7 Layers of Guitars

7 layers chords

Chord mastery is an essential skill for guitar players. By learning new chords and experimenting with their voicings and inversions, it helps you establish your own musical style.

Add percussive notes to your chord progressions to emphasize their notes, using punchy percussion or tuned percussion patches for this purpose.

Major Triads

Triads are extremely flexible and easy to play, and form the basis of many different chord voicings. Due to only consisting of three notes, triads can easily be repeated over and over in basslines without becoming monotonous, helping blur the distinction between lead and rhythm guitar playing.

Written music notates chords using a chord symbol which consists of both the letter name of its root note (note A) and a quality symbol that indicates whether a triad is major, minor, diminished, or augmented. A quality symbol will display whether its intervals between lowest note (root note A) and middle (notes C-E and middle-highest note C are major or minor.

To create a major triad, write the root note of the chord across all lines and spaces on the staff, followed by drawing an extra-long snowperson above it (ie, an extended chord). If a key signature exists for its notes, spell this accordingly with any necessary accidentals.

Minor Triads

Minor triads can be constructed using CAGED or fingering from one fret position; therefore they should be the first chords every guitarist learns – especially as bassline creation relies heavily upon them as the basis of bass sound creation.

TIrd quality can be determined by its interval between root and third. A triad built on a perfect fifth is known as major, while one built with minor thirds are known as minor.

Diminished triads are created by adding two minor thirds and then subtracting a perfect fifth, creating an unsettled feel to this chord type that should only be used sparingly, though they can add body to a chord stack and act as the basis of many lead lines.

Dominant Triads

The dominant chord is an impressive chord used to add movement in tonal music. It resolves back into its tonic chord by moving up one perfect fifth (second only to an octave as an interval in musical scales).

To create a dominant seventh chord, begin by stacking major triads followed by adding minor 7ths – 4 + 3. This gives the chord an added tension and drama that enhances its drama.

Minor seventh chords create dissonant dissonance that’s unresolved and discordant, often used in blues music to give an unsettling and disorienting feeling of movement that doesn’t necessarily come home. This type of chord creates tension without necessarily producing resolution in its music.

Doublings or open spacing do not alter the identification of triads and their chord symbols, with the exception of diminished chords (see chapter on that topic for details). The same identification principle also applies when using slash chord symbols with capital letters denoting pitch class of root note.

Sus Chords

Sus chords can add more texture and tension to your chord progressions, and are very simple to master. Simply take any major or minor chord voicing and layer a sus2 shape over it on the right hand; “sus” stands for suspended, meaning any notes left over from previous chords are replaced by the 2nd (or sometimes 4th) of scale note instead.

This technique was popularised in baroque ornamentation to produce dissonance between melodic lines before eventually reaching a consonant interval such as unison or perfect 5th. But in modern jazz (thanks to Herbie Hancock!), chords become autonomous entities within themselves and become their own entities.

Play them with a regular Maj7, Maj9 or Maj13 chord to add tension and interest to your progressions. But take care not to play too many notes close together as this could quickly lead to dissonant sounds.