Want Smooth Chord Progressions?

Most guitar players hardly give any thought at all to the chord shapes that they use in progressions. But, think of a song like, "Stairway to Heaven," the chords in the intro to Stairway are so well planned and the voice leading is so spot on, that there's no doubt chord voices make a big difference... 

So, on this weeks "Guitar Blog Insider" we're going to make a study of how mapping the upper voices of chord shapes used in a progression can make a big difference. So, if you want smooth chord progressions, lets learn to track upper tones!

Watch the Video:

Before we get started, you need to understand chord voicings and how notes of a chord are organized differently if you perform the chord in different fret-board locations. Let's try this with some 4-note, "E Minor" chords, starting in the 7th position off of 5th string.

The voicing above spells out chord tones from the 5th - 2nd string going; "E, B, E, G."

But, if we move that chord over to the 9th position, from 6th string root, we get "E, B, G, B."

Take notice that the upper tone on that 2nd string has changed to "B" from "G." We could also move the "E Minor" voicing again, lower down the neck into 4th position for a chord voicing of "E, G, B, E."

Now the "E" is on the 2nd top string. So, there ya go, 3 voicings for an "Em" chord - with 3 different upper chord tones. 

Alright, so now you understand the idea of paying attention to the chord tones and how chords are voiced along the strings. Next, I want to bring your attention to those upper most chord tones of a progression, because those are the notes that jump out at your listener the most. Those upper notes of a chord are where your listeners ear immediately gravitates over to.

The better you get at mapping out your progressions with smooth and connected upper chord tone voices, the better your progressions will resonate with your audience. Now, let's create a chord progression that tracks upper chord tones so that you can really start noticing exactly what I'm talking about here.


Notice how the upper 2nd string tones of these chord changes are traveling along that second string and pulling the listeners ear along with them. It's an interesting connection that we get, (when we pay more attention to how our upper chord tones connect with the overall sound of our progressions).

When we do this, it of course helps, to know as many chord voicings as possible. Because the more chords we know, the more options we'll have in setting out to build these smooth and connected (melodic) progressions.

Now that we've studied a collection of chords and focused in on how the chord voicings can be used to map upper chord tones differently - I hope that you'll start paying more attention to what the upper most tones are in the chords that you play. And, if you want to, test different chord voicings, then try using chords in your progressions that will nicely blend and connect across those upper guitar strings.

Every time you create a progression, you'll get used to mapping chords so that the voicings you select offer your listener the most connected sounds across those upper chord tones.

As always, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on all of this in the comment section, thanks for your time, and we'll catch up again next week on my other channel, for another episode of the, "Guitar Blog Insider."



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