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Help: Playing partial chords

20 Sep 01 - 04:36 PM (#555124)
Subject: Playing partial chords
From: DonMeixner

Well in my ongoing attempt to do more with less I have discovered playing partial chords. When playing in "G" with "G" chord shapes I have started playing on;y the top of the "C". That is The "C" note on the "B" string the "G" note on the "E" string and playing the "G" string open. I know this gives me a chord that is neither major nor minor but it allows me to play a "C" sounding chord with out having to use all the fingers on my left hand.

This works fine as far as it goes but are there other combinations I could try? I'm looking to capo up the neck to lessen the reach I need to use as well. Capoing at five and playing "G" shapes to get to the key of "C" frinstince, altho' "Bm" is still a nightmare.

Is this question clear to anyone but me?

Thanks in advance, you guys always come through.


21 Sep 01 - 02:35 AM (#555542)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: georgeward

In a number of situations, you can use just strings 2,3&4 of the Bm chord (it's just a basic Am shape moved up 2 frets), and it will sound pretty reasonable. Easy with either pick or fingers. Or, come to that, just strings 1,2&3 if you don't mind that it is all treble. If you want just the bass sound, you could play just 2-on-5 (fret-on-string) and 2-on-6.

All of these work. I don't like any of'em where the chord is exposed (e.g. if Bm is the key you-re playing in), because there's no low root tone. But that's an as-a-rule thing too. There are always exceptions.

You can get really minimalist and just play chord roots (C for a C chord, F# for F#m, D for Dmin7, etc.)! If you have the courage of your convictions and can let a single bass note define several beats, it is a great cure for strummety-strum. Seems to me Pete Seeger went through a period of doing that, on the banjo, no less.

Q: Are you doing this to find easy solutions to "difficult" chords, to overcome physical problems (e.g. hand injury) or to find new chord voicings ? You'll approach each case differently.

Forgive me if this is simpler than what you're after.

-George ::-.--O

21 Sep 01 - 04:29 AM (#555571)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: BlueJay

Don- One of my favorites is the E-type chord on with the low E open, A string fretted on the seventh fret, D &G strings fretted on the ninth fret, with the B & High E strings open. Since it doesn't have the third, it can be major or minor, and has a cool tone.

You can move the pattern up or down, as needed, but it then loses the effect of the open strings. Thanks, BlueJay.

21 Sep 01 - 05:37 AM (#555592)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: The Shambles

On a more general note..... Eb.

No I jest (weakly).........

Are guitar players, especially self taught accompanists, too tied to chords. Almost enslaved in the belief that there are the 'right' chords.

We know that there are wrong ones, but are there really the 'right' ones?

21 Sep 01 - 07:47 AM (#555631)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: English Jon

Eb when in G is a flattened submediant substitution. It's also a bastard to fret properly.

Certainly, there's nothing wrong with thinking about chord substitutions, and the notion of taking equivalent minors for major chords is a good place to start (G - Eminor, C - A Minor etc)

Also, the notion that the three chord trick is based on I, IV, and V, is worth challenging: Western harmony is based on Tonic:Dominant relationships. V pulls to 1, therefore, what pulls to V? II! which is Equiv Minor to IV! Ta-daaaaa! instant calypso.

Whilst on the subject of harmonic substitution, Jazz types might want to replace chords with those a tritone apart, i.e. C - F#, G - C#, F - B etc

I suspect that this is getting a bit far from the thread title though. There's a nice G you can get by putting two fingers on the 3rd fret E and B strings, and not playing Low E and Low A.

Hope that helps.


21 Sep 01 - 08:09 AM (#555648)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: Willie-O

Wow, not only can Jon play like Martin Carthy, he also appears to have done a Phd thesis on the theoretical underpinnings of his much talent in such a young fellow!

Don, try this recipe for playing in G form, capo any fret. I'm assuming starting in standard tuning.

-Tune the A string down to G, play open as a drone. With either the G chord or the C chord. Em is a bit harder to play now, cause you have to go to the fourth fret on the 5th string, but it's still only two notes fretted. Am can be played either correctly, by fretting the 5th string at the 2nd fret for a bass A, or cheated by just playing the normal chords and still playing the G bass--usually sounds pretty good.
-If you're really ambitious, tune the low E string down to low C. You now have G, C and D bass strings--I IV V


21 Sep 01 - 08:24 AM (#555657)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: English Jon

Now that IS clever. Going to try that when I get home.


21 Sep 01 - 09:10 AM (#555684)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: M.Ted


Apparently none of these others jokers knows what you're talking about, so save their interesting but not particularly relevent tips for a rainy day(smile)--

What you're doing is playing the interval of a fifth (C-G) and adding the fifth below it--another one(and you can use it in your key of G) would be to simply fret the B string on the third fret(which is a D) and sound the D string, the G string, and the B string(by sound, I mean either pluck or strum)--

You can also slide the C-G fingering up to the third position (index finger on the B string,3rd fret, ring finger on the HighE, 5th fret) and pluck the A string--

Of course, you can also fret the B and E strings on the 12th fret and pluck them together with the LowE string--

You can plot out all the other notes on your own, remembering that all you need is the fundamental, and a fifth above and below it(it can even be an octave below, if you like)--

Make sure you are in tune when you work with this stuff--or it can be very unpleasant--

21 Sep 01 - 10:29 AM (#555781)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: English Jon

Lost me there I'm afraid, MTed; are you saying that Don is playing CMaj9th -3 -7 4th inversion? This isn't so much partial chording as bi-tonality, I.E playing in C and G at the same time - great!

I kind of took the meaning of the thread title to be to do with "thining out" the guitar sound, only playing essential notes, in which case, Don's neutral chords (no 3rd, neither major nor minor) is a good place to start. There's also a lot to be said for picking out a melody, or sections of melody over a pedal note.

Whilst building chords around 5ths is all well and good, I would be aware that whilst C-G is 5 notes, F-C, five notes the other way, can be seen as C-F, I.E. a 4th. What this means is that F major, with the C at the Bottom would be CFA, a second inversion. This is a less harmonically stable form than FAC, and so doesn't make a good shape for a root chord. It is however quite usefull for avoiding Parralel 5ths, if that's a concern, so use these shapes for 4-1 cadences!

No idea whether that's any help or not. Maybe it is best to ignore it.

Cheers, EJ

21 Sep 01 - 10:41 AM (#555794)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: Cappuccino

Please forgive me for lowering the intellectual tone (as usual) and going for simplicity. I once saw on a heavy rock instruction video for 5-year-olds (at least, that where it seemed to be pitched) that wonderful simple one-chord-fits-all shape that the guys have described, thus:

3rd fret, low E string and 5th fret A string, G and D, is your G chord. Move the whole shape up two frets, and it's your A chord.

Use the same pattern on the next two strings up, A and D, and you get a C chord, moving up two frets to a D, and then going up again to wherever you like.

I promise you, this video showed kids how to put their guitar on to full screech and play Hey Joe without moving that pattern of left hand fingering at all, just moving the entire arm and wrist!

I was delighted to discover that with a bit of thought and considerably more delicacy, you can actually do a hell of a lot more with that one shape.

But I'll never use it for Hey Joe...

- Ian B

21 Sep 01 - 10:44 AM (#555797)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: English Jon

Ah! the classic "Power Chord"

Must confess, it's the root and staple of my guitar playing, although I cheat, and tune low E to D so thickest two strings are DA. Then you can play the chord with one finger!


21 Sep 01 - 10:49 AM (#555798)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: M.Ted

English Jon,

There is an old Yiddish retort, that fits here--"I should know as little of trouble as I know of what you're saying"--Don is playing only these three notes--G-C-G--and is only looking for other ways to get that sound--I think you are making this all a lot harder than it is---

21 Sep 01 - 12:57 PM (#555897)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: Cappuccino

My apologies to Don if I've added to it. Don, might I ask which fingers are in use and available, for want of a better word, on those chords? - Ian

21 Sep 01 - 02:13 PM (#555971)
Subject: RE: Help: Playing partial chords
From: McGrath of Harlow

Partial chords can mean two things. It can mean playing the notes that make up a chord, but not doubling them up, so that with a standard major or minor that's just three strings played, and three left alone.

Or it can mean only playing some of the notes, but doubling them up and maybe using all six strings in guitar for example. Play just the C and G like Don started the thread with, and that's a C diad. I like diads, especially with the notes doubled up so all the strings are available. (Nobody ever seems agreed whether it's correct to call them chords or not. On some definitions of chords they aren't included. No matter, I think they often sound better.)

One of the nicest diads I know is the G you get if you play an F with the thumb fretting the E string, but slide it up two frets, and lift the second finger so you get an open G.

And then if you slide it up five more frets, and keep the same fingering you get a C diad, and they do well together, with a D chord to make up the Three.

I haven't been able to work out an easy D diad with standard tuning to allow a Three Diad trick. If anyone's got any suggestions, I'd be grateful if you'd post them here.