Chords Up The Neck

Apr 03, 2020
When I toured with Joan Baez, a favorite band pastime involved trying to coax Bob Dylan stories out of the boss. Actually, it wasn't so much coaxing as waiting patiently downstream from whatever was on Joan's mind, hoping that at some point a Dylan-related anecdote would come drifting by, near enough to shore that we could rope it in for closer inspection. It only happened a few times, but it was always worth the wait, especially when it involved Joan doing her Dylan impression as part of the story. But one of my favorite non-Bob-related moments happened onstage, when Joan, chatting up the audience between songs, remarked, "I've decided to stop saying 'in my humble opinion' – because I've never had a humble opinion in my life!"

So let me just say that, while I am neither a counter-culture icon nor possessed of a convincing Dylan impression, in my...opinion there are five stages to successfully playing fingerstyle blues guitar. In Tuesday's lesson, The Horizontal 3-Step, I talked about the first stage, groove, and the steps you can take to better coordinate your thumb and fingers. Today, in a live Youtube stream at 3pm CST, I'll talk about the next stage: finding, understanding and connecting dominant chords all over the neck.

It's not that knowing a bunch of chords is especially useful in and of itself. But if you want to get out of open position and play melodies and licks up the neck, knowing your chord voicings helps in three important ways. First, you can use chords to support your melodies, filling in the gap between your bass notes on the low end and your single-note licks on top. Second, you can use chord shapes to create new licks of your own wherever you want on the fingerboard. And third, you can use the so-called "Freddie Green voicings" to create moving bass lines, connect one chord to the next, and make things more interesting when there are pauses in the melody.

The thing is, you don't need to know that many chords to start trying this out. There are really just four positions on the neck for any seventh chord, and just a few different ways to grab that chord in any one position. I'll explain what I mean, complete with a downloadable PDF, in this afternoon's live Youtube lesson. Just click the link below at 3pm CST to check it out:

The Dominant Dozen

More soon,


P.S. If you want to get a jump on things, you can download the PDF now at the link below:

Get The PDF