All about chords, part 8 Online Guitar Lessons
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All About Chords, Part 8

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Darrin Koltow


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All About Chords, Part 8
CAGED 2 Chord Melody

by Darrin Koltow

Be sure and check out all of the lessons in the "All About Chords" series.

Part 1 - how harmony and chords work
Part 2 - the ii-V-I chord progression.
Part 3
- Arpeggios
Part 4
- The Blues Injection
Part 5 - CAGED - Form E
Part 6 - CAGED 2 - Form A
Part 7 - CAGED 2 - Form A - Arpeggios
Part 8 - CAGED 2 - Form A - Chord Melody
Part 9 - CAGED 2 - Blues Chord Melody

We're continuing to work through CAGED 2 in this segment of All About Chords. We've been working with a common chord progression in D major using only movable chord forms. And, we're doing this around the fifth fret.

We know how important it is to make music with our chord practicing, so the progression we play is one that's found in a *lot* of music: the ii-V-I, which I'll notate as "251." The 251 "flavor" we'll use in this lesson is the 1251. In D major, the 1251 translates to D, Em, A7, D.

In the last installment of All About Chords we covered arpeggios, including Blues arpeggios, which produced so much fun that the fire marshal had to be called in. The focus of this lesson is to serve up a *chord melody arrangement* of the 1251 progression.

Without further shampoo, let's dig into the exercise. We'll then go into the details of how it works and how to work the finger shapes for it afterwards. In making music, we play first and ask questions later. Here's the chord melody:

Gtr I
  Q Q Q  Q   Q  Q  Q  Q

  Q Q  Q  Q   Q  Q  Q  Q

  Q Q Q Q   Q Q  Q  Q

  Q  Q  Q  Q   Q  Q  Q  Q

Duration Legend
W-whole; H-half; Q-quarter; E-8th; S-16th; T-32nd

+ - note tied to previous
. - note dotted
.. - note double dotted

Duration letters will always appear directly above the note/fret number they represent the duration for. Duration letters with no fret number below them represent rests.

Get the Power Tab file for this progression here:

And get the MIDI here:

If you need the free and awesome Power Tab app, get it here:

Right hand stuff

Now that I've unloaded this exercise on you, I ought to mention that you won't be able to use strumming here. You'll use the Pick Fingerpick technique. Remember good ol' Pick? Get re-acquainted with him here:

Special ending

Before we get into explaining and exploring this puppy, notice that I've written a second, special ending for the exercise. Here's the second ending.

[The first 6 bars are the same as above]

  Q   Q  E  E  Q   E    E  E  E  E  E  E  E

  Q   Q  Q  Q       Q Q  H

The Power Tab and MIDI files are the same as those mentioned previously.

Thank you, Sergei Prokofiev, for providing the source of this special ending.

Exploring the CAGED 2 Chord Melody

Let's take a look at the first two bars of this exercise, especially the fingering used, and the choice of notes.

Keep in mind our main goal and lesser goals as you read this stuff: we're out to make music in a 1251 progression. And we're doing it with movable chord forms. We're mixing the arpeggios with the chords, so we can see how melody works with harmony. But we're really playing chords and melody together so we can create a complete arrangement of a tune for one guitar, so you can sound great without needing other people to play along.

Take a look at the D major chord form we're using in bars 1 and 2. Let's see it again, with a guide to what fingers to use.

|-7- finger 4
|-4- finger 1
|-5- finger 2

This chord is not a full chord. What's missing? The fifth, A. Guess what: we don't need it. Our goal is to play something that *sounds* like a D major. If that something has a D in the bass, and an F# somewhere above it, and nothing else on top, it will sound like a D major.

Where the heck did we come up with this chord form? It's based on the standard CAGED 2 form:


This form has an F# as the melody note, or the top note, but our simple arpeggio melody told us to put a D on top instead. For a clearer view of that melody, take a look at it without the chords:


(We do an octave switch in here, which I'll explain in a bit.)

To play a chord with a D on top we could have stayed with this form:


How does that sound to your ears? The F#, the sweet note, is missing. Because of that missing third, the chord is not a D major, but a power chord. It might be appropriate for playing rock, but we want to hear the sweet note, F#. So that means twisting the form to work the F# in.

The Octave jump

Now, about the octave jump. This occurs between the last note of bar 1 and first note of bar 2. We're still moving from note B to note D, but we're doing it without having to move our fretting hand higher up the neck. That's the point of switching octaves, in this exercise: to keep your fretting hand positioned around the fifth fret. We do this so we can focus on getting familiar with one CAGED position at a time. If we're playing at different points on the fretboard, we don't get this kind of concentrated learning.

But, at some point you will want to carry the melodic line to the higher frets. If you want to do that now, rather than hold you back, I'll give you the first two bars of an exercise that gets you to those higher frets:


After you see the fingering for that D major on the 10th fret, you might wish I had not given you this tab excerpt! But, here it is:

tab  fingering
10      3
10      3
11      4
--      --
--      --
--      --

This is what works for me, but you might prefer to use the first and second fingers. If your fingers don't take to this shape right away, go slowly, and work into it.

Fingering for Em

Let's look at bars three and four, with the Em. Are there any unusual chord shapes there? Are there even any *chords* in there? Yes, there's a triad in measure 4. Before that, on the first beat of measure 3, is this:

tab   fingering
---     ---
---     ---
---     ---
---     ---
-7-     -4-
-7-     -3-

Chord Hints

Do you remember this from the CAGED 1 lesson? It's not a full chord, but it implies an E chord. There's no third in it, though. But since we're playing in D major, when you hear the E and B notes right after the D major chord, your mind fills in the blanks and says "Oh. An E minor chord."

Also, look at the melody following that E-B interval; there's a G in there, which is in an E minor chord. So, we can get away with playing notes E and B to hint at E minor. You might call this keeping only the essential notes "economizing with chords."

But, that's not what you did with the D major!

I have a sneaking suspicion you may look back on the "chord hint" we created in the D major, with the chord hint we're doing in the Em bars, and say, "Wait a second! We created a whole new shape for D major just so we could play its third. But, in the E minor bars, we're not including the third. Also, you said we could leave out the fifth in the D major. So, how come we have it in the E minor?"

These are good questions. Let's answer 'em with these guidelines:

A chord ought to have its sweet note -- its third -- *if you can squeeze it in*.

The third ought *not* to be the bass note, but somewhere above it.

A chord ought to have its root in the bass.

If you can't get the root in the bass, the next best bass note is the fifth of the chord.

Remember, these are guidelines, not laws.

With the D major, our top melody note, D, happened to fall on the third string. This gave us the chance to work in the sweet note below that *and* still have a D, the root of the chord, in the bass.

Things are a bit different with the E minor. Look at where the melody note falls: on string 5. That means that if we're determined to play that E note on string 5, we only have one other string, string 6, to help us create our chord hint. What note are you gonna choose to hint at that E minor? Choosing from among the E, G, and B notes in E minor, you see we already have E, so that leaves B or G for the 6th string. What's it gonna be?

Look back at the guidelines. Your ears will be better able to recognize an E minor chord if you pick the B for the bass. That's the fifth of the chord. If you put a G in the bass, your ear will think something like, "Hmm: that's a kind of G chord." Would it sound *bad*? No. But it won't sound like an *E minor* chord.

Okay, on to the other chords in the exercise.

The E minor in bar 4 is pretty normal: it's an E minor triad. The fingering is what you might expect:

tab  fingering
--     --
-5     3
-4     1
-5     2
--     --
--     --

Let's have a look at A7 in bars in five and six.

-2- Finger 1
-4- Finger 3
-3- Finger 2

This one might need some explaining. The top note, E, is dictated by the melody, but how did we come up with the C# and G notes below it? Why not include the A or open E?

This was a judgement call. I encourage you to experiment and explore hinting at A7 by using different notes on strings 5 and 6. The notes I chose for the A7 go outside the guidelines for chord hinting given above: neither the root, A, nor the fifth, E, is in the bass.

But, the sweet note, C#, is on string 5. And most important, the interval that makes you say, "Ah! An A7" is in here: the tritone interval of C# and G. That's why I chose these notes for us to play. Remember to experiment and go with the sounds *you* dig.

The remaining chord shapes and fingerings are pretty clear and standard. But, if you find your fingers are twisted into pretzels after working through the tab, drop me a line and I'll help you untangle them.

A note about practicing

The exercise we explored is only one chord melody arrangment out of infinite arrangements for learning the CAGED 2 form. Once you can play the exercise smoothly, *change the arrangement*, including changing the melody, rhythm and other aspects. Most of all, make your arrangements fun to listen to and play.

© 2002 Darrin Koltow, All rights reserved

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