Often there is a blurry line in between what constitutes chord/rhythm playing, fills and licks and riffs. These don’t have to be mutually exclusive and you’ll hear great guitarists in all genres combining all these ideas together to create great sounding parts. They can be the main hook of a tune, comping during solos, verse rhythm parts or even guitar breaks. So, recently I’ve talked to some students about chords and combining rhythm and single notes to create interesting parts and thought I’d share some ideas here.
Figure A is a typical rock/pop chord progression in A Minor. Using open chords and an F barre chord, it’s just 2 crotchets (2 beats/ strums) on each chord. Figure B is essentially the same progression. However, it combines the general harmony of Figure A with some single notes and additional rhythms. Starting with two open A notes and then an A Minor chord beats 3, 3 + and 4 combine to make an F Major 9 type sound. The C Major chord in bar 2 stays the same but the G Major chord is broken up into an arpeggio using the B in the bass (on the 5th string) to create a nice descending line. This ends up on A Minor and F Major in bar 3, played as minims this time, again to add some different rhythms. Lastly we’ve got a small run based on C Major that indeed starts on a C Major chord and resolves to G Major.
The idea of Figure B is to keep the same overall sound of Figure A, but add some variation. For some of you that might seem super easy and something you always do but there are also plenty of people that have no idea where to start or how to play with chord progressions to create a more interesting part.
Figures C and D continues on with this concept. Figure C outlines another easy rock/pop type chord progression. Figure D then takes this idea and sound and embellishes it. Bar 1 starts with a 3 note line and then a smaller voicing of F# Minor. Bar 2 breaks up a single D Major chord to its root note on beat 1 and then a three note voicing on beat 2. Instead of just playing an E Major chord in Bar 3, we have a Major and Sus 4 sound that then descends with E, B and A notes which leads to the last chord in Bar 4. Rather than a straight F# Minor we can try an F# Minor 7 with an 11 type of sound.
Again, it’s not always that more complicated or involved is best. It can however create a nice contrast to a more simple section of a song or at the very least give you the tools to experiment with these type of ideas for jamming, accompanying or song writing. These examples are only a couple of relatively simple ideas – we’ll get into some more advanced options next month!