Three-String Triad Shapes

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Mr. Big Noodles, Jul 7, 2017.

  1. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    I love using these little chord shapes on the upper strings. We usually learn chords as these huge things that take up 5+ strings and are bottom-heavy, but these voicings let you break out of that and take a more lead-oriented approach to chording. You might recognize a few shapes in here, and if you practice arpeggios, you'll see some bits and pieces of those as well.

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  2. jbrin0tk

    jbrin0tk SS.org Regular

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    Thank you so much for sharing this. I've had a lot of time this summer and I've spent a lot of it on theory, memorizing the notes in every key, memorizing the formulas and spellings of all major7, min7, diminished, dominant, and augmented chords, as well as memorizing and playing the intervals for a given root note anywhere on the fretboard. I already had a good knowledge of arpeggios so a lot of this does look familiar, but this will be the next step in my study. I appreciate it!
     
  3. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Glad you enjoy. I like to incorporate all of these into an exercise by going up the chord. Practice slowly (VERY slowly), sustain each chord as long as possible, go for consistent tone, and try to have no space between each chord:

    [​IMG]

    The diminished one is toughest for me. Another thing you can do, which is much easier than playing each chord as a quarter note, is to arpeggiate the chords in triplets. This makes for a nice arpeggio effect that departs from the typical sweep-picked up and down stuff you hear in a lot of guitar music.
     
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  4. jbrin0tk

    jbrin0tk SS.org Regular

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    That is actually even better; thanks so much for this and the advice!
     
  5. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    I like this, very nice overview.
     
  6. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear Vendor

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    Very nice! Any reason you focussed on the trebles? I personally got most comfy with triads on the wound strings - which is partly why I ended up switching to perfect 4ths tuning for uniformity in the trebles.
     
  7. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Because they are clearer, and in my mind, more usable up high. When I play these, I am thinking in terms of melody. It's not just a major triad shape for me, it's a major triad with the fifth on top, or the third, or the root. In old keyboard treatises, these are called "positions." Here's an example from the book Tchaikovsky wrote for the Moscow Conservatory.

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    Position of the octave
    means that the root is in the top voice, position of the third means the third is in the top voice, and position of the fifth means the fifth is in the top voice. Jordan Rudess is talking about the same thing in this video, though he is concatenating inversion (e.g. which chord member is in the bass) and position (which chord member is in the soprano).



    (Rudess' "inversion" really only applies to what is happening in the right hand, so it is semantically the same thing as position. Inversion, in the proper sense, is something that happens with the lowest sounding note in the harmony. You can play a root position C on guitar all day long, but if the bassist is playing an E below you, the perceived harmony is first inversion.)

    Because I am thinking of which chord member is on the very top of the voicing, it allows me to keep track of what is happening in the melody while providing a satisfactory harmonic underpinning. It's kind of like doing a jazz chord-melody arrangement. Usually, I'll put a chord on the downbeat or on another strong beat and have a bit of single-line melody emanate from that. I'm going to take it to the extreme though and show how you could do an entire melody with these shapes in an arrangement of Greensleeves.

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    This is a pretty dense example, but you can hear that it works. It accesses a homophonic texture that is more typical of choral or keyboard music. It also encourages good voice leading, because the chords are following the melody rather than the other way around. Voice leading is difficult to teach to guitarists, due to the culture and limitations of the instrument, so I consider this to be a strong area of potential for my method. Even when the melody jumps up high in the B section, it's easy to follow it and make it sound good.

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    It's not as if nobody does this, but it's a different way of thinking about the relationship between chord and melody on the fretboard. Consider it a more distilled and codified version of what is happening in these videos:





    In the second video, Keith Wyatt even talks about chords with the root/3rd/5th/7th on top. Obviously, I have not dipped into sevenths in this thread yet. Triads are fundamental, you gotta walk before you can run, etc..
     
  8. CapnForsaggio

    CapnForsaggio Cap'n (general)

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    "inversions" might be more modern nomenclature than "positions" - especially since "positions" means something unique with regard to the guitar.
     
  9. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Inversion has multiple meanings as a general term in music theory. For example, intervallic inversion means the rotation of a note into a different octave around an axis point determined by the other note in the interval. Contrapuntal inversion means the contour of the melody is flipped the opposite of its model (usually with the same sequence of intervals). Inversion in set theory either means the same thing as contrapuntal inversion, or refers to different sets that belong to the same set class but have a different intervallic arrangement when put into normal order. And an inverted set is a set whose normal order has a different intervallic arrangement from its prime form. Chord inversion strictly refers to bass figuration (sometimes confusingly referred to as "bass position," which is different from chord position) involving chord members other than the root.

    Yes, "position" has a unique meaning when talking about the fretboard, as it does when speaking about other string instruments (and cello also has "thumb position"). Trombone has slide positions, and I'm sure there are dozens of other instrument-specific usages of the same word. However, its theoretical meaning—a close-voiced chord named by its highest sounding note—is separate from all of that.

    Jordan Rudess is using "inversion" in the same way that many English speakers use "literally" when they mean its opposite, "figuratively." He means position. This is a semantic detail that clearly does not affect his musicianship. That said, if he left out the root notes that he is playing with his left hand, he would be playing those chords with different bass positions, and therefore inversions sometimes. (Root position chords are not inverted.)
     
  10. CapnForsaggio

    CapnForsaggio Cap'n (general)

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    I was refering to keyboard chordal inversions, namely things like 3-5-1, 5-1-3, vs. the traditional 1-3-5.

    Guitarist have picked up and use this terminogy with regards to chords and triads.

    Not trying to argue the semantics. Maybe its regional dialect, not sure. But it is how guitarist "talk" here.
     
  11. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    I have no doubt. You can find just about anything in the wild. I don't think it is a huge leap to say most guitarists don't know when they are playing inversions.

    There may be some trivial overlap between inversion and position, because 3-5-1 is indeed a first-inversion voicing. However, as Jordan Rudess is using those voicings in that video, he is sticking the root of the chord on the bottom and rendering everything in root position: 1-3-5-1, 1-5-1-3, and 1-1-3-5 are all root position. Just the same, these are all root position D major chords:

    Code:
    e-2-5-10-14-
    B-3-7-10-15-
    G-2-7-11-14-
    D-0-0-0--0--
    A-----------
    E-----------
    Are they voiced differently? Yes. But the note in the bass is the same. Different voicings do not necessarily produce an inverted chord.
     
  12. CapnForsaggio

    CapnForsaggio Cap'n (general)

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    So Jordan is demonstrating voicings of chords, with the 1 as the lowest tone. On the guitar, we have some serious limitation to doing something similar in most cases. That I can agree on.

    I still hold that if I place a 3 or 5 (or any other chordal interval) as my lowest tone in a shape, that I have done a "guitar INVERSION."

    I find no better way to describe this.
     
  13. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Of course. But the inversion is determined by the bass note, not the top note. 3-5-1 and 3-1-5 are both first inversion triads. You're obviously aware of that, so I think we might be arguing the same point.
     
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  14. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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    Double post.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017

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