Bob Brozman on Getting Deeper into Open-G

June 1, 2010

GP0610_BBBob Brozman gave us the gateway drug into open-G playing in the May issue with a swampolicious one-chord blues. But what if we want to play more than one chord?

“If you want to suggest every major and minor chord on the top two strings,” he explains, “there are only two shapes you need to know: both strings at the same fret for a major chord, and your first finger one fret behind your second for a minor chord.” He plays Ex. 1, a harmonized G major scale made even easier with our tuning—B and D on the two highest strings. Because these are two-note chords, their naming them is somewhat ambiguous, but we’ll go with a G-centric nomenclature, calling them G, Am, Bm, and so on Ex. 2 is a mirror image of those moves because we’re using the middle D string instead of the high D. Pretty slick.

“For blues,” continues Brozman, “we just alter this scale slightly.” We substitute F for F# and we get the chord scale in Ex. 3. We then do our mirror-image revoicing trip in Ex. 4. We can view the first three chords as G, Am, and Bm7b5, but it’s bluesier to see them as G, C, and G7. Play this entire scale backwards, forwards, and skipping around in order to get really comfortable with them, but play them with no fear. “People learned how to do all of this without teachers. Your ears will burn if you hit a note that’s out of key.” Feel free to hit the open strings to fill the sound out—all of these two-note chords will sound good against all the open strings, especially the fifth-string G.

Now that we have a handle on the shapes, let’s put them in a song. Ex. 5 is an infectious progression that is made up of a simple line on the top strings and a simple bass line. Playing the two at once with a Brozman-approved swing is not so simple, however. Play them slowly, tap your foot, and don’t cheat the bass notes because they’re just as important as the melody. As he finishes Ex. 5, Brozman offers this advice: “Once you get these grips under your fingers, you can use them in so many different styles of music.” Next month, we do it island style by showing how these lines work in Hawaiian music.

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