WHETHER YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT
music or just life in general, it’s nice to
have options. If you only know one A chord
for example, you will only play that one A
chord when the need arises. However, there
are many things you can do to subtly
change the tried and true Amaj. The major
triad is made up of the root, 3rd, and 5th.
We’re going to hear what happens if we
try substituting the root and 5th with other
notes, such as the 2nd/9th, 4th/11th, or
6th/13th. Take a look at the following voicings.
Each of these chords can obviously
benefit from an open-A string, although
the fretted-only fingerings here can be
moved anywhere on the neck.
In Ex. 1, we begin with a second inversion
A chord. Replace the root with the 9th and
the character of the voicing (now spelled E,
B, C#, low to high) changes noticeably. Invert
the second inversion triad on the same string
set (second, third, fourth) and the order will
be B, C#, E. Invert the voicing again and the
order will be C#, E, B. As we climb up the
neck rearranging these three notes, it’s easy
to hear the different flavor of each voicing.
Ex. 2 features a sus4 chord: E, A, D, low
to high. Make it an add4 chord by replacing
the 5th (E) with the 3rd (C#). Dig the
clangy minor second between the 3 and
the 4. Then invert that voicing.
The pattern continues in Ex. 3. I remove
the 5th from the triad and replace it with
the 6th scale degree. You might think that
these are F#m chords, and you’re right, but
over an open-A string you’ll hear the difference—
these add an uptown elegance to
a normal progression in the key of A. Invert
the triad along the same string set.
Once you get started on this concept, you’ll
see that it’s easy to liven up any chord voicing
that might have gotten a little stale.
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