Ten-stringer Stew completes his chordal explorations
Welcome back, extended rangers! In this last instalment of my chordal
series, I'd like to explore the use of chords built from the other tones in
a scale. Since the previous columns used E minor as the reference scale,
I'll continue using it. In those other articles we were building chords
from the tone centre of the scale: E, G and B. This time we'll start
looking at the other sonorities you can develop. If you know all the
triads in the E minor scale, start figuring out your 7th and 9th voicings.
If you're already acquainted with these, start working through all the
inversions. Remember, you can create interesting tensions by leaving
some notes out of your chords, particularly in the case of inversions.
To briefly revisit an earlier example, your band is playing in E
minor. How does the C major 7 chord sound against it? What if you
play the 7th in the root of your chord or arpeggio? By using that B,
you are creating consonance, and with the other chord tones - E
and G - you are emphasising the tone centre. That C will create an
interesting tension, as it's the sixth above the E and a minor second
away from the B. If you play it in one of the higher registers, however,
you'll find it isn't so dissonant.
But what about the F# half diminished chord, F#-A-C-E? The major
second above the tonic is consonant, but it makes an interesting
texture as the tension is less dramatic than a tritone or minor second.
The A will give you a suspension as a perfect interval that is neither
major nor minor. We discussed the C above, and then you have an
E again to support the band's theme. What if you move the A to the
root position of your chord? What does that do to its flavour, and how
does it mesh with what the band is playing?
Remember that we learn by exploring, which means you have to
wade through material that you may not be able to use right away
- but it's a process, and it takes time. Be patient with yourself and
don't give up if things aren't clear at first. Most of us need time to
make sense of new ideas. In my next column, we'll return to more
exercise-oriented material. + search 'Stewart McKinsey'
Mixmaster Mike of Therapy? gets his Magimix out
A few weeks of downtime at home have meant that I've been able to
finish up some ongoing projects, most notably a couple of remixes
for other bands. It's a great honour that bands trust us enough to
do a remix of their songs, and it's always enlightening to hear the
original stems of the instrumental tracks which are sent through.
I'm particularly interested in the bass tracks: it's fascinating to
hear what other players are doing, how they shape parts and how
they sit in context with the other instruments. This can lead to
a few interesting 'misheard' parts of the song, where you get the
impression that the bass is busier than it is in reality: when you
hear it soloed, it's often a different part altogether. Thankfully
all the remixes we've done have come with no brief, so we've had
free rein to move things around as much as we want. I've done
this occasionally to my own bass parts at demo stage, which is
always a good way to see if you are missing a trick. Simply by
moving a bass part around within the song, it's fun to see where
else it may sit, either rhythmically or harmonically, and it's
amazing how even a slight variation can change the complete
dynamic of a part. Next time you're working on a demo or a
song, I recommend approaching it from a remix mind-set: try
and pretend it's the first time you've heard it, pull out some of
the elements and move around a few of the main bass themes.
If you're using a DAW this is really easy, but there's no harm in
trying it in band rehearsal where the live approach can put some
fresh twists on an arrangement and the way a song builds. You
might find that a slightly more esoteric approach benefits your
individual parts and the song overall.
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