Easy-to-fret triads that sound sophisticated and lush, despite what we are actually playing.
• Create three-note voicings based on larger piano chords.
• Learn how one chord can have many names.
• Construct progressions that imply IIm-V sounds.
In this month’s column, I’d like to share what I call “little” steel guitar voicings. The chords I’ll demonstrate are easy-to-fret triads that sound sophisticated and lush, despite what we are actually playing. These voicings are inspired by larger four-note grips that are difficult to finger, although they fall easily on the steel guitar and are seemingly effortless on standard guitar when played by the great Johnny Smith. On Smith’s “Moonlight in Vermont,” for example, you can hear wider grips that sound like piano chords. My personal favorite Johnny Smith recording is an album called A Perfect Match with accordion virtuoso Art Van Damme. For us mere mortals, these smaller voicings will be useful in embellishing a jazz, country, or swing tune with a minimum of difficulty and without any left-hand pyrotechnics.
The first voicings are in Fig. 1. Notice how we’re playing three chords with just two grips. This illustrates the ease and economy of these voicings. I know it’s sometimes confusing, but any chord can have multiple names depending on context.
For example, a simple D triad—one of the first chords a guitarist learns—can also be called Gmaj9 if it’s played over a G bass note. To make things even more brain-bending, our simple D triad played over an F bass can be called F13b9, but this isn't the point. The point is to accept the fact that the exact same chord voicing and fingering coming up can function as both C6 and Fadd9. We use these shapes in a little eight-measure exercise in Fig. 2.
In Fig. 3, we introduce a small finger movement involving the second and third chords. They are now F7b9 and G7b9. This is a favorite trick of mine because both chords have a diminished sound to them, so we can play some wacky diminished lines over this section. For those of you who aren’t theory Einsteins, please don’t be put off by the “numbers.” These chords are fun and sound excellent in many contexts. Give them a try in Fig. 4 and let the theory come later.
Okay, now let's add our pinky, since it’s mostly lounging around not doing anything, and that’s not fair! In Fig. 5, we will need to renegotiate the fingering on C6 (strings 1, 2, and 3), but the other two chords—F7b9 and G7b9—remain the same while we simply add and remove the pinky.
In Fig. 6, we throw in the kitchen sink. We will introduce a new C6 on the top, going to a C9 (that functions as a Gm to C7b9), and also some half-step movement (Eadd9 to Fadd9), and a G9 to G7b9 that functions as a IIm-V resolving to a Cadd9. The chord is a bit of a stretch because of the fret width at the 3rd position, but the payoff is we get to apply the identical fingering to the chord that follows it.
I hope you enjoy these voicings as much as I do. They seem to have a steel guitar color without any string bending whatsoever, and they have a Johnny Smith vibe. You can hear some of my personal application of these types of chords on “Ain't She Sweet” on my CD American Hips.
Billboard calls Jim Campilongo “an American treasure." He spins a musical web that ranges from gorgeous to sinister, and in 2011 the Fender Custom Shop released his signature model Telecaster. His band with Norah Jones, the Little Willies, released For the Good Times in early 2012 on Blue Note. For more info and downloadable lessons that cover blues, country, jazz, and more, visit jimcampilongo.com/lessons.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.