Putting It Together

You and I have been going over a few notions that come up when we’re playing around in F.  Maybe today’s a good day to start putting some of those thoughts together.

fretfRemember when we were first thinking about moving a song into a different range, higher or lower (what they call ‘transposing‘)?  Towards the end of that session I pointed out that you could already figure out the important chords in any key.  To do that you first make a scale starting on that note, then determine the 1st, 4th and 5th notes of that scale.  (If you’re trying to play in the key of G, for example, you’d start with the G-note.  Then the first five notes of that scale would be G, A, B, C and D.  The 1st note is a G, the 4th is C and the 5th note is D.  Easy, eh?)  And finally, you build a chord on each of those three notes.  (So in the key of G the most important chords will be a G-chord, a C-chord and a D-chord.)

So then I suggested you might want to spend a bit of time getting to know your way around the key of F.  We started with the F-chord, added the B-flat chord (building a chord on the 4th note of an F-scale), then we put the C-chord into the mix (that’d be the 5th).  Along the way I also asked you to get used to the idea of sometimes only playing three strings for these chords rather than all six strings.

fretg3Now here’s where it starts to get really cool.  Take that pattern you just played in F and move each one of those three chords up two frets closer to the soundhole of your guitar.  So your new first chord is now on the 5th fret.  The next chord is the same shape as the B-flat but now your index finger is on the 3rd fret instead of the 1st.  And the last chord is the same shape and two frets up from the previous chord, so your index finger is on the 5th fret.  Notice how it’s the all exactly same as in F except everything is two frets higher (making the three higher chords a G-chord, a C-chord and a D-chord).  Now try the same thing only start two more frets higher.  It still works, doesn’t it?  Okay, take a second to remind yourself how it goes when you start things on an F-chord.  Now instead of moving everything up and starting two frets higher try it with just one fret difference instead of two.  Still works.

What you’ve been doing, of course, is playing the three important chords (sometimes called the ‘first’, the ‘fourth’ and the ‘fifth’, you can figure out why) starting in a bunch of different places.  And as long as you only use the right three strings of the guitar and use exactly the same fingering pattern it will always work out.

fretcSo now you’ve got a couple of useful things going on.  Because you know that no matter where you start this chord pattern it will always work out (as long as it’s on these same three strings) you can make things higher or lower quite easily (say to accomodate someone’s voice, so the chords for the song don’t make things too high for their voice, or too low).  And you don’t particularly need to know what key it’s in to make it work, just follow the pattern.

And here’s another thing–the lowest-sounding note of each of these chords is the name of the chord.  So if you can begin to remember what the letter names are of the lowest-sounding string in each chord you’ll find that you are now able to play a whole bunch of chords on demand.  For instance, if you can remember that the 4th note on the bass string is an F-sharp, then when someone asks you to play an F-sharp chord (believe me, it happens), you just play that F-chord except on the 4th fret instead of the 3rd.  And out comes the requested chord.

fretd3And that will come in very handy.

So take a few minutes to think about all that.  Then maybe we’ll have a quick look at what some of those notes are.  Feel free to get ahead of me, of course.  The beautiful thing is that once you get it figured out you’ll be able to play any basic chord, without having to retune, reach for a capo, or apologize for the limitations of the tuning.  Opens up a lot of possibilities.

Have fun.

DADGAD chords–C

fretcThere are several ways to make a C-chord in this tuning, this is the one I’d like to concentrate on for a bit.  Identical fingering to the B-flat you’ve been working with, but this is two frets higher.  Notice it too only uses three strings.  And with the F-chord you’ve now got the main three chords to use if you want to play something that starts in F.  Take a couple of days and get the three chords sorted out in your mind, how they work together.  Once that makes a bit of sense I’ll show you a couple of things that become available.  I think you’ll find them useful.

The Strings You Choose

While you’re getting that B-flat lined up with the F-chord I’d like to get you thinking something about how you actually play those chords.

DAs we’ve been exploring this tuning we’ve found that some chords sound particularly fine when you play all six strings, like that home D-chord we started with.  We’ve also found that some chords sound interesting but acceptable when you play all six strings, like this G-chord which has an open A-string in it if you play all six strings.  (And A isn’t in a standard G-chord which would be made up of the notes G, B and D.  A high A-note would be the ninth note in a G-scale if you count these things, so technically all six strings in that G-chord make it a G with a 9th added, but you don’t need to know that to enjoy the sound of it.)  We’ve also found some chords that sound just plain wrong when you play all six strings, like this A-chord in fifths, that just isn’t right if you play the bass D-string.

GAs we keep working in this tuning there’s obviously going to be some use to playing some strings and not others.  Your choice might depend on what notes are available to you–if I don’t have a note that’s a part of that chord easily available on that string I don’t play that string.  Or which notes you play might have more to do with your taste and how you want things to sound–playing more strings sounds fuller, fewer strings sounds maybe more intimate, so I vary it depending on how I want that phrase or that song to sound.

So while you’re wandering through the F-chord and the B-flat maybe spend a bit of time noticing that you’re only actually playing three strings.  Compare how playing three strings for a while feels different from playing six strings for a while.  For instance you don’t have to cover as much ground with the right hand so the moves are a little tighter.  After a bit of doing you should be able to know what it feels like to play only three strings for a while, and be able to reproduce that approach and that feeling whenever you want to.

A (fifths)So wander around the guitar with that thought in mind.  It will be useful in some of the musical ideas we’ll come to as we continue to explore this tuning.

DADGAD chords–B-flat

fretbflatcSo we were talking about that F-chord the other day, hopefully you’ve had a bit of time to work it out.  The next part of that musical thought is this, the B-flat.  Like the F-chord you’re going to find this a really useful thing to have available to you for various reasons.  I’ll explain why once we’ve got all the pieces together, but for now take a bit of time to make this something you can get to.

DADGAD chords–F

fretfOkay, I’d like to show you something about DADGAD, let’s start here.  I learned some time ago that a lot of very fine songs set down really well when they were played in what’s sometimes called the flat keys, their scales start on notes like B-flat and E-flat.  B-flat is a particularly nice key to play in on the upright, just feels good with how the notes work out.  B-flat isn’t particularly graceful on a guitar tuned in DADGAD.  But oddly enough I’ve found that playing something in the key of F has an interesting flavour.  It’s another one of those flat keys, although it doesn’t have a flat in it’s name (it does have one note that you play as a flat, B-flat).  And a lot of very interesting things happen when you can work in F.  So let’s start here.  The three chords that are going to be most of interest are the root chord, the chord built on the 4th note of the scale, and the chord built on the 5th note of the scale.  That’d be an F-chord, a B-flat-chord, and a C-chord.  So, here’s the F.  Once we get a bit farther in I’ll show you how this chord becomes useful in a whole bunch of ways.  And there are all sorts of good things that can happen playing around with the F, B-flat , C-chord continuum (including maybe a G-minor chord as well).  But for now take a few minutes and get solid with this as being an easy reach for you.  It’s only one way to play an F-chord, but it is very useful.  (You’ll notice right away that it comes in handy in between playing a C-chord and a G-chord, for instance.  But I digress…)

DADGAD chords–F-sharp minor

F-sharp minorA number of Cape Breton tunes start here, the second finger can also cover the fourth fret of the bass D-string, might also try second and third fingers instead of three and four to see what the fourth finger can then play.

DADGAD chords–B minor

B minorGet to know this, then lift the first finger to play the open A-string while the chord stays in place, you can also take the three fingers and move them up one fret for a version of a C-chord, and two more frets for a D-chord of sorts

DADGAD chords–E minor 7

E Minor 7Pretty enough to know on its own, add the second fret on the middle D-string and it’s a power chord but don’t let that get to you, jigs and reels a thousand each start here, then it’s what you do with it, the fourth fret of the middle D-string is another thing to explore

DADGAD chords–D/C bass

D/C bassNot a full C-chord, but good to have the sound of, one thing to consider is how much of the two open D-strings you play, or how much you let the C define what you hear, with all of these chords listen to how much you let the two treble strings ring, try fingering them as a useful note, or not playing them at all

DADGAD chords–D/C-sharp bass

D/C-sharp bassGoing from home D-chord to this starts you on a bass progression worth hearing, try the bass D-string lightly if at all, it’s probably useful to know that anything you do on the bass A-string can be done on the other treble A-string, that C# for instance