Prog rock guitarist and teacher with a passion for Music Theory applied to Guitar.
Posted Dec 05, 2013 12:45 PM
Your knowledge of chords is limited to the same old "cowboy chords"? Would you like to have more artistic freedom with chords without having to spend years studying harmony? I have a fast and easy solution for you. Keep reading.
Many players spend all their musical life knowing only few chords. If these few chords allow them to express themselves, that is good of course... but how do you know if the chords you know actually allow you to express what you want to express? It's my experience that when I show a few "non-standard" chords to my students, then they get immediately interested in learning them, no exception. For this reason, it seems to me that players who say that they are happy with the few chords they know are not in fact that satisfied with what they can do harmony-wise.
Before I hear the cry of protest, note that I'm NOT advocating learning all the NAMES of the chords: in fact I'd really prefer you know the SOUND of chords. Sure, knowing the names of chords is useful if you want to communicate with others, but don't gorge yourself trying to learn everything about flat 9ths and sharp 11ths.
Not only this, but there is also another problem. Chords do not really work alone: they work in progressions. In order to compose a meaningful song you need more than one chord and they need to work together well. You need more than just "knowing chords": you need to know how they can fit together.
The WRONG solution to this problem (and sadly the one that most people follow) is to get a book with lots of chords diagrams and plunge through it. Again, chords do not work alone: even if you find the "perfect" chord, then you are left with the problem of finding other chords that will work with it... and this is even more frustrating! (been there, done that). Also, in my experience it is really difficult to remember these chords if the only thing you do with them is to play them once or twice before you pass to the next diagram.
In the video below I explain how to create a whole SET of original chords that work well together. The system I explain is easy and can be used to find chords that match your "perfect chord," if you have one... or you can just use it to create completely original chords from scratch. There is practically no formal theory involved, as you will see.
Of course, like many other things, what I just showed will work for you only if you make it part of your daily practice routine. 5 minutes of it a day for few weeks are definitely enough, and it may take a few days to get used to it. Personally when I'm doing it I get lost in the sounds I am discovering and once I come back to my sense it's few hours later and I have recorded a song... but your mileage may vary.
One of the side benefits of this exercise is that you are going to become much more familiar with your fretboard. The ones among you who are less familiar with your notes on the fretboard may find that it takes a bit of time to adjust and get the system I talk about in the video under their belt. If this is the case, let me know in the comments (or with a pm) and I will make the next video about an easy way to visualize your notes on the fretboard.
About the Author:Tommaso Zillio is a prog rock guitarist and teacher with a passion for Music Theory applied to Guitar.