The Monsoon Blues - 3 flavours of the 'ninth' chord.
The Lesson explained
This one is in Dropped D Tuning, so lower that bass E string down a whole tone to D. Remember to check the overall tuning when you've done that as more often than not, the whole guitar goes slightly out of tune due to the release of tension. Always stay in perfect tune to sound right.
The piece is in G and is kind of interesting the way all the flavors of 'ninth' chord show up: plain old 9th, sharp 9 and flat nine.
(A reminder if you need it: ninth chords are dominant 7th chords with an extension added, being the 9. 9, of course, means the second note of the scale from the next octave. Since there are 7 notes in the scale, you add 2 to 7 to get 9.
So a ninth chord's tones are:
1, 3, 5 b7, 9. It's written simply as '9', as in A9, or G9.
The other two use the note either side of 9: b9 or #9. They're written as '7b9' and '7#9' to avoid confusion. If you were to write it as Ab9 or A#9, you'd be sending the message to play a A# dominant chord with the 9 extension. So you have to put that '7' in there to keep it as an A dominant chord with the flat nine -- or sharp nine -- extension.)
Did I say AVOID confusion?!
Find out more about 9th chords here.
Let's forget all that theory chord naming stuff, you don't really need to know any of it to enjoy playing the guitar.
The good thing about this piece is that it's nice and slow. There are no real tricky passages, no barre chords to contend with, it's all fairly straight forward. Let's take it from the top:
That little bass line that introduces the main theme is played in octaves. Because we're in Dropped D, those octave notes line up (since both strings are the same note an octave apart. You'll see/hear that sometimes I play them as octave, sometimes single notes, sometimes I add the open G string when I play the G. That's just detail, do whatever way you want. I find that mixing up the various ways of playing a repeating line, such as this bass line, adds to the overall sound. Strict, mechanical repetition can become boring quickly.
The next line, the one that leads into those 9th chords uses the open E string, which in turn gives you time to grip those 9th chords cleanly. Using open strings is a neat trick in that way. While they're in play, you can move the left hand around without missing anything. So, the first 9th chord is the C9. Remember that shape! It's a good one to know, comes in very handy for the blues.
The second time 'round, you play a D7#9. Look at the shape and you'll see the note that is one fret higher than the note in the C9. That's it, that's the #9.
Third time 'round: E7#9 followed very quickly by the E7b9. Again, look at the shape and you'll see that note is now one fret below the plain old 9th chord. That's the b9.
All these 9th chords have a very jazzy flavor to them. I love the sound of them, myself, and I love experimenting with them, as I did when writing this tune. Those notes have become part of the melody line in this piece, so they're very important notes in this case.
The fact that the chords are As and Ds makes it very easy to add some bottom end in places by using those open A and D strings. You'll hear some subtleties in the timing in some places which you can either use or not use.
The middle section (let's call it the middle eight even if it's only 4 bars long) moves to the relative minor of G, namely Em. I move through some more jazzy sounding chords. Notice how I use the CMaj7 in bar 10, but C7 (dominant) in bar 11. Listen to the difference one little semitone makes to the vibe by doing so. I see now that there is one barre chord in amongst it all... that Bm7. Oh well, good for practicing that particular grip! The chords keep shifting here, changing key until we're back to the D7, the V chord of G, which leads us back into the main theme and out.
I hope you enjoy this one. As I say, once you get familiar with the piece and those chord shapes, it's a pretty easy one to play, but it sounds quite complex and sophisticated. The feel is all important ... relax into it, think 'Summertime' or 'Old man River' ... let it float along.
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
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