VERY Different Guitar Chords (Mystery Chords)...

Have you ever been stumped by the sound of a "Mystery Chord?" Those guitar chords that will leave a lot of guitar players scratching their head when they hear it. 

Sometimes these chords will even sound "wrong." Yet that 'wrong sound' still seems to work. 

What is going on with these very different chords, well the best way to understand them is to learn a few...

While most of the chords we play are common to a lot of the tunes we perform on guitar, they do get a little old sounding after awhile. How many times can you strum an open position "G, C, D" riff... At some point the guitarist starts searching for something fresh.

And, it’s not entirely due to the boredom of using common guitar chords. Rather, the search begins due to that quest for new harmonic color. What can be done to add a twist to the song, or to alter the feeling of a verse or bridge. There must be something!

This is the point at where "different" becomes sought after. And, one category of chord type where different is really highlighted is with inverted chords.

In general, straight forward chord inversions won't typically sound all that out of place. In many cases they will flow in an even more balanced way across a chord progression.

However, these chord types can start to take on a very different effect if the inversion includes a suspended tone. Plus, if that suspended tone ends up in the bass (as the lower inversion note) we'll have a really interesting effect generated upon the chord voicing.

Inverted "sus" chords can make for some very interesting musical sound, better yet, they can end up coming across like they don't exactly fit, and that alone can be a very cool effect.

The process of how these chords work in a piece is based upon the lowest tone of the chord being the actual "sus" tone. Play through example one and notice the unique effect that these chords can produce when played against other more common chords.

Example #1). 

Another cool effect of applying these chords can be had when using a series of them all aligned together in one progression. Playing through these chord types back to back can create a very interesting sound. In fact performing chords like this will often occur in movie sound tracks and TV shows sound-track music.

Example #2).

There are all kinds of ways that musicians will use chords in songs. And, how a guitar player selects their chords will tend to fall back to what the context of sound is that the musician is after. If the context calls for some really straight forward sound, (like a basic folk or country tune), then that will require certain common chord types.

However, if the sound needs to be really different or if the musician writing the piece is just after "really different" then a chord type the inverted "sus" can behave perfectly.

Always use your best judgement and select chords that offer interesting sound options. Over time, your ability to project any type of color will become more and more perfected. Composing music is a fun process and getting more abstract with what your doing only adds to the fun factor!

- Andrew Wasson



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