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Bluegrass Guitar Lessons: Expanded Chord Voicings for Bluegrass

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far, we've talked about some basic chord
forms as they apply, you know,
to just general guitar playing but in an
effort to, you know, to make things,
you know, specific to bluegrass here.
I'm gonna show you based on those forms
ways to voice chords that are specific for
And one of the reasons, one of the main
reasons that I showed those
the other forms is, especially with chords
like G, is that, from a,
from a basic int, entry level to this
kinda style,.
And, and again with our ideas of building
you know, good efficient muscles and, and
strong technique [SOUND] Those, those are
good chord forms for,
for us all to know and be aware of as, as
we expand you know, there's this tendency
in bluegrass to sort of you know, there's
only one way to do certain things and so,
so I'm trying to keep an open mind about
different chord forms and, and you know,
different ways to use things to sort of
enhance the bigger picture musically.
So we've like we'll move straight into
with that in mind we'll move straight
into the G chord.
[SOUND] So basically we have this, [SOUND]
And usually if you go to see any bluegrass
band you, you'll [SOUND] You probably
won't see that one.
[SOUND] What you'll see is, is a more of a
form where the,
the low G is actually played with the
middle finger.
The and
because of the way it sits sits across the
A-string is actually muted, right?
And then the the D on the third fret,
second string is played with the ring
G, on the first string is played with the
So the, the result of that.
Is more of a power,
power chord kinda sense which is all roots
and fits all G's and D's here.
So that's, that's really the main the,
the main bluegrass G chord which is you
know, could be considered the cornerstone
for bluegrass really is this chord form
right here.
Some people you can you have this option
To play the low B, but the idea here the
voicing and the way that we're gonna look
at some other voices of similar chords.
Is to is to, you know, listen and see
when, see why when you take the thirds out
of a chord and
you've just got ones and fives, you
you essentially you've essentially have a
sort of attitude with a third or that it's
a big, full kind of strum.
But, you know, bluegrass is a little, it's
there's more nuance involved in bluegrass,
and now we're gonna talk about, you know,
what, what defines it as a style.
And as bluegrass rhythm guitar players and
soloists things that we can do to,
you know, that sorta lead down that path
of what really defines
those kind of things, and so you know,
simple chord voicing's a lot of times.
Just to be aware of, of,
of we've talked about different muscular
kind of things,
being aware of what's too tight, what's
too loose you know,.
Just having a sense of how to be aware of
when things get off course, and so
with you know, chord voicing, a similar
thing, you know.
There's a voicing that's not used a lot in
bluegrass, but it's important to know,
it's important to be familiar with that
chord shape for your strength in your left
hand [SOUND] Specifically for Bluegrass.
[SOUND] You'll find that's, that's real
powerful [SOUND] And for the key of G.
And moving onto like our,
our basic C form.
[SOUND] A little more standardized and
it's sorta crossed genre you'll see that C
[SOUND] But in the same interest sometimes
what you'll hear removing the thirds.
what we've done there is we've taken our
finger off the third, the,
the second second fret D string which is
the E, the third.
So removing the finger and, and allowing.
But you have the ring finger that's over
here on the C to mute the open D string,
so it never even gets heard.
[SOUND] So we're, what we're, what we've
got here is open G and then
we fretted the C, and we also have the
option of adding this G for another fifth.
And once, once again we have, basically,
like rock and roll players would play
power chords like this.
And what you're seeing
there when you see a rock and roll player
Doing that kind of form,
that's basically what that is for
Yeah, but it's just, it's a bigger strum,
and so you can make up, you know,
more of acoustic bigger rhythm sound with
that kind of voicing.
another way you might see C chords.
Again, back to our basics sort of thing.
Is reversing or moving the,
the ring finger here, down to the low G
and bringing the pinkie in.
And then, once again, if you know,
left hand technique.
This is in
If, if your left hand technique needs some
work, this, you know, some of these kind
of voice things may feel a little weird.
Because it really forces the,
the full left hand around pinkie up to the
fifth string,.
And again,
were talking about the new wants of what
makes bluegrass, bluegrass and for,
from the rhythm guitar standpoint, a lot
of these songs are, are fast and
hard driving, and you don't need a lot of
Ringing kind of information there.
What you want is to get to more of the
point, you know,
you can hear that's,
that's a tighter sound,.
And the same thing with, with this sort of
C form.
You have more,
more low harmonies in the chord.
It's all ones, threes and fives.
It starts, the low note is the, is the
fifth there.
Then there's your root C.
To the, to the E.
So it sort of voices the whole chord
lower, as opposed to
Or even this.
You can hear the differences.
This is brighter, brighter and tighter
This is more full and ringy
And this is this is lower
All the, all the same chord,
all the same you know, intervals.
Ones, threes and fives, but just different
ways within the world of
bluegrass to kind of you know, to start
thinking about making music.
You know, making, making real music,
making making good ideas happen.
You know, when you, when you're playing in
a band or you're playing in a jam session.
These, and we'll talk about different ways
of you know, use these voicing's and,
and our idea here with this with my cur,
lesson plan,
curriculum is breaking down a lot of the
common things about bluegrass into, into
ways you can practice them and then apply
them back to what you already know or, or
what you're going to learn here.
And and these are, these are things to
keep working on, so that's, that's G.
G, bluegrass
So that's, and it's, and
it's pretty cool to practice those, back
and forth.
There's our boom chuck kinda thing,
and we'll get a little more into that
That's two more, two forms there.
We've got two more in the next lesson
we'll get into with
a similar kind of approach.
We discovered some ways to change voicings
of chords from their more traditional form
on the guitar to more of a specific
Bluegrass-centric, Bluegrass-based kind of
a, kind of format.
And so we're gonna do that with a few more
And what we did with a lot of chords
you'll notice in Bluegrass,
is they go from a wider palette of sound
of, of, of method, from basic major
chord forms, the root, the third, and the
fifth, and removing the third.
And so, and a real easy way to do that on
a D chord.
And for
a lot of those Stanley Brothers songs.
It's okay to do that.
And have that in there.
You'll hear that Carter Stanley did that.
If you're playing in more of a again more
of a, a modern way to kind of do this is,
you gonna remove the third.
As a sample sort of three note power
chord like that.
all I'm doing is just lifting my middle
finger off the F sharp.
Just simple, simple kind of thing, but
important when it comes to just
the big idea of, of kind of customizing
our rhythm technique for Bluegrass.
Something, something to keep in mind
there, on the D chord.
And with the next one we'll talk about F.
We talked about F being this basic form
this way, kind of based on the C.
And then I showed you with the C chord
moving the the ring finger down to the low
G to get that thicker kind of, you know, a
more voiced lower sort of version of it.
So we're gonna do the same thing with the
F to where now we move the ring
finger down to the C note and now we're
bringing our pinkie in to the F and.
This is important because it.
As we move into some different sort of
rhythm styles, that C note is gonna play a
And also in the C chord, the G note, the
low G.
Is going to start playing some roles.
And, you know, bigger, bigger ways to play
it, to play rhythm, stronger rhythm.
That's a, that's another form of that.
You have that, and that.
And so, the next one is a, is a great kind
of thing.
And you don't see it a lot in modern
But it's important to cover in the
interest of, you know, trying to,
trying to get as much stuff out there for
Bluegrass as possible on the guitar.
Talk about the basic A form.
Is this little cluster of the E and
the A and the C sharp, open E with an open
A there.
Guys like Lester Flatt and
Red Smiley had a version to play that,
which is commonly referred to in,
in more old-timey jam circles as a long A.
Which is where you bar, and this is kind
of tough to do if, if,
you know, you're still, you know, building
left hand technique.
You're gonna, instead of playing all three
of those notes with three fingers,
you're gonna play basically a bar-
Of the E, the A, and the C-sharp.
And on the first finger,
I mean on the first string you're gonna
throw your pinky over here to the high
A on the fifth fret.
And so that's what guys would do.
This is, this was a popular way to play an
A chord.
that's that's just sort of just of one of
the ways in,
in Bluegrass to play an A chord, there's
also, in the interest of,
of a tighter sound, this is one I use from
time to time,
is we've got our third right there, still
sort of ringing that third.
Is to, we borrow these two fret,
the two strings here, the E and the A.
And then another E and the A.
Remember the power chord concept is just
roots and fifths for that tight sound.
You can hear how immediately
the chord sort of gets a little bit
From that.
And when, and
when chords are sort of chords are meaner,
chords are tighter they're punchier and
they can mean more in a Bluegrass song.
Then that you know?
You know,
it's, it's you can sense musically how it
gets more to the point.
And so so that, that basically covers from
here forward you know,
a lot of the things about you know, chord
voicings, but, but bigger you know,
bigger picture of how to, how to think
about playing effective Bluegrass rhythm.
And and, and playing in a way that, that
supports the feel of the song.
Bluegrass is all about feelings and, and
the songs are about, you know,
real people dealing with real issues and,
and and so it's, it's good to think and,
and be able to use voicings on the guitar
to help support those ideas.