Modal Workshop: Intervallic Structures
Alex Machacek shows you voicings to expand your chord vocabulary.
I’d like to introduce you to a very useful way
to expand your chord vocabulary. The voicings
we are about to explore work really well
for comping and also for harmonizing melodies
in a bunch of different musical contexts. All
of the following examples are in E Dorian, so
you can use the low open-E string as a drone.
It is very helpful to be able to hear how each of
these chords fit harmonically within a key.
But before we get into the chords, let’s
take a look at the E Dorian scale. I tend to
think of this scale in one of three ways:
• As a D major scale starting on the second degree (E).
• Following the formula for a Dorian scale based off of E major (1–2–b3–4–5–6–b7).
• Simply by the names of the notes: E–F#–G–A–B–C#–D.
Personally, I tend to gravitate toward the scale-degree formula. It simply makes it easier to translate anything you work on into all 12 keys. We are going to think of an intervallic structure as a combination of intervals within a given scale. This structure can then be sequenced through the entire scale, which will result in seven different voicings. Sound complicated? Let’s break it down:
In Fig. 1, you see the notes of an E Dorian scale on the 1st string. Once you have learned these E Dorian notes on the 1st string, take a few minutes and find the same notes on the other five strings.
Next, we’ll try out some two-note intervals
(also known as double-stops). Let’s take the
interval of a sixth and move it through the
entire scale. In Fig. 2, I have shown how to
play these on the top two strings. Note that
when referring to intervallic structures we talk
in terms of diatonic intervals, so we will end
up with different qualities (major, minor, etc.).