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from John Stowell’s Modern Chord Melody
“I Wish” is a tune I wrote a few years back. The title is kind of funny because I was at a friend’s preschool class, and I didn’t have a title for the song, so I asked the kindergartners, “Does anyone have an idea for a title?” A little blonde girl raised her hand and said, “I Wish,” so that became the title. I found out later that Stevie Wonder also used the title, but that’s okay. This tune has a lot of interesting things with some stretches, open voicings, and it’s played very slowly. It should be fine after you’ve played it a couple of times.
Here are some details worth noting in the melody as written: a number of chords used here employ open strings, in some cases in combination with close intervals of a fretted note (major or minor 2nd). The right hand is critical here. I use a combination of pick and three fingers to achieve a balance between the notes in my chords, at the same time making sure that the melody is the prominent voice in the chord. I will also use the flesh of my middle finger to play some individual notes. That technique evolved accidentally over time, and I found myself enjoying the warmth of the sound. The trick with using pick and fingers together is in learning to achieve the proper balance. As an exercise, try playing familiar 4- note chords and use the pick and remaining three fingers to get everything working.
I think chords are initially a little intimidating when you open a chord book and see hundreds of different versions of chords in C minor or D major on the first page. You wonder if you’ll ever learn them. In my experience, if you learn chords in the context of an arrangement, it’s much easier to keep track of those fingerings, and once the arrangement has been played enough, you’re going to find yourself internalizing those sounds, and remembering those fingerings. Over time, they can be extracted from that arrangement and used elsewhere.
Now I’d like to talk to you about the chords I’m using in “I Wish.” Here’s the first change: I’m taking a very simple B minor triad, which is tonic, perfect 5th, minor 3rd, but I’m adding the open G string and the open high E string, so that’s gonna give me the interval of a minor 2nd, which is the .5. The E on top is functioning as the 11, so this is actually a kind of a Bm11 with a .5. Now, I’m keeping that open G string for the next chord, which is a very simple B. major triad, with the open G functioning as the 6, and I’m putting the 7 on top, so this is actually a kind of B.maj6.
The next chord is a G dominant 11, but I’ve got the 11th and the 3rd functioning together, so I have an F on the bass, C, open B, and the G on top. The next chord is an Amaj9—a little bit of a stretch. I have the major 3rd, the major 7th, tonic, 9, and 5 on top.
Moving on, the next change is an E. minor triad—very simple: tonic, perfect 5th, minor 3rd, with the open B string, which is functiong as the .5 in this key. I’m grabbing the open E string on top, which is setting me up for a Dmaj6add9, then a certain kind of F. dominant chord that has the .9, the 3rd, and the 11. It sounds a little like flamenco music.
Now we’re moving onto a B major chord, I’m playing a simple major 9: tonic, perfect 5th, 9, 3rd, 5, and I’m making it Lydian. Next is a B.m11, with a raised 5 in it. And, probably the hardest chord in the tune: an A triad with a G in the bass, so it’s actually a kind of a Gmaj6 with a flatted 5th, with the open B string. Then, another F.7—this one’s pretty easy: flat 9 to major 3rd. Now I’m kind of reprising the opening section of the tune, but this time when I go up to the A., I’m playing an Am9: tonic, perfect 5th, minor 3rd, 9. Sometimes I look for melodies I can repeat in a tune with variation. The last little part of this tune is Am9, B.m6, D harmonic minor with the 9 on top, major 7, .5, minor 3rd, and root. And there’s the tune.
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