Charlie Hunter

One interesting and challenging aspect of the guitar is that it usually offers several different ways to play the same riff, chord, or melody. For instance, take the three-note A13 voicing that opens Ex. 1. There’s only one way to play this chord on the piano, but, as the second half of this example proves, there is more than one way to fret it on guitar. The chord is exactly the same both times it appears in the notation, but if you look at the tablature staff, the fingering—both in terms of fretboard location and strings used—changes the second time you play it.
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Learning how to play different fingerings of the same chord is not only a great way to learn the layout of the fretboard, it, more importantly, puts options at your fingertips—options you’ll find handy when you’re constructing more elaborate grooves and vamps that feature simultaneous chords and bass lines. For example, play that A13 cluster over a Jimmy Smith-style B-3 bass line, and—plucking the bass notes with your thumb and the A13 stabs with your fingers—you have the groovy organ-jazz vibe in Ex. 2. Notice that A13 occurs twice, and, just like the first example, it changes fingering as the bass part climbs the lowest string.

Once you get comfortable with the moves, try changing the chord to A7#9 [Ex.3] or any other chord. As far as the phrasing goes, this is just one of an infinite number of possible grooves. Free yourself to phrase the upper voice—the up-stemmed part—with whatever rhythm you like. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to discover all the different possibilities. I’m discovering new ones right now as I show this to you.

The more you experiment, the more it will give you freedom on the fretboard and lead you in interesting directions, such as, perhaps, Ex. 4. This two-bar vamp is a little more challenging than the previous two. Here are some quick pointers that may help you dial it in: First, notice that the plucked chords in the upper voice are closely related—C7#9, Db9, and D7b9 each feature Eb as the highest note and a tritone interval for the lowest two notes. (Simply raise the tritone a half-step to get the next chord.) And, to play the phrase comfortably, roll your second

finger back and forth between the fifth and sixth strings to fret each bass note, and slide into the chords if you find that’s more comfortable.