Voicings, inversions, and diversions, pt.2


This is the 2nd part (2 of 3) of a lesson on inversions, voicings, and chords with open notes.

This lesson is on creating your own voicings.

CREATING VOICINGS

How do you physically create voicings?
The short answer is you just choose the notes you want to play.
Consider the major chord as it is mapped on a fretboard (here the chord in particular is F)

|1|-|-|-|3|-|-|5|-|-|-|-|1|
|5|-|-|-|-|1|-|-|-|3|-|-|5|
|-|3|-|-|5|-|-|-|-|1|-|-|-|
|-|-|1|-|-|-|3|-|-|5|-|-|-|
|-|-|5|-|-|-|-|1|-|-|-|3|-|
|1|-|-|-|3|-|-|5|-|-|-|-|1|

To create a voicing out of this, we consider the following:
1.) All notes except open notes (and capoed notes) will be fretted.
2.) Stretching the fingers beyond 5 frets (distance between frets) becomes uncomfortable.
3.) Unless you're tapping, you only need 1 note per string (we'll cover arpeggios at another time).
4.) In order to play a chord, we should play at least 1 of each distinct note. We can double a note if we wish. Sometimes we can omit a note.

So given our map, and these considerations, let's make up some voicings.

We recall, that we can divide such a map into zones (we talked about shapes based on open chords, "A-shape", etc.) So staying with the previous shapes thing, we pull the "E-shape" out of the 1rst 3 frets.
We get the following (please confirm for yourself).

major "E-shape"(root note on the 6th string)

|-1-|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|
|---|-3-|---|
|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|-5-|
|-1-|---|---|

So in this shape, we have 3 possibilities for the root note, 2 possibilities for the P5, and only one possibility for the M3. Playing each distinct note (1,3,5) at least once, we can create voicings with 3,4,5, or 6 strings. So here are some choices in TAB (starting with all 6 strings, then 3,4,5 string voicings)

|--1-1-----------1-1-1-1-1----|
|--1-1-1-------1-1-1-1-1---1--|
|--2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2--|
|--3---3-3---3-3-3-3-3---3-3--|
|--3-----3-3-3-3---3---3-3-3--|
|--1-------1-1-------1-1-1-1--|

There are other possible voicings for 3 strings, and 4 strings. Note that in order to play a major chord out of this shape "E-shape" within the 3 frets given, you must play the 3rd string. It is the only option for the M3 in the limitations we've put on ourselves to choose from. If we do not include this string/note, then the chord is technically not a major chord any longer (major = 1,3,5) but rather a power chord (5=1,5,8(1)).

Let's create another zone of notes to pick from, let's look back above and pick frtes 2-5. In classical notation this would be called 2nd position (1rst finger frets notes on the 2nd fret, 2nd finger takes care of notes on the 3rd fret, 3rd finger plays notes on the 4th fret, and 4th finger holds down notes on the 5th fret). Looking at this are in terms of the shapes we've looked at, we see that it is a hybrid of "E-shape" and "D-shape" or we can ssay that part of the zone is in one shape and part is in another shape. we are not limited to our own abstractions! We use our abstractions as a context to learn and understand, and communicate. we do not need them as shackles to restrict our possibilities/potential.

|---|---|---|-3-|
|---|---|---|---|
|-3-|---|---|-5-|
|---|-1-|---|---|
|---|-5-|---|---|
|---|---|---|-3-|

In this zone (2nd position, frets 2-5), we have only one possible note for the root note, three possibilities for the M3, and two possibilities for the P5. So using this zone, if we want to play an F chord, we should play the 4th string (even though we have options on the other strings). If we want to fully use the zone, we should choose notes from both extreme frets (otherwise we could have used a smaller zone). One possible voicing (out of many) from this zone would be F=5332XX, which could be written F/A.

Let's talk for a moment about interpreting chord symbols and note omission. Often we're reading lyric sheets, chord charts, etc. it is common to see a chord named with no reference to voicing (either in TAB, standard notation, or chord blocks). It is also common in many strumming/picking patterns to not play every note that you're fingering in every moment. We generally do not notate, using chord symbols only, whether or not all the notes are being played at any one instant (we don not write seperate chords over every chord played, nor do we write "no chord" over a spot where we are only playing one note in a chord at that particular instant). Sometimes we omit notes.

When writing down a chord symbol choose the symbol that corresponds closest to the sound you're trying to communicate. Pick the synonym that when played as written (w/o TAB, etc.) will sound closest to what you intend. For example, say that you're playing an F in "E-shape", and you're not playing the M3. maybe sometimes you hit the note and others you don't. It would be good to write that down as F.
Maybe you're intentionaly not hitting the M3, and don't want anyone reading what you write down to play it either. It would be best to write that down as F5.

But maybe you're not playing the major 3rd but someone else is, you don't care whether someone else plays your music with or without it, you could write that down as F or F(no3). F(no 3) says to play an F chord but omit the major 3rd. It's possible that the 3 does or doesn't fit in with the music. Many times omited notes are shown on structures that suggests that the note fits in but for whatever consideration (lack of strings, internal interval dissonance, etc.) the note has been omited.

Consider C#m7(no 3). If you wanted to play a 3, you should play a b3(m3), but whoever wrote this has decided to omit that note, yet they've given you a context of what that note would be. Note that given three notes in that chord, it could have come from a couple of different places.
m7(no 3) = 1,5,b7
7(no 3) = 1,5,b7
It is perfectly ok, in interpreting music to omit notes. However, when writing music for others to interpret, we should use the notation that is closest to what we are trying to communicate.

I once knew a guy who was thoroughly disgusted with the idea of power chords (since technically they only have 2 distinct notes, and the definition of a chordis that it has 3 or more distinct notes), so although he played power chords all the time, he would never write them down as power chords (5), but would rather notate them as major or minor chords. One day for the fun of it, I took one of his sheets and played it back to him as I interpreted what he'd written down. He got irate, and said i was playing it all wrong. I explained to him that I interpreted what I'd read, and that if he wanted me to interpret it in a certain way, he should have been more specific in the way he wrote it down. we write things down to communicate with others (and ourselves). given the tools at hand, do your best to communicate what it is you mean to say, and understand the limitations of the ways you've used tto communicate.

SOME COMMON VOICINGS

Let's look at some common voicings for major, minor, and diminished chords.
We've already started major chords, so we'll pick up from there. I'll use reference to shapes (so we've already done major chord "E-shape") examples in F.

major "D-shape" (root note on the 4th string)

|---|---|-3-|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|-5-|---|
|-1-|---|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-3-|---|
  3   4   5   6  
note: the 3 under the diagram tells you which fret is at the beginning of the diagram, in this case the 5 on the 5th string and the 1 on the 4th string occur on the 3rd fret. Compare with the fretboard map above. Some voicings from this shape in TAB:

|--5-5-5-5-----5--|
|--6-6-6-6-----6--|
|--6-5-5-5---5-5--|
|--3-3---3-3------|
|----3---3-3-3----|
|--------5-5-5-3--|

major "C-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|-3-|---|---|-5-|
|---|-1-|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-3-|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|
|-3-|---|---|-5-|
  5   6   7   8  

|--5---5-------8--|
|--6-6-6-----6-6--|
|--5-5-5---5-5----|
|--7-7-7-7-7-7-7--|
|--8-8---8-8------|
|--------8--------|

major "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|-5-|---|---|
|---|---|-3-|
|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|-5-|
|-1-|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|
  8   9  10

|---8--8--------8--8-----|
|--10-10-10-10-10-10-10--|
|--10-10-10-10-10-10-10--|
|--10-10-10-10-10----10--|
|---8--8--8--8-----------|
|------8-----8-----------|

major "G-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|---|---|-1-|
|-3-|---|---|-5-|
|-1-|---|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-3-|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|
 10  11  12  13


|--13-13----13----13--------|
|--10-13-10-10-13-13--------|
|--10-10-10-10-10----10-----|
|--10-10-10-10-10----10-10--|
|--12-12-12----12-12-12-12--|
|--13-13-------------13-13--|

And now, looking at the map for minor chords (again in F) m=1,b3,5.

minor

|-1|--|--|b3|--|--|--|-5|--|--|--|--|-1|
|-5|--|--|--|--|-1|--|--|b3|--|--|--|-5|
|b3|--|--|--|-5|--|--|--|--|-1|--|--|b3|
|--|--|-1|--|--|--|--|--|--|-5|--|--|--|
|--|--|-5|--|--|b3|--|-1|--|--|b3|--|--|
|-1|--|--|b3|--|--|--|-5|--|--|--|--|-1|

minor "E-shape"(root note on the 6th string)

|-1-|---|---|b3-|
|-5-|---|---|---|
|b3-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-1-|---|
|---|---|-5-|---|
|-1-|---|---|b3-|
  1   2   3   4

|--1-1-1-1---------4--|
|--1-1-1-1-------1-1--|
|--1-1-1-1-1---1-1-1--|
|--3-3-3---3-3-3-3-3--|
|--3-3-----3-3-3------|
|--1-----1-1-4--------|

minor "D-shape" (root note on the 4th string)

|---|b3-|---|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|-5-|---|
|-1-|---|---|b3-|
|-5-|---|---|---|
|---|b3-|---|---|
  3   4   5   6

|---4-4-4------|
|---6-6-6-6----|
|---5-5-5-5-5--|
|---3-6-3-6-3--|
|---3-------3--|
|-----------4--|

minor "C-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|---|---|---|-5-|
|---|-1-|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|---|
|---|b3-|---|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|---|-5-|
  5   6   7   8

|----8-------8--|
|--6-6-6-----6--|
|--5-5-5---5----|
|--6-6-6-6-6-6--|
|--8---8-8-8----|
|------8-8------|

minor "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|-5-|---|---|---|
|---|b3-|---|---|
|---|---|-1-|---|
|---|---|-5-|---|
|-1-|---|---|b3-|
|-5-|---|---|---|
  8   9  10  11

|--8--8-----------------8--8--|
|--9--9--9--9--9-----9--9--9--|
|-10-10-10-10----10-10-10-10--|
|-10-10-10-10-10-10-10----10--|
|--8--8--8--8--8-11-----------|
|-----8--8--------------------|

minor "G-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|---|-5-|
|-1-|---|---|b3-|
|-5-|---|---|---|
|---|b3-|---|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|
 10  11  12  13

|--13----13-13-----|
|--13----13-13-----|
|--13-10-13-13-13--|
|--10-10-10----10--|
|--11-11----11-11--|
|--13-13-------13--|

And looking at diminished chords, again in F (o = 1,b3,b5)

|--|-1|--|--|b3|--|--|b5|--|--|--|--|--|-1|
|b5|--|--|--|--|--|-1|--|--|b3|--|--|b5|--|
|--|b3|--|--|b5|--|--|--|--|--|-1|--|--|b3|
|--|--|--|-1|--|--|b3|--|--|b5|--|--|--|--|
|--|--|b5|--|--|--|--|--|-1|--|--|b3|--|--|
|--|-1|--|--|b3|--|--|b5|--|--|--|--|--|-1|

diminished "E-shape"(root note on the 6th string)

|-1-|---|---|b3-|
|---|---|---|---|
|b3-|---|---|b5-|
|---|---|-1-|---|
|---|b5-|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|b3-|
  1   2   3   4

|----------4--|
|-------------|
|--1-4---1-4--|
|--3-3-3-3-3--|
|--2-2-2-2-2--|
|--1-1-4------|

diminished "D-shape" (root note on the 4th string)

|---|b3-|---|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|
|---|b5-|---|---|
|-1-|---|---|b3-|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|b3-|---|---|
  3   4   5   6

|--4-4-4-4------|
|--6-6---6---6--|
|--4-4-4-4-4-4--|
|--3-3-3-6-3-6--|
|---------------|
|--4-------4----|

diminished "C-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|---|b5-|---|
|-1-|---|---|
|---|---|---|
|b3-|---|---|
|---|---|-1-|
|---|b5-|---|
  6   7   8

|--7---7-7--|
|--6-----6--|
|-----------|
|--6-6-6-6--|
|--8-8-8----|
|--7-7------|

diminished "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|b5-|---|---|---|
|---|---|b3-|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|b5-|---|
|---|-1-|---|---|
|b5-|---|---|---|
  7   8   9  10

|--7-------------7-----------7--|
|--9--------9-9--9--9-----9--9--|
|-10-10-10-10---10-10-10-10-10--|
|--9--9--9--9-9-----9--9--9--9--|
|--8--8--8--8-8----11-11--------|
|--7--7-------------------------|

diminished "G-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|---|---|-1-|
|---|---|b5-|---|
|-1-|---|---|b3-|
|---|---|---|---|
|---|b3-|---|---|
|---|---|---|-1-|
 10  11  12  13

|--13----13-----|
|--12-12-12-12--|
|--13-13-10-13--|
|---------------|
|-----14-11-----|
|--13-13----13--|

The more notes a chord has, the more possibilities arise. Let's look at the dominant seventh chord (7 = 1,3,5,b7)

|-1|--|--|--|-3|--|--|-5|--|--|b7|--|-1|
|-5|--|--|b7|--|-1|--|--|--|-3|--|--|-5|
|--|-3|--|--|-5|--|--|b7|--|-1|--|--|--|
|b7|--|-1|--|--|--|-3|--|--|-5|--|--|--|
|--|--|-5|--|--|b7|--|-1|--|--|--|-3|--|
|-1|--|--|--|-3|--|--|-5|--|--|b7|--|-1|

F7 "E-shape"(root note on the 6th string)

|-1-|---|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|b7-|
|---|-3-|---|---|
|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|---|-5-|---|
|-1-|---|---|---|
  1   2   3   4

|--1-1-1-------1-1-1-1--|
|--4-1-4---1---1-1-4-4--|
|--2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2--|
|--3-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-3-3--|
|--3-3-3-3-----3-----3--|
|--1-1-1-1-1-1----------|

F7 "D-shape" (root note on the 4th string)

|---|---|-3-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|
|---|---|-5-|---|
|-1-|---|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|b7-|
|---|---|-3-|---|
  3   4   5   6

|--5-5-5---5-5--|
|--4-4-6---6-4--|
|--5-5-5-5-5-5--|
|--3-3-3-3---3--|
|----3-6-6-6-3--|
|--------5---5--|

F7 "C-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|-3-|---|---|-5-|
|---|-1-|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|b7-|
|---|---|-3-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|
|-3-|---|---|-5-|
  5   6   7   8

|------8-5-8--|
|--6-6-6-6-6--|
|--8-8-8-5-8--|
|--7-7-7---7--|
|--8-8-8-6----|
|----8---5----|

F7 "A-shape" (root note on the 5th string)

|-5-|---|---|b7-|
|---|---|-3-|---|
|b7-|---|-1-|---|
|---|---|-5-|---|
|-1-|---|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|b7-|
  8   9  10  11

|--11-11-11--8--8-----------|
|--10-10-10-10-10-10-10-10--|
|--10-10-10--8--8--8-10--8--|
|--10-10-10-10-10-10-10-----|
|---8--8-----8--8--8-----8--|
|------8--------8----11-----|

F7 "G-shape" (root note on the 6th string)

|---|b7-|---|-1-|
|-3-|---|---|-5-|
|-1-|---|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|b7-|
|---|---|-3-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-1-|
 10  11  12  13

|-11-----------|
|-10----13-----|
|-10-10-10-----|
|-10-13-13-13--|
|-12-12-12-12--|
|-13-13----13--|

Ok. So we can make many different voicings out of a given chord (many more than shown here). Choosing for ourselves just what voicing we're going to use to interpret a chord is one part of developing our own style.

part 3 - chords with open notes in them. Up as soon as i can type it and post it (probably tommorow)

As always, any questions, go ahead and ask.

Peace,
Christopher Roberts
snglstringtheory@aol.com


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Last updated August 30, 2001
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