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Interesting chord question

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(@saryu)
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Joined: 16 years ago
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Hi everyone!

I have a couple of questions about this interesting little chord progression that I came up with. I think it would make an excellent bridge for a song, but doesn't really work as a verse or chorus. I like the Esus2 chord, probably because of all the Bs.

Esus2 ? Bm A

e|--0-E----------0-E----------2-----0-----
B|--0-B----------3-D----------3-----2-----
G|--4-B----------4-B----------4-----2-----
D|--4-F#---------4-F#---------4-----2-----
A|--2-B----------2-B----------2-----0-----
E|--0-E----------0-E----------X-----x-----


The first question is, what is the name of the mystery chord? With my limited knowledge of musical theory, I came up with the following possibilities (there's probably more): E7sus2, E7add9(no3rd), BmAdd4/E, Bm11/E. What would be the most appropriate name?

Also, has anyone got any ideas of what to do after playing this? I usually play one measure of Esus2, 1/4 measure of mystery chord, 1/4 measure of Bm, and then finish forlornly strumming the A chord long after the pleasant feeling of resolution has died, wondering what to do next. Any ideas would be appreciated :-)

Thanks!

Saryu


   
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(@robbie)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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The reverse chord name finder that I use says that the simplest name for this chord is Bmsus4, if you are interested the reverse chord finder can be found at:
http://www.gootar.com/guitar/

Robbie


   
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(@saryu)
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The reverse chord name finder that I use says that the simplest name for this chord is Bmsus4, if you are interested the reverse chord finder can be found at:
http://www.gootar.com/guitar/

Robbie

Thanks Robbie, I didn't know about gootar. Some of the online software is really cool :-)

I probably have my theory wrong, but how can it be BmSus4 if there is a third in it? Doesn't Sus4 mean "play the fourth instead of the third", as opposed to Add4 which is "play the fourth as well as the third". Thanks!

Saryu


   
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(@zaiga)
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I probably have my theory wrong, but how can it be BmSus4 if there is a third in it? Doesn't Sus4 mean "play the fourth instead of the third", as opposed to Add4 which is "play the fourth as well as the third". Thanks!

You are correct, there is no such thing as a "Bmsus4" chord. By suspending the third it stops being a major or minor chord. The chord you are playing can be described as BmAdd11/E. It's not a full 11th chord, because the 7th and 9th are missing. Bm/E might work, but you also have an E in the high end, and you want to take that in account as well.

In this context, however, E7sus2 might be the nicest way of describing the chord, as you are coming from an Esus2 and are only adding the 7th for the mystery chord. However, in the next posts the pundits will come and argue that a "sus2" doesn't actually exist. ;)

As for what to do next. What about trying to repeat the same phrase, except two semitones lower -> Dsus2, D7sus2, Am, G. This will give you some nice modulation. I have no idea of how it actually sounds, as I don't have an instrument here to try it out, but it looks good on paper!

Good luck!


   
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(@noteboat)
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Picture a guitarist playing a set of chords: E-Bm-Bm-A, one beat each. Against this, the bass player plays E for two beats, and then A for two beats. You wouldn't rename the first Bm - because the bass note is just being held over from the chord before it. In classical theory terms, this is a suspension - not a suspended chord, but a suspended note which 'catches up' with the chord progression later on.

This sort of harmonic device is easiest to see in a context where you have a bunch of instruments playing one note each, like in a symphony. On an instrument like guitar or piano, where you're playing all the voices, musicians want to name all the notes as part of a 'chord', even though theory doesn't require it - they're really naming a 'fingering' rather than a chord in the progression.

If you drop the E notes from your second chord, it's easy to identify: B-D-F# = Bm. Your two E notes are simply being continued from the chord before (even though they're being struck again). So the proper name for the 'chord' is just Bm... you can call the fingering Bm/11 if you'd like, but it donsn't really add information to the harmony.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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(@misanthrope)
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On an instrument like guitar or piano, where you're playing all the voices, musicians want to name all the notes as part of a 'chord', even though theory doesn't require it - they're really naming a 'fingering' rather than a chord in the progression.
I don't follow that at all - how does theory not require a Bm with a 4th in it to be named as something other than Bm? If I see Bm you'll get B, D and F# from me - if you want an E in there, you're gonna have to ask for it in some way.

ChordsAndScales.co.uk - Guitar Chord/Scale Finder/Viewer


   
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(@kingpatzer)
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You're looking it from the perspective of what you're fingering.

Theory talks about what is being done musically from one point to the next.

A suspension is a non-harmonic tone that includes a prepared dissonance and a resolution down one scale step. It is NOT a chord. it is an event over time.

Instead of thinking of it in terms of what you're doing on a single guitar. Imagine instead 6 guitars. Each guitar is playing notes on only one string.

Now, if the note any one guitarist is playing is an 'E' or a 'B' or whatever it tells us nothing about what is happening harmonically.

To understand the harmony, we have to look at those 6 lines taken together. When we do that, we can see that something happens . . . one note is held over a harmonic structure that it doesn't quite belong too, creating dissonance, then it resolves to a harmonic tone. That hold over is a suspension. And we notice that it's something that happens over a series of moments. First the tone is part of the harmonic structure, then it is held over (suspended) where it is a non-harmonic tone, and then it is resolved.

Suspensions don't exist independent of what happens before or after them. To have a suspension you have to have something that happens over time.

A chord, on the other hand, is something that can happen at any one instant.

Does that help?

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


   
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(@noteboat)
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I'll phrase it another way....

If you see a chord chart that shows Bm, what do you play? You associating 'chord' (harmonic information) with 'fingering' - but what you play depends on how you interpret that information. Maybe you play x24432. Maybe I play x-14-12-11-12-x. Maybe Kingpatzer plays 10-x-x-11-12-10. Some other guitarist plays 799777, and another x-x-12-11-12-10.

We'd all be right. Because 'chord' gives a simple harmonic skeleton to work within, and whatever we do to get a set of chord tones is right - any inversion, any position, any voicing.

That means what's important to the harmony - the chord names - isn't the notes that are played; what's important is that the note names form a skeleton that creates the same overall result no matter what's done with it. If you want specific tones played, it must be written out - chord names won't communicate that, no matter how carefully you craft them.

So it sometimes comes down to a judgment call. When I look at that progression, which (because it's tab) has no rhythm information, I assume the durations are short - and I see a suspension, which isn't harmonically important. If you tell me the second chord lasts for six beats, then it's obviously important - and it'd be Bm/11...

But then I might play x7x777 and get a completely different sound.

Because guitarists get so hung up on fingerings, they often ignore the underlying structure. Take a tune like the Allman Brothers' Melissa - if you google the chords they're full of 'add this' and 'slash that', because the transcribers worry about the fingerings. But the harmony is simple: E-F#m-G#m-F#m-E. The chord names don't tell you all the adds and slashes simply mean using the B and E strings as a drone - and using convoluted names may lead musicians to emphasize tones that are essentially just pedal points, unimportant to the harmony.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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(@musenfreund)
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Tom,
Why is it called a "pedal" point by the way? Is it a reference to organ pedals and the baroque practice of the ground bass (Grundbaß)? Just curious.
Tim

Well we all shine on--like the moon and the stars and the sun.
-- John Lennon


   
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(@misanthrope)
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Thanks guys, I see where you're coming from now. Melissa's a good example, and I have a little musical idea of my own kicking around that does something similar.

It's Dm, F, Bb, C, but for each bar I play half of just the open/1st fret chord and for the second half add a G on the first string. When I wrote it down I wrote it in the way you'd expect from my first post in this thread (Dm, Dsus4, F, Fadd2 etc.) - but I also made a note along with it along the lines of "Dm, F, Bb, C with added G on first string". Best of both :)

How would you (you personally) go about getting across the information that the Bm in question should be over an E drone?

ChordsAndScales.co.uk - Guitar Chord/Scale Finder/Viewer


   
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(@noteboat)
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Hiya Tim -

It's called 'pedal point' from church organs. Low bass notes (played with the pedals) are often held for extended periods of melodies and chord changes in the upper voices, so the name stuck.

If you put it in the treble voice, it's called an 'inverted pedal' (because now it's on the top instead of the bottom), and if you put it in an inside voice it's called an 'internal pedal'.

In any case it's essentially a drone - a continuous note while other stuff happens over/under/around it.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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(@niliov)
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I have problems with the notion that a chord player (piano/guitar) is free to use ANY voicing or inversion when faced with a chord symbol. I think this is quite an important issue to address, because I would hate to see people go out and start playing Bm chords like 10-x-x-11-12-10 . This does not sound like Bm at all, more like D6 (or Dadd13, D6 is more in use but misleading). Let's face it: the bottom two strings of the guitar were meant to play bass notes, so if you play a note on those strings I would make sure it does not conflict with the bass note of the chord. A voicing with the fifth in the bass works fine, but there is no doubt in my mind that playing the actual root in the bass sounds best. Playing the third in the bass when not specified by the composer/arranger is something I would advice against. Often on guitar there are only a couple of acceptable and practicle solutions for playing a certain progression of chords, sometimes even a single solution. Let me give an example:

Say I've written a song, but I do not play the guitar so I give you (the guitarplayer) chord symbols (no tabs or notes). The first two chords are:

Ebsus4/add9 Ebm

I want to hear all the notes of the first chord (Eb, Ab, Bb, F) what do you do? (and dont use a capo)
In practice there is only one nice sounding voicing for this chord:

x-6-6-3-6-x (it is a stretch, but do-able)
for the following Ebm you could get away with: x-x-4-3-4-x (not using any bass notes in that voicing)

Back to that first voicing, if you would attempt to play it in any other way one or several of the following things would happen:

- the Eb is not in the bass (eg.: 1-x-1-3-x-4) creating a complete clouding of the function of the chord
- the Eb and F are to close and create an unclear sounding dissonance in the lower register (e.g.: x-6-3-3-x-4)
- I (the composer) would look very worried and ask the producer for another guitarplayer

Of course if the composer allows you to play rootless voicings (without use of the two bass strings) you could voice it in many other ways which are all fine. But imagine you having to comp a singer alone: you'd have to play the roots and the right ones for that matter.

One last thing about chords with the third in the bass: playing these chords with more than one third used in your voicing will result in serious voiceleading problems. The third needs to be in the bass and ONLY in the bass:

First four chords of the chorus of Charlene's "I've Never Been to Me":

Bb F/A Gm Dm

the second chords usual voicing is: 5-x-3-5-6-x
If you wanted to play that chord in a rootless voicing it is just best to skip the third and play: C-F-C or F-C-F (notenames) and leave the A to the bass player.


   
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(@kingpatzer)
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Niliov,

While you're correct that in practice there are certain conventions, that may raise to the level of practical guidelines, I think you go wrong.

Playing a Bm chord in 1st inversion is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, and is frequently precisely what is called for in a song.

Indeed, I've just recently finished playing a version of "Autumn Leaves" where I used that very voicing for an Am7. It worked because of what came before and after it, and fit in very nicely with the voice leading I was trying to create, thank you very much :)

I will not dispute you that "in your mind playing the actual root in the bass sounds best." Only you know what sounds best to you. However, that's only you. I can point to several very well regarded guitarists who favor 1st or 2nd inversions for their chords.

Luckily, musicians aren't constrained to the views of any one individual. And that's part of what makes music such a wonderous thing.

The convention in American music is this: if you want specific voicings, then you forego laziness and write out the actual notes. If you want to leave it up to the performing artists, then you can provide chord names.

The intermediate step of "slash chords" (Bm/D for example) serves the same function today as figured bass lines used to serve.

But from a theory perspetive, Bm is Bm regardless of if the B, D or F# is in the bass. And frankly, I'm happy to see people experiment.

Maybe to your ears what they play sounds horrible. But maybe to their ears it sounds fantastic.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


   
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(@lunchmeat)
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Posts: 153
 

Seems as though everyone's covered the theory.

As for ideas...

I definitely like the progression. Ending on the A like that, though, it wants something else. So when you're about to get out of that progression, why not add an F# in the bass of the A chord? You'd have (202220), which leads to more possibilities. I ended up on a G something-or-other (320032) but I'd also come up with (xx5432) which is a G7, I think? Doesn't have the same dynamics, though (not so much bass) so unless you're thinking of changing the feel of the piece in that one area, go with the first. After that, you can go anywhere you want, like, back to B or something; I didn't something like, uh...man, notation sucks.

(224432) Bm
(222222) I forgot what this is, but pivot between these chords

Then switch to

(3x4430) Some G variant
(3x0000) G; pivot between these.

Just my idea...I dunno, I liked the sound.

-lunchmeat


   
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(@niliov)
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Indeed, I've just recently finished playing a version of "Autumn Leaves" where I used that very voicing for an Am7.

I assume you used that voicing for the first chord? So you chose to play the notes of an Am instead of Am7? Just wondering about that since in jazz people like to extend the chords instead of simplifying them. I have found that many jazz musicians are very well versed when it comes to extended chords and alterations; however most do have problems with playing "simple" pop progressions consisting of triads and implied inversions (i.e. slashchords): they play extension filled jazz voicings and mostly ignore slash chords playing only the upperstructures. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I encountered this problem while playing pop with jazz pianists; they simply cannot properly voice slash chords because they rarely encounter them in jazz charts!! Jazz is root based music which means that chords are usually built from the root up: no inversions are implied and you will not find many slash chords in jazz for that reason. This simple structure provides a great base for extended chords which effectively hides the simple structures. To make the chords sound as full as they can with all their addes 9's, 11's, 13's and so on our ears need to identify the root first. If you start playing diferent bass notes the extensions simply will not work and start to sound "wrong" and muddy. Just try to play D7b10b13 with a "F#" in the bass: the "jazzy" sound completely dissapears and you are left with an akward sounding chord with no real pratical use.
I can point to several very well regarded guitarists who favor 1st or 2nd inversions for their chords.

If you could give me the name of a well known recording where this happens I can give it a listen and respond to this more precisely. I am pretty sure though that you will not hear Wes Montgomery, Joe pass, Philip Catherine or Django Reinhardt do this (talking about some very well regarded guitarists).

I also have the sneaking suspicion :wink: that you didn't try out my first example on the guitar because I think that serves as a good example of a progression where you are basically stuck with one possible solution. If you find another solution please let me know!

Also and most importantly: I am not trying to offend anyone with my posts. I do not intend to come accross as someone "who knows everything", just sharing some things which I have learned in practice!


   
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