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12-bars, two Chord Shapes and a Touch of Jazz - part 1

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By learning these two simple chord shapes, you can play blues comp with a jazzy touch in any key. It will get boring after some time if you only use these chords. But they are the basis. You can make variations by taking these chordshapes out of the standard 12-bar framework. But I will start with a standard 12-bar blues, type 2, played in two keys that many guitar players will do anything to avoid: Bb and Eb. As long as you use moveable shapes, no keys are difficult. If you want to play with other people, you have to break out of our loved keys of E, A, D, G and C. If you are playing with someone who is playing trumpet, they will have to play in the key F#-major, if you insist on playing in E-major on the guitar. That is six sharps. If someone is playing alto saxophone, they will have to play Db-major, if you insist on E-major. In this key, they have five flats. The favorite guitar keys are very difficult to play on most wind instruments. To play F-major, Bb-major and Eb-major is not as difficult for us as our favorite keys are for them.

These two chord-shapes are often labeled as 7-chords. If one should be precise, these labels are not correct.. The first chord is a 7th without the 5th. If you remove a note from a chord, the fifth is usually the first to go. In a basic triad (three-note chord), the root gives identity, the third gives character and the fifth gives stability. It is more important to keep the identity and the character, than to keep the stability. In a 7th chord, the seventh is added, which gives us the notes 1, 3 and 7 (when the 5th is left out). When we expand the chord to 7th, 9th, etc, the 5th becomes less important. The chord is in root position, with the root on 6th string, 7th on 4th string and the 3rd on 3rd string.

The second chord is a 7th without the root. If one should be precise, such a chord is a diminished triad, built on the third note. If we play it as a good old G7, it will be Bdim. From what I said above, this chord should loose it's identity. And it does. But if you are playing in a band, some other may play the root. If the bass player is playing the root, then the band will play the full chord, even if the guitar player only play a partial chord. And often our ear will "hear" notes that it expects to hear, even if the notes are not played. Based on this, I will not use this chord too much as a I chord (root) in a blues. You need the root note to establish the root key. If we think of the chord as a 7th chord, it will be in 2nd inversion. The 5th is on 6th string, 3rd on 4th stringand the 7th on 3rd string.

Notice the fingerings of these two chords. When changing from one to the other, you do not move your 3rd finger. It remains in the same position on the 3rd string. You move the first and second finger between the 6th and the 4th strings.

The two most important notes in a 7th chord are the 3rd and the 7th. The interval between the two is a Tritone, a disonant interval that calls for a resolution. If you play the root chord as a 7th chord, you will never get this solution. The I7 chord will call for a solution to the IV-chord, and it is easy to be thrown out of key if you resolve the chord this way. But it is this unstable and usettled tonality that makes the simple blues form so rich and fascinating. Both the chord shapes have this tritone.

Now we get to this very simple 12 Bar blues in Bb, using these two chord shapes.



     
PDF-File

The very "perfect" and strict playing in these MIDI files is a bit boring. You can download this MP3 file to hear me play the same chords, but with some rhytmic variations. I play fingerstyle with a monotone bass in straight 4/4, and some rhytmic variations on the middle strings. It is not played as written, but I play only the notes in the chords as they are written

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