One of the coolest things about guitar is the ability to play chords all over the neck. Choosing the right fingering can change a mundane chord passage into a voice led master piece. What is voice leading you ask? Simply put, it’s the relationship between successive notes within a multi part harmonic passage. A cool exercise in voice leading is to take a basic chord change and rework the chords so you have a walking bass line. In order, to accomplish such an exercise you need to familiarize yourself with the basic chord inversions.
What is an inverted chord? Basically, it is a chord in which the root note is not the lowest voiced note. A couple great examples are the open D Major chord with the F# played on the low E string or an open G chord with the low E string muted. When speaking of chord inversions, you refer to the inversions as follows. If the third is the lowest note, it is a first inversion. If the fifth is the lowest note, it is a second inversion. And if the seventh is the lowest note, it is a third inversion.
Here is a basic V, IV, I, V blues turnaround progression in the key of A. We’re substituting the dominant 7 in place of the major 7 to provide a more pentatonic bluesy feel.
Now, I’m going to play the third inversion E7 chord which places the 7th as the lowest note in the chord.
We’ll play a traditional D7 chord but add the 9th for some additional flavor.
Now we’ll add some real spice by walking the bass line between inversions of the A7 to an E13 chord. This introduces some passing tones which create a tension and release by stepping outside of the key then resolving.
We start with a first inversion A7add9 chord off the 5th string (note: as we are actually omitting the root, this chord could also be defined as a C# half diminished chord. However due to the role the chord is playing we are using its enharmonic name A7add9). Next we play an Ab note on 6th string by itself followed by a A7 3rd inversion. Finally, we play an F by itself and finish off the turnaround with an E13 chord.
Got it, great! Now try to “swing” the rhythm a little. Once you’ve got that down, up the tempo.
Why don’t you take a few basic chord progressions and try implementing some inversions to kick it up a notch. Next month, we’ll approach the II, V, I progression which is prominent in jazz.
Lesson Clip: The clip first demonstrates the basic changes, then the new altered changes, then the new altered changes with a swung rhythm, and finally a full versus at a faster tempo ending with our turnaround. Spice Up Your Turnaround Part 1