Taste, Choices and Musicality

teaching guitar

I was sat in a room with a few guitarist a few weeks ago, and very unsurprisingly, one of them handed me a guitar. I proceed to play, the pattern was simple, it was a 4 chord trick behind the complex and somewhat fast sequence I was playing. The four chords were: G, Em, Am, C. Sure, nothing beyond the grasp of basic player.


The complexity lies in three things: the chords I was adding to the pattern, the chord voicings I was picking & why, and the rhythm with which the sequence was being played.


One of the group asked me what I was playing. I explained it was based around 4 chord, then showed him, slowly, all the options I had.



Guitar Chord Choices

You don’t have to be smart to figure out that you have 101 different options at this stage. Well, maybe not 101 but you get the idea.


If we take G, we could play just a normal G chord, G sus4, Gmaj9, Gmaj11, G6 or G69.


Options! Now, I understand that list might scare you [if it doesn’t, this will, I pulled all of them off the top of my head without a guitar!]


We could do this for C, Em and for Am. Just off the top of my head, there’s 3 further options for each chord. This takes us to around 18 chord choices.



Adding musicality to your guitar playing

It would be rather stupid to bung them into just one song, that’s taste and musicality, right there for you.


You need to go away and work on choice, understand all the different options you have. Then you need to listen to how those options fit within some common patterns. A lot of this is trial and error.


The last step is to find the choices that relate what you feel into the music you’re playing. That’s not only taste, its feeling and musicality. You want to move people with the music you play and you want to be able to play what’s in your head.


When you have this solid, then you want to find passing chords.



Passing chords

Moving away or to G [any G chord we’ve talked about], a D chord will always sound nice. I like to use D/F#. So that gives us two chords in the first and last bar. The second bar [Em] is cool with being single! You could try using two different voicings of Em [Em7 and Em9 – that’s what I’d choose] but, still an Em is great by itself. The third bar can have two chords, the first, an Am chord [Am, Am7, Am9] moving to a G/B or just a simple G chord.


We’ve created a walking bass line over the changes, a nice sound plus it’s a whole other level from where we started, just a short time ago. As for timing for these inserted chords, either split the bar in half and play two beats on each or play the additional chord on beat four.


Original pattern : | G / / / | Em / / / |  Am / / / | C / / / |


New pattern : | G / / D/F# | Em / / / |  Am / / G/B | C / / D/F# |



As for feeling, in terms rhythm, firstly get 8th notes tight. If and when you do, you’ll be able to move it around the beat which will add instant feeling to your playing. But you need to get it rock solid to start with. When its firm, then you can try and gently swing it so it sounds more like 16ths. I know, easy to say, hard to do. Keep trying.



As you can see, we have taken something pretty basic, added some new chords to liven the pattern up, then added passing chords to this sequence to advance it and then played with the timing and feel. It’s really a simple thing to do but its hours of fun.


You can try this with any style, chord pattern or song you like – it works best for finger style. Give it a go!

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