Tom Serb

Tom Serb is a Chicago area guitarist who has been making music professionally since 1978. Over the course of the past twenty-five years he has managed to amuse himself by teaching, writing, performing, producing and composing. He is the author of Music Theory for Guitarists (NoteBoat, Inc., 2003), and a frequent contributor to the Guitar Noise forums.

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  1. Eddie
    June 3rd, 2012 @ 8:49 am

    I’m curious about something. You say that the 3rd is almost always dropped from 11th chords, but looking at your examples it is present in three out of the four. Are these the exceptions? Or am I misunderstanding something?

  2. Tom
    June 7th, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

    No Eddie, you understood it right.

    For any given chord there are roughly 100 ways to voice it on the guitar. Since it’s not practical to teach thousands of chord fingerings, I use four dominant 7th chords as a starting point for teaching – the four voicings shown at the beginning of this lesson. Using the strategy of lowering the fifth by two frets results in the 3rd being present (it’s actually in all four voicings I show for 11th chords)

    Another strategy would be to raise the 3rd by a half step. I didn’t take that route because many chord voicings are synonyms of each other – C11 voiced without a 3rd or 9th is identical to a C7sus chord. That’s a tough concept for many to grasp – a chord name describes the possibilities for the harmony, rather than telling you where to put your fingers. Keeping the 3rd in the illustrations avoids that problem (but as you recognized, causes a different one)

  3. Juliano
    November 15th, 2013 @ 8:06 am

    What annoys me about lessons about extended chords often I see, is the presumption that all budding and budded guitarists are going to be playing with a band. So the moment you go on about how dropping some note will be alright cause the drums etc will take over uninspires you if you gonna be solo player. I wish you would think of this alternative approach and mention it! Because such presumption implies you can only really aspire to play guitar IF you play with other musicians. WHY so?

  4. Roni
    July 11th, 2016 @ 9:47 am

    To Juliano

    if you think of chords as words instead of tones you will see that the ear assumes just as well as the eye. If I were to write something like this
    Pl_se co_e ov__ to my ho_se

    the eye will most likely add the missing letters to comprehend the message.

    Works the same with music. If you play the third and the seventh of a chord the ear can add the missing notes to comprehend the musical intent. Especially when played in progression with other chords.

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