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Naming chords

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Postby Nuno » August 6th, 2010, 2:41 pm

I am learning new voices of chords and I am applying them to songs that I already know and also to new songs. I am trying several voices in each song (or part of a song) and I decide which one sounds better to me. When I find a voice that I like, I have to write it because I am not able to remember it.

I describe the chord: the type (ie. C6, Cmaj7, etc.) and the string where the root is. Sometimes the method doesn't work because there are several chords that fulfill the description. For example, there are at least two possibilities for C9-6str or C9-5tr.

Is there a convention for naming the chord voices?
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Postby NoteBoat » August 6th, 2010, 2:57 pm

Not really. You can get the pitches using standard notation, but even then it's possible to have more than one fingering that will play the exact same notes.

There are some methods used to specify a particular inversion (like figured bass), but again they can't differentiate all of what's possible on a guitar.

So if you need a way to remember specific fingerings, I'd probably use chord blocks to illustrate them.
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Postby Nuno » August 6th, 2010, 3:15 pm

I though that the standard notation would solve the problem. In fact, I started to write it in my previous post, but it is truth it is possible to have several fingerings for a chord.

Chord blocks is a good solution.

Thanks!
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Postby NoteBoat » August 6th, 2010, 3:36 pm

You actually can do it in standard notation - but if you've got more than a few, it can get cluttered. There's two methods:

1. Position notation - for example, if you want the notes C (2nd space from the top), E (top space), G (first space above the staff), CVIII would narrow it down to x-x-10-9-8-x, while CIII would give you xxx553.

2. String numbers - for the same example, 234 (each number circled) would be the 8th position, while 123 would be 3rd position.

As a general rule, I avoid trying to write specific fingerings in scores, because I think that's part of the interpretation. But sometimes a passage is a lot easier to finger in one place than another, or becomes really easy with a position shift... so I might write '2' in a circle over two successive notes to indicate a shift using the second finger.

But if it's just as a memory aid, chord blocks are quick and convenient.
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Postby Nuno » August 7th, 2010, 3:42 am

I'm using something like the first method. I write the root string rather than the position but it is similar. For the example, I'd write C(4) and C(3).

It is easy to remember in that way because I am using separate sheets with empty chord blocks. The sheets have 6 blocks per column. At the top I write the chord name and I use each block for the different fingerings: when the root is on the 6th string, I use the first block, the second is for the root on 5th, and so on. If I don't know a fingering with the root on a string, I leave the block empty and I fill it when I found a fingering.

Each sheet is for a different 'family' of chords, I mean, I use sheets for major, minor and dominant chords. And I reserve a column for 'overflows' that are really my problem. An 'overflow' is a different fingering for a chord. For example, D9(2) can be x54555 and also x5x552. (I am thinking while I am writing and perhaps I can simply use D9(2)' for the second one...)

I like the second method because it seems it solves the problem. In D9(2) I'm playing the 3rd on the 4th string, in D9(2)' it is on the 1st string. Moreover, they are different F# in the score as well.

By the way, I also use your method for the passages. I need write down those things because I forget them very easily. Really that is the problem and not how to name the chords! LOL!

Anyway, thank you very much!
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Postby NoteBoat » August 7th, 2010, 7:36 am

One more idea - I had a teacher who labeled scale fingerings with the root string and the finger that played it - so I had scales labeled 1E, 2E, 4E, 1A, and so on. It's as good a method as any, and I use it with my students.

No reason it couldn't work for chords too.
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Postby Nuno » August 7th, 2010, 9:43 am

It seems it doesn't work directly. For example, there are two C9 with the root in the 5th and the 2 finger is used in both (C9-2A). But I like the idea. I will try to think about it.

By the way, currently I am studying the first book of The Complete Jazz Guitar Method series by Jody Fisher. He also uses that method for labeling the scales.

Thanks again!
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Postby jason brann » August 16th, 2010, 2:09 am

why don't you just write x54030 or whatever if a chord name doesn't suffice. it seems to be the obvious solution.
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Postby Nuno » August 21st, 2010, 2:12 am

Yes, it seems an obvious solution. I just ask if there was a standard solution, sometimes guitar players reinvent the wheel when the solution already exist.

Thanks Jason!
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Postby jason brann » August 21st, 2010, 3:09 am

with sheet music, it's putting the string number over the note. there's a specific method of notation, but i can't think of it off the top of my head. if you're just outlining chords, i don't know of anything other than chord name and tab.
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Postby Sean0913 » January 26th, 2011, 8:46 am

If I understand your question you can simply put what position the fret is at next to the chord name,

So if you were playing some sort of C9 on the 5th string root, then you could indicate it as (3rd pos) or III pos
And likewise if it was the 6th string, you could notate it by (8th pos) or VII pos. Sheet music in Classical Guitar often notates by position.

Is this what you were asking about?

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Postby kingpatzer » February 2nd, 2011, 7:42 am

unless I'm missing something, simply indicating position on the score will solve your problem as for any set of notes, there's rarely more than one way to reasonably play them within a given position (though fingerings can vary, the string/fret combinations are going to be constrained by playing position).
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Postby Nuno » February 2nd, 2011, 11:24 am

Sorry, I forgot that thread!

Sean, thank you. Yes, you are right. I was asking about that. And I am using that convention.

Although, KP, you are right, too. It does not solve all the combinations. For example, the easiest, the dominant 7th on the 5th string root: it can be played in a "C shape" (for example, the open C7) or a "A shape".

I didn't find a general rule, I think it doesn't exist.
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Postby kingpatzer » February 2nd, 2011, 12:07 pm

Nuno wrote:Sorry, I forgot that thread!

Sean, thank you. Yes, you are right. I was asking about that. And I am using that convention.

Although, KP, you are right, too. It does not solve all the combinations. For example, the easiest, the dominant 7th on the 5th string root: it can be played in a "C shape" (for example, the open C7) or a "A shape".

I didn't find a general rule, I think it doesn't exist.


I'm not going to say that it's never the case, but your attempted counter example is incorrect.

The A shape chord is in 3rd position, the open chord is in the open position.
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Postby Nuno » February 2nd, 2011, 1:51 pm

kingpatzer wrote:I'm not going to say that it's never the case, but your attempted counter example is incorrect.

The A shape chord is in 3rd position, the open chord is in the open position.

I described it in a wrong way but the example is correct: it does not work in my method. (I use the chord and the fret and string where the root is.)

The example: you can play C7 x3231x (my previous "C shape") and also x3535x (my previous "A shape"). Both share the root on 5th string, they share the same notation C7(5).

Now, I am not sure if it works for positions but for me positions are not a natural way of thinking (perhaps I am not used to).

Thanks!
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