IMHO, that's too much keyboards for me, LOL.

    So you have 4 instruments that could possibly be playing rhythm chords... whew...

    Here in Jacksonville, Florida its common to go to a jam session at someone's house and 2, 3, even 4 or more guitar players show up. I call it the "guitar army"... because music is practically dead in this area, and when there is a known jam sessions, EVERYBODY shows up, LOL. Its been that way since the 60s or 70s, that's how Lynyrd Skynyrd ended up with THREE guitars AND a keyboard.

    I'm going to throw a wild guess that the band you are playing in is a church band? With 2 keys and 2 guitars, it would be common. Or, because of your geographical location that's just how the jam session turned out and you flew with it like Lynyrd Skynrd? IMHO, if you're going to try to be a gigging, money making band, you should trim off some of the fat so you don't have to cut the wages pie into so many pieces.

    1) keys #1
    2) keys #2
    3) guitar #1
    4) guitar # 2
    5) drums (?)
    6) bass (?)
    7) lead singer, too (?)
    8) horn(s).....

    For example, if the gig pays $100, with an 8-piece band everybody makes $12.50...

    or

    1) keys
    2) guitar
    3) drums
    4) bass
    - assuming one or more of these folks can sing...

    If the gig pays $100, everybody gets $25... and so on and so on depending on what the gig pays...

    (If the gig pays $1,000 - divided by 8, everybody gets $125... if only 4 in the band, everybody gets $250... you get the math...trim some of the fat)

    Between the 2 guitar players one should be lead, one should be rhythm. Then choose songs that have distinct lead and rhythm parts. Then there are some songs that don't have rhythm and lead, like say a ZZ Top song, or a Rush song or a 3-piece band that only has one guitar guy.

    Chances are the 2 keyboard players are best buddies or family members, so getting rid of one of them is a cluster-disaster... IMHO, having 2 keys is one too many... maybe one could play piano parts, the other plays synth pads etc... but then what do they do for a ZZ Top song?

    IMHO, instead of trying to play dodgeball with chord inversions to keep out of the way of others playing chords..., you need to have fewer members in the band...

    Maybe you go out and start a 3-piece band guitar/bass/drums... just an idea... then you're not walking all over the other 3 rhythm instruments...

    My 2 cents...
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2021
  15. Whitebeard

    Whitebeard TDPRI Member

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    I start by using inversions that keep the chord pattern as tight as possible within the same few frets. When working with another guitarist of keyboard player I want my chords/inversions to enhance what they are doing to make the overall sound more sonically rich/fatter/wider. Of course there are exceptions. Sometimes two guitars playing the same simple power chord inversion is the desired effect. Enjoy & experiment.
     
  16. gcdcpakmbs

    gcdcpakmbs TDPRI Member Gold Supporter

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    I am likely the most novice to comment on here. But it is tangent to something I have been doing this spring. Like Phred says (and I'll probably get that wrong as well).

    Triad 1-3-5
    1st Inversion 3-5-1
    2nd Inversion 5-1-3

    So if you take only 3 consecutive strings at a time, learn the Major triad and the Minor triad (flat 3rd) for each inversion. Then pick some progression you like, like C-Am-Dm-G and learn to play it various ways on just those 3 strings. From open to the 12th fret, you have 3 options for each chord. When comfortable, move to the next 3 consecutive strings and do the same. And so on. When you get familiar with that, start adding 7th, 9th, 13th, whatever. You can play around with those and find you can leave some notes out (also mentioned above..) Duane Allman used to do what Pfred was talking about where he might be playing a 3-note chord, but get a 13th or dominant sound when sounded with the bass and or keyboard. And it would be very different than what you would guess the chord was if you just wrote down what he played (sans the other instrument). I really like this discussion, lots of good input. Thanks for raising it.
     
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  17. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    To be clear, an inversion does not imply a voicing. The only thing it specifies is the bottom note. These are all second inversions of C.

    332xxx
    3x2x1x
    3xxx10
    xxx010
    etc...
     
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  18. archiemax

    archiemax Tele-Meister

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    Back when I was teaching guitar, I used Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love" for teaching inversions. The pattern is Em-A-D-Bm and what I'd do would be to play that sequence over and over occasionally changing inversions (for the entire sequence, sometimes for two measures, sometimes four etc etc.) My student's task would be to keep going with the same sequence but to always be playing different inversions than what I was playing. Turned out to be a good way for them to look AND listen to what the other guitarist in the band is doing and avoid playing the exact same inversions.

    Come And Get Your Love - Redbone 1974 {Stereo} - YouTube
     
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  19. ndcaster

    ndcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    to stay out of another musician's territory, it helps to know where different octaves of notes lie on the fretboard:

    853AE91F-4376-4926-B407-C54108DE30B9.png
     
  20. dreamingtele

    dreamingtele Friend of Leo's

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    HI GUYS OP HERE!!!



    Hi guys, thank you all for your responses, rest assured I am reading each post and trying it and studying it.. the cummulative brain power of this forum is incredible. its as if I have more brain for music and life advices, playing advices to last me a lifetime and more!

    on playing and staying out of others sonic space, I am aware of that, hence the post.. I've been playing alongside people with varying levels, from noob who just picked up a guitar 2 weeks ago, to a well seasoned pro who plays one note and it resonates through the whole verse/chorus or bridge of the song..

    like I said, Im not a guitarist who likes to be loud. I want to play interesting parts, parts that I make beforehand when we're given a set list.. parts I make originally, or add-ons to the original ones from record.. whenever I play with people I always communicate with them, ask them what they're gonna do, and I adjust on the fly accordingly.. but Im always 100% confident that whatever I practiced before would never interfere with what they're gonna do.. because I try to look for ways to spice things up..

    I ask because I do not have theory.. I have ears, and I experiment with pressing notes on my fretboard.. I would dissect the barre G chord and pluck the things thats in that chord shape.. the thing is I just dont know what those notes are in the big scheme of things.. I might be doing already what you guys are putting into words, but thats why Im learning because that AHA moment I get when I read our posts is a big plus for me in my musicianship and playing guitar..

    like I said, I want to weave in and out of the sonic space by not only filling those gaps, BUT also give it some color..

    an analogy I told a good man mr @Ron C when we chatted about this (very kind enough to offer me to teach some basics in theory) in the private message.. I know how to cook a steak.. I know that at the very basic, salt and pepper.. but if someone teaches me to put some rosemary to enhance it a bit, I'll do it, taste and see if I like it.. okay, how about some garlic and pour that hot butter oil on the garlic on top of the steak and it let it give some spice.. I'll try it, then see if I like it.. am I making any sense? HAHAHA
     
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