Chord Geology

IMG_20160707_162006I know I’m a little late to this party, but have you heard of Ted Greene and Lenny Breau? They were great solo jazz guitarists who, incidentally, played fingerstyle.

Lenny was inspired by Chet Atkins and developed a magical sounding technique of playing cascading artificial harmonics over jazz chords. Ted picked up the harmonics technique from Lenny, studied fingerstyle jazz with a fella named George Van Epps, and dove deep, deep, DEEP into harmony and chord voicings on the guitar.

I’ve been digging into Ted’s books “Chord Chemistry” and “Modern Chord Progressions,” and have spent several weeks now rediscovering chord scales using various fingerings suggested therein. But it’s playing them fingerstyle, rather than strumming, that’s really made them come alive for me recently.

I’m just kinda taken with the sound of 4-note chords, where you play the notes simultaneously by plucking with your thumb and fingers. I’ve always liked the balance you can achieve this way, where all the notes of the chord appear at the same volume and your ears weigh them all together.

Then you move horizontally up or down the chord scale, and maybe break them up into pairs of notes on each chord, and it generates melodies – melodies that were always there in the chords.

I’m not really dealing with all possible chords interacting yet, I’m staying pretty diatonic. Just sifting through what’s there, like studying the layers of the Earth’s crust. Maybe this diatonic phase of my musical study should be called “Chord Geology.”

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