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Noodling with harmony

The guitar seems to have a tonal centre around G major meaning the further you go to the dominant and sub-dominant sides from there, the tougher it becomes to play. (I’m talking acoustic fingerstyle guitar as distinct from, say Jazz, particularly played on electric.) There is a jump in difficulty when you reach B major and B flat, respectively, which leaves a lot of major and minor keys out of bounds, so to speak. I feel cheated.

It all comes down to being brought up in the “folk tradition” and becoming restricted to chords that rely on open strings for sonority.

So, by way of looking for a solution I’ve been working hard with chord voicings and keys ““ particularly “non-guitar” keys ““ and finding interesting ways to wander between tonalities. It really is a rich area for exploration and I’m surprised at the twists and turns that happen as I noodle using the devices that I’ve learned.

I must say, though, that the sounds I come up with are quite far from what I would normally expect of myself when just picking around on the guitar ““ but that’s partly the point of doing this in the first place. On the other hand, I’m not yet sure how I’m going to incorporate all this seamlessly into my writing. In other words, to get these voicings and voice leading ideas under my fingers so I can think about sounds rather than think about fingers. I suspect it might be a matter of repetition until it all comes naturally…

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Diminished 7th Chords

These mongrel chords are the Crewe Junction of the harmonic world. You can come from many places to them and depart from them to many more. But they worry me insofar as I suspect they could be used to cover up a multitude of sins. They strike me as potentially lazy solutions to musical problems. Don’t know where to go next? No bother at all: stick on a diminshed 7th and press on regardless! Augmented 5ths are almost as bad except they can’t be so easily disguised – at least by me. Even on a dominant 7th with a flat-9 tagged on they stick out and very easily sound hackneyed. (On reflection, this may have more to do with my lack of skill in their use than the character of the chords, per se. Be that as it may; I have to use them sparingly and with care.)

On the other hand, I’ll put a flattened fifth on any chord and use it with gay abandon. I don’t care how many cliches I spawn thereby – they’re just so damn’ nice. G major 7 flat 5? Mmmm”¦