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Dressing Up the Garden Variety G Chord
By Mark Yodice
(more articles from this author)
2003-03-30
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Hi everybody, for this lesson we're going to have a look at how we can add a bit of harmonic color to our garden variety G chord.

Now, you may just ask "Why? I mean, no disrespect intended, as I appreciate the kind gesture. But, I've written scores of tunes based on a simple G chord…" Well then, here we go. Now, you may be a superb lyricist, the most exquisite poetry may pour forth from your pen. You may just be a stunningly gifted singer, or a fleet-fingered guitar picker; and I sincerely hope that you are. Bottom line is, if you're showcasing your skill with a limited harmonic palette, your music will eventually become redundant and dare I say it, boring. Yes, it's a hard truth, but one that will hopefully lead us to some exciting chordal possibilities.

I cannot begin to count the number of times I have been audience to musicians who are otherwise extremely talented, no doubt, but set their melodies on the same harmonic bed song after song after song. Yawn…

Let's look at a simple way of remedying this situation.

The G is a great place to begin. It falls comfortably under the fingers and is in itself a beautiful sound. Here are 4 common variations on our garden variety G:

Now, let's have a look at what we can add to these voicings. We'll be deriving additional chord tones from the G major scale, of which we'll use two patterns:

I'm assuming most readers will be more comfortable with tablature as opposed to standard notation, the letters in parenthesis indicate the pitch that is sounded at that fret. Our process is to replace one or more notes of any of the open G variations with G major scale tones.

Below is an example of variation 3 with an A note (the 2nd degree of the G major scale) in place of an open G string.

Here is an example with two added scale tones:

These changes create a G major9 chord. The F# and open G create a sweet dissonance balanced out nicely by the high A and open B.

Here are a couple of my favorites:


(Gmajor9sus4)


(Gmajor9)

Ok, the rest is all about you. See what you can come up with and add to your material. There is a world of color and life in this simple little scale. Delve in there and take advantage of what is right under your fingertips…

Remember to slap on that capo and play these new chords in different keys, you'll notice subtle variations in warmth and resonance as you move around the guitar neck.

Once you've exhausted the possibilities of the G major scale, find some other scales to add tones from. The G major chord is found in the keys of D major and C major, so both of these scales can offer further harmonic enlightenment.

In addition there are whole tone scales, diminished scales, melodic and harmonic minor… go where your curiosity takes you. See you next time…


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