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Deep Blues: Creative Comping - Developing Dominant 7th Chords

Cool ideas to offer unique sounds to your rhythm playing

As I said in my last lesson, triads are amazing tools that are greatly overlooked. In this lesson, I’m going to demonstrate how triads can be used to create really cool dominant seventh chord voicings. This is a very easy concept to learn; all we are going to do is take the three major triads based off the I, IV and V chords in the key of A and modify them for a really cool outcome. We’ll start with an A7 chord, this is the I chord of our blues progression. The A7 has a major triad with an added minor seventh. We’ll just take the A major triad and raise the third (C#) and the fifth (E) up a minor third (three frets).

Example 1 is an A Major triad rooted on the first string. Let’s take the E (the second string) and C# (the third string) and raise them up a minor third. The E becomes G (the flat seventh of the chord) and C# becomes E (the fifth of the chord). Download Audio Example...

In Example 2, I’ve done the same thing. I’ve raised the third and fifth of the chord up a minor third to create a cool dominant seventh voicing. The difference here is that I started with an A major triad with the root on the third string. So the two strings I’m focused on are the 2nd string (C#), the third of the A7, and the 4th string (E), which is the fifth of the A7 chord. Take both of these notes and raise them up the minor third and just like in Example 1 the E moves to G and C# moves to E. Download Audio Example...

Let’s move to the IV chord, which is D7. The D7 chord is a D major triad with an added minor seventh (C). D is the root, F# is the third, and A is the fifth of the chord. We are just going using the D major triad and we’ll create a dominant 7th voicing with a slight modification. In Example 3, you’ll notice that I’m starting with a first position D major chord with the root on the second string. Then, I will take the F# on the first string and the A on the third string and I’m moving them up a minor third just as I did before. This makes the F# an A, the fifth, and the A moves to C, the flat seventh. After shifting the third and fifth up a minor third, place the root back into your voicing. Download Audio Example...

Example 4 is a D major triad with its root on the 5th string. The third is on the 4th string and the fifth is on the third string. This is a low voicing but it sounds very cool. When playing this particular voicing you need to make sure you are up on the fingertip of the third finger so that the G on the third string can ring out. Download Audio Example...

E7 is the V chord of an A blues progression. An E7 chord contains an E major triad with an added flatted seventh. Just as we did with the other examples, we are going to just use the E major triad. E is the root, G# is the third, and B is the fifth of the chord. In Example 5 I’ve used an E major triad that has the root on the open first string, the fifth (B) on the open second string and the third (G#) on the third string. This is going to make it easier for you to put the root back after moving the third and fifth. So let’s get moving, move both the G# and B up a minor third so that the G# becomes B and the open B becomes D the flat seventh. Download Audio Example...

Example 6 is based on an E major triad with its root on the fourth string. The third is in the same place as the last triad, the third string. The fifth B is on the fifth string. Just as I had said with example 4, this voicing is also a very low one. But just like before it’s very cool. Slide the third and fifth strings up three frets a minor third so that the G# becomes the fifth B, and so that B the fifth becomes D the flatted seventh. Download Audio Example...

For Example 7 I used the higher voicings to give you an example of how these cool voicings can be used in a twelve bar blues progression. Practice the transitions between chords before tackling the whole example. Once the chords are under your finger, experiment with the rhythm to create your own part. Download Audio Example...

Example 8 is a twelve-bar blues that uses the lower voicings from Examples 2, 4, and 6. These voicings are low but definitely keepers. Sometimes you just want a low, growling chord voicing. Download Audio Example...

The voicings in this lesson are not traditional voicings, but offer a cool and unique sound. The key is to become a more creative rhythm guitarist since we spend a great deal of time playing rhythm, behind singers and soloist. These are some cool ideas you can use to have more fun as a rhythm player.
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