MUSIC THEORYóSustained and Extended Chords

Your Home Studio - a basic tutorial on home recording studio setup, including building a home recording studio, digital recording techniques, computer recording information, recording software information, how to buy equipment for a home recording studio and operating an audio recording studio at home

Your Home Studio

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†††††† Spices are to cooking as chord extensions are to music. By taking basic major and minor chords and adding notes or altering them, we can create new tonal textures that more closely harmonize the melodies we compose or help us compose melodies by using leading tones.

†††††† There are basically 2 types of sustained chords, the sus2 and the sus4. The sus4 replaces the 3rd of the chord with the 4th and since the 3rd is absent the chord doesnít have a distinctly major or minor feel. Technically speaking, itís really an add11(no 3rd) chord but weíll stick with the sus4 since thatís what most everyone is accustomed to calling it. Everyone that plays guitar is familiar with the Dsus4 chord. Most of them discover it without knowing what the name is because it falls under their fingers so easily. The interesting thing about sus4 chords is that the 4th is the leading or highest tone so it creates some tension that needs to be resolved. The 4th has a strong pull to resolve back to the third so any chord that contains the third will work. Hereís what a Dsus4 sounds like resolving back to the D and then other chords that contain the third (F#)ó click here.

†††††† Increasing popular since the age of grunge is the sus2 chord (1,2,5 or 1,5,9). Before this it was mostly used by jazz players . The sus2 chord replaces the 3rd with the 2nd (or 9th) and just like the sus4, itís not really a major or minor chord but has an open feel. Unlike the sus4 chord, it doesnít have that strong pull or tension so it can be substituted for the major chord itís based on. Hereís the chord progression from the Foo Fighterís ď Next YearĒ. See if you can pick out the Csus2, also notated C2.

†††††† The dominant 7th chord is a true extended chord because we take a major chordóG for instance and add the flatted 7th tone of the G major scale to it. It is notated as G7 and sounds like thisó click here. It too creates tension that needs to be resolved. In this case, there are many options depending on what key the song is in. In the previous article, we outlined the 12 bar blues using the V7 as a turnaround resolving back to the I chord. The reason this works is because the V7 chord contains the root notes of the I, IV and V chords. Minor chords have an equivalent in the m7th chord. Itís spelled 1,b3,5,b7 and contains the same notes as itís relative major 6th chord† (Dm7 = F6).

†††††† The next chord extension thatís used in both popular and jazz music is the major 7th chord. It is spelled 1,3,5 7. It doesnít have the same tension the dominant 7th has because the 7th (as opposed to the flatted 7th) is in the scale. Itís more of a color chord and can be substituted for major chords quite easily. Hereís an exampleó click here.

†††††† For pianists with their 10 fingers and all, from here on out, playing the extensions past the 7thís are no big deal. Guitarists, however, are limited to between 4 and 6 notes at a time. The 9th chord is the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th and unless youíre Dave Matthews or Jimi Hendrix, your hand is not going to be big enough to reach around the back of neck to catch the 9th. But we can barre some strings so this wonít be problem if we pick the right chord form. Letís play the ninth chord form most often used which is the root on the 5th string using the index finger, the 3rd on the 4th string using the middle finger (one fret lower than the root) and barre the 1st, 2nd and 3rd string on the same fret as the root. The 5th is on the 1st string, the 9th is on the 2nd string and 7th is on the 3rd string. Hereís what it sounds like. Click here

†††††† The 11th chord form easiest for most people to play is to simply barre the 1st through 5th strings with the root being on the 5th string. Starting from the 5th string and working toward the 1st, we have root, 11th, 7th, 9th and 5th. As you will notice, thereís no third! If you play the 11th using the root on the 4th string, the form is a barre across the 1st through the 4th strings with the 7th being played on the next highest fret on the 2nd string.. In this case thereís no 3rd or 5th. If youíve been paying attention, youíll see a pattern emerging. Because of the tuning of the guitar and the limited number of fingers and strings, in order to play extensions past 9ths, youíre going to have to sacrifice some of the chord tones. Pianistís and keyboard players do the same thing in order to keep from clashing with the other instruments in the band. Much of this is going to depend on what else is going on in the song. If the bass player is playing the 1st, 5th and 7th, you might be able to leave some of those notes out. Also, if you have a keyboard player that is going to cover the basic harmony, youíve got lots of options up to and including just playing the highest extension. A lot of horn arrangements are just the extensions of the chords. Try to spread the chord out over the whole band maybe with the bass player playing the root and the fifth, the keys playing the root and 3rd and the guitarist(s) covering the rest. You donít have play block chords either. You can play arpeggios on the guitar while the keyboard or horns riff on the extensions an octave higher. Keeping things interesting is what itís all about. After that comes the 13th chords ( rarely used ).

†††††† Another way to look at extended chords is to think of them as more than one chord combined to create the harmony (poly-chord). Dominant 7ths are a combination of the root chord and a diminished chord based on the 3rd not of the scale while major 7th chords are a combination of the major root chord and a minor chord based on the 3rd of the scale. The 9th chord is a combination of the major root chord and a major chord based on the 5th of the scale. The eleventh chord is the major chord of the scale combined with a minor chord based on the 7th of the scale and the thirteenth chord is the major 7th chord combined with a minor diminished chord based on the 9th of the scale.†

†††††† Another whole set of extended chords uses tones that arenít in the scale (enharmonic). These include the Jimi Hendrix Chordó7#9 (Purple Haze), the 7b5, the 7b9, etc. These really have a lot tension and can be quite useful in jazz composing. They are also useful in creating melody/chord lines† a la Les Paul as well as chord substitutions for comping (more on this next month)

†††††† Try spicing up your next composition by changing at least one of the chords to an extended chord and see what happens. Doing something different always seems to light a creative spark in me and I can usually come up with an entirely different song and melody in addition to the one Iím working on. .

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†††††† Next monthóslash chords and inversions