Dominant 7’s cover the last remaining core 4-note chord in the arsenal. I struggle to employ them effectively in composition as well, but this one is clearly on me. Dominant chords are the heart of the blues and jazz and are no strangers to rock.
Unlike Maj7 chords, I end up using the minor 7th all the time. Social distancing seemed like a great time to start mapping out a chord vocabulary, so here come all of the minor 7th chords I frequently use.
I find Maj7 chords to be more difficult to use than triads or min7 chords, and I don’t seem to be entirely alone. Finding rock songs that feature the Maj7 wasn’t as easy as I expected. Here’s what I found: U2 One, Led Zeppelin The Rain Song, Paul McCartney Band on the Run, Peter Frampton Show me the Way, and John Lennon’s Imagine. In jazz, I’m pretty confident this would be a lot easier, and I’d also guess that if I’d scoured the Steely Dan catalog, I’d have come up with more good examples.
Easily placed or not, it’s a good place to start when it comes to cataloging voicings being the 4-note form of the first degree of the major scale. Below are all the voicings I find most useful for a Maj7.
I’ve spent a lot of time working on chords and harmony lately, and I’ve concluded that I really need a good roadmap to move up and down or across the neck to speed the up the composition process. The most obvious place to start that wasn’t the 6th-string bar chords we all know was the 5th-string-root shape that seems to come up first for dominant 7th chords or the Hendrix chord. There are a few fantastic voicings in here.
The m9’s of the second and sixth degree are a chord I’ve highlighted before, and the m7 of the seventh was frankly a surprise. It never occurred to me to drop the flattened 5th to create a less tense seventh chord of the major scale, but it seems more useful than just avoiding the seven altogether. I also really like the maj7(add9) and maj7(add13) you get in the root and fourth positions. There’s a load of color on tap in this template. I’m looking forward to connecting seamlessly it across strings and to a larger set of voicings.
There’s a lot here, and for good reason. On their own, fourths are pretty useful. They work great as double stops, they’re inverted fifths from the top note, the ♯4/ ♯11 is the heart of Lydian & shares the same address as the blue note, and they’re almost always easy to play. Something I’ve only recently learned (from Truefire’s Interval Insights) is how many great approaches and departures there are from fourths. Hammers up to the major 2nd, up from the major third, and even up to the fifth or from the minor third all sound great from the perfect fourth. I’ve yet to experiment much with the ♯4 and it’s neighbors, but my sense is the 5th provides a nice resolution.
Hammering the root up to the second creates a nice minor third of its own and also provides the top two thirds of a C-shape triad on the lower string if you bring your pinky into the mix. You can’t help but hear Hendrix with this lick.
I’ve had trouble finding good simple charts of spread triads. Rick Beato did a great video on them recently, but I had trouble finding a simple reference for spread triads in his book (which I’d highly recommend here, as it is freakishly comprehensive). I figured it was worth working out my own reference to share on Pedal On. Here are the major spread triads with their bass note on the lowest string. They aren’t all easy to play, but they sound great. I’ll work across the strings and then into minor and maybe beyond.
Do you love vintage fuzz? Appreciate absurd levels of care and rare parts? There is no one more on top of their game than Blackstrap Electrik. Matt has already been declared a Tone Bender god, and he’s expanded to Power Boosts, Fuzz Faces, and OD-1 replicas (with the original quad-amp chips). I picked up my MkII with NOS Mullard OC81D transistors, Wima caps, and UK vero board over a year ago, and it’s a permanent fixture on my board. If you have a chance to grab a Blackstrap pedal, you will be glad you did!
Thirds are a lot more useful as double stops than seconds, and obviously they’re key building blocks of most chords. Luckily, no stretching or string skipping is required to grab major or minor thirds across the neck. They work nicely hammered on to/from fourths or from major seconds as well.
This may be the least useful individual diagram I ever post, but for the sake of completeness, I am starting my run through of intervals with major/minor 2nds. I worked through Truefire’s Interval Insights course, and I now feel even more confident that knowing where to grab all of the intervals on the neck is a worthwhile skill to have. I can’t demonstrate how to use them in context here, as Rich does, but it should be pretty simple to lay out the locations of each set to refer to for your own experiments.
Seconds are neither particularly consonant nor comfortable to grab. I kept stretches to a three fret minimum in this diagram, as going out of your way to grab either of these doesn’t seem necessary.
You may know Dan from 4114 effects and the Flux Capacitor Delay, which now borders on impossible to obtain (Paul Gilbert’s Flux apparently resold for $999!) and ended up on some pretty famous boards (Ryan Adams along with Gilbert). You might not also know that Dan makes some beautiful, meticulously crafted amps. One of those amps, a mini 5E3 Tweed Deluxe with built-in attenuator, happens to sit in my living room (comfortably on the bar cart to boot).
I don’t have any internal shots of my build, but take a look here, here, and here to see just what kind of attention to detail goes into these amps. Dan, like nearly all of the UK builders I’ve encountered since moving here, takes his craft seriously, and that means this little box will be kicking out classic 5E3 dirt (Neil Young: Cinnamon Girl/Southern Man, Eagles: Hotel California/One of These Nights, Larry Carlton with Steely Dan: Don’t Take Me Alive/Kid Charlemagne) for decades to come. This one is in the permanent collection…
My bar-cart friendly 12W 5E3 has a solid-state rectifier to make the footprint possible and dials down to just 1W on the back, giving me living-room friendly volumes when I can’t turn up, which is basically always. I’ll have to plug into the UA Ox to record some good clips, but in the interim, take a listen here.