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Songs played @ higher frets

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(@tanthalas)
Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 16
Topic starter  

Hi all! I play acoustic guitar.

I keep seeing guitarists playing songs at the higher frets (not just lead guitar, but also rhythm). They use different chord shapes at the higher frets and move from, say, fret 6 to fret 9, to fret 12, etc etc.

Question: I play a few songs on guitar, but I've noticed they are usually played in around the 1st and 2nd frets. Why is this? Do guitarists that play songs at the higher frets simply use different chord shapes? I usually get all my tabs from ultimate-gutiar.com.

Thanks!


   
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(@kent_eh)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1882
 

Any chord is made of a specific combination of notes.
Since you can find those same notes in several different places on the fretboard, you can play it anywhere that you can find those notes.

For instance, the E major chord contains the notes E, B and G#. The version you are probably most familiar with (022100) has some notes doubled up - there are 3 Es, and 2 Bs. The Es and Bs are in different octaves, but they are still Es and Bs, and they add a to the sound of the chord. If you strip it down to just one occurrence of each note, it's still an E major, but it sounds different.
You could play a perfectly valid E major anywhere on the neck that you can find those 3 notes (for instance x79997 or xxx454) Each would have a different feel, but would work as a substitute for the other.

The same works, of course, for any chord

Now, why to do that?
Maybe the feel of the song works better.
Maybe you have more than one guitarist in your band, and you both want to be heard as distinct, rather than disappearing behind each other.
Maybe it is more convenient given the location of the previous and next chord in the song.
Or maybe just because it's nice to have various options available.

Theory masters, please jump in and correct anything that I got wrong, or add any points that I missed.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


   
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(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 8184
 

a lot of chords that you see higher up on the neck are the E major or A major chord played with the index finger barred two frets below, acting in the same way as the nut would. a common example of this is an F major chord. it's just like an E major chord, but with a barre.

you can apply this same principle with other chords. E minor and A minor shapes barred are very common. also, partial chords can be used, such as the top four strings of a C major, which you can play with a barre anywhere on the neck, such as xx6454, which would be an E major chord, but at a higher register than a normal E major chord.

experiment with the chords you know, using barre chords, or do some research on barre chords. a warning, though: they can be very difficult to play at first, especially if you have a poorly set up guitar and heavy strings. it takes a lot from the index finger.

another possibility for playing chords higher up is using open strings but playing the fretted strings higher up. for instance, you can play an A major chord as 007650, or an E major chord as 079900. again, partial chord voicings can be used here. the beatles song "blackbird" uses a ringing open G string and moves all over the neck.


   
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 Cat
(@cat)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1224
 

They use different chord shapes at the higher frets and move from, say, fret 6 to fret 9, to fret 12, etc etc.

Whoa! One of the more astute observations. Good insight, T.

Indeed, flip the bottoms of the chords around with the tops. I do. It's pro-forma.

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


   
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(@alangreen)
Member
Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

Have a look at the CAGED system for learning chords and it'll help you with this.

For example, you can play a C chord in open position - 0-3-2-0-1-0 (C shape), the third position 3-3-5-5-5-3 (A shape), the fifth position 8-7-5-5-5-8 (G shape), the eighth position 8-10-10-9-8-8 (E shape), or the tenth position x-10-10-12-13-12 (D shape).

Why learn all this? so you don't sound mushy and bland when playing together. I play for two orchestras, and you can imagine how dull it would sound if we all played the same chord in the same place every time.

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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(@hanging-chord)
Estimable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 87
 

Another reason to do this is for flexibility. If you know just a few barre chord shapes, you can play in any key just by moving up and down the neck -- without having to memorize dozens of specific shapes. Need to play a song in F major? Put your barre on fret 5 and play the I (F major) using the C chord shape, the IV (Bb major) by moving up 1 fret and using the E shape, and the V (C major) by either using the G shape at the 5, or (my preference) using the E shape at the 8. The ii, iii, and vi are similarly easy to finger in the same area of the neck using the E minor (fret 3), E minor (fret 5), and A minor (fret 5) shapes. [It's actually easier than it sounds :D ]

Now you can play most or all of the chords needed for many, many songs in the key of F major. Better yet, if the next song is in Ab major, just move your base up to fret 8, and use the exact same chord shapes. And as you learn more barre-able chord shapes in the same 3-fret range (e.g., Sus4), even more songs come within range.

You can still learn extra voicings or partials for a greater variety of sounds, of course, but if you learn the basics first, and how to move them up and down the neck to fit any key, you'll find that you can at least fake your way through a huge number of songs. You may not be playing the chords the way the original artist did, but you won't be playing any "wrong" chords.


   
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(@mahal)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 107
 

Another thing is that the tab writer has a prejudice. If he is tabbing a chord and not a lead line he presumes that you are a beginner and alternate chord shapes will confuse you. Many chord diagrams will have the base chord and maybe a 7th chord when the artist choose some other extension on the chord. Finally it is easier just to give you the first position chord then to try to find a video clear enough to see the artist hands and then determine how he tuned his guitar.


   
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(@tanthalas)
Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 16
Topic starter  

You guys are........ AWESOME. The community here is so helpful!

I'm quite familiar with F and A shaped barres. I didn't know that other shapes, ie. C shape, E shape, and G shape chords exist as well - I always thought those were just open shapes for first fret area. You guys have any suggestions on learning the new aforementioned chord shapes? I"m intersted in jazzing up old songs I know at the top of the fretboard and using new and more exciting shapes!!!


   
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(@kent_eh)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1882
 

You guys are........ AWESOME. The community here is so helpful!

I'm quite familiar with F and A shaped barres. I didn't know that other shapes, ie. C shape, E shape, and G shape chords exist as well - I always thought those were just open shapes for first fret area. You guys have any suggestions on learning the new aforementioned chord shapes? I"m intersted in jazzing up old songs I know at the top of the fretboard and using new and more exciting shapes!!!

Actually, you already knew the E shape. The F major is an E moved 1 fret higher...

Also, the open position D shape can be used to make barre chords too.

And the minor and 7th versions of all the open chords can move up the fretboard as barre chords, too. Some are easier to wrap your fingers around than others, but they all make legitimate chords.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


   
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(@tanthalas)
Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 16
Topic starter  

So, say I have Em7 (022300). If I lay my first finger down, I would make an Minor 7 shaped barre? Example: 122311


   
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(@davidhodge)
Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 4472
 

You're just about there...

You have to adjust everything else accordingly, so you need to move the chord shape one fret higher to compensate for the barring of the first fret.

So take your Em7 (022030, by the way) and then move it up one fret and then lay your index finger across the first fret and voila! Fm7 (133141).

An easier shape for Em7 is 020000, and using the same logic, moving everything up one fret and then barring still gives you Fm7 (now 131111).

Hope this helps.

Peace


   
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