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Chord voicings and “broken” chords


For a couple of months, I will mostly be learning and figuring out chord voicings. It strikes me as dumb and lazy to imprison myself with the root-at-the-bottom cliches that seem to be the foundation of the vast majority of my songs. Certainly, when I have used alternaltive voicing in the past it has been the result of serendipity-like accidents during the course of absent-minded noodling or commonly used inversions. Chord voicings and voice leading is opening up seemingly limitless opportunities for harmonic development for me. All basic stuff for jazz guitar players, no doubt, but that’s not my”¦ erm”¦ pedigree.

Having only four usable digits to finger five – or more – note chords means that all chords of that type will be “broken”, ie., have notes missing. That’s all right apart from the confusion that arises (in my little brain) when many chords with missing notes can be interpreted as voicings of entirely different chords – with missing notes. I’ve known this for years (oh, yes I have!) but it’s only an inconvenience presently since I’m trying to commit these voicings to memory by it’s name based on the supposed root – which in itself is interesting when oft times the root is also missing! Piano players, with ten fingers at their disposal, will play broken chords through choice based on a desired sonority – but us guitar players often play them out of necessity.

In truth, a bunch of notes can be called as many names as there are notes in the bunch – although it gets nonsensical and unhelpful after a point. In the end, chord nomenclature is only a means to an end and the fact that broken chords can be so easily interpreted as belonging to different tonalities provides an ambiguity that can be entertainingly exploited!

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