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Episode 52 – Interview With Kostas Vaporidis

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Greek guitarist player, teacher and composer Kostas Vaporidis has joined the GMI team on our new website for guitar players titled GMI Premium. Kostas talks about Greek music, Danish Kings and the problem with Youtube!

Kostas Vaporidis

 

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Upper Voicings For Guitar

WHAT ARE UPPER VOICINGS?

Context

If you have ever looked at weird named dominant chords, or come to that major or minor chords and thought, how do you play over those chords then this article is for you.

For example, look at the musical idea below and take particular notice of the second bar (measure).

upper voicings example for guitarists

You may have come across chords like this, but how exactly do you deal with them in a musical sense? More than this, how do you go about playing an arpeggio over such a chord?

Route one would be to simple take an A flat seven arpeggio and then flatten the fifth note then add in the flattened ninth note. In the following diagram, you can see one particular working out of using this method.upper voicing arpeggios for guitar

As you will probably notice, the second arpeggio is quite difficult to play and is also not that easy to remember for moving around the fretboard or finding the shape in other keys. As well as this, these odd shape will need to be learned all over the guitar neck.

So, what are the actual notes that make up A flat seven flat five/flat nine?

A flat (root) – C (third) – D (flattened fifth) – G flat (flattened seventh) – A (flattened ninth). We will come back to this example later on, but for now let’s understand what upper voicings are and how they are constructed.

INTRODUCING UPPER VOICINGS

Upper voicings, simply put, is where one chord is played on top of another. You can see three examples immediately below. You will notice that unlike “slash” voicings where there is a diagonal line between the upper chord and the lower bass note, with upper voicings, the line is horizontal. In this case “both” upper and lower entities are considered chordal.

polychord examples for guitar

Often, upper voicings will be referred to as “polychords”. These naming conventions are fairly loose, however, some people insist that the term upper voicings  should only be used when the lower chord is stripped back to its core notes but can still function as the original chord. This technique is used to avoid duplication with notes in the upper chord.

For example, with regards dominant seventh chords, if we look at the middle example shown below, the “E7” chord would be stripped back to its tri-tone; D and G sharp notes. These two notes are all that is needed for the lower chord (E7) to function as a dominant seventh.

In this particular case, however, the player may well play the root of E7 – E and the flattened seventh “D” and miss out the G sharp in the lower chord avoiding the duplication of this note which is also found within the F minor chord but is spelt with its enharmonic equivalent “A flat”.

MAKING THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CHORD SYMBOLS

To be able to use upper voicings effectively, you do need to understand what their respective chord symbol would be. If we look at the three examples shown in the last image above the chord symbols associated with these three chords would be:

polychord examples for guitarLet’s look at each chord example in turn:

Example 1. C Major over a D minor chord – the C Major notes would be heard and function as upper partials to the underlying D minor sonority. The notes in C minor would therefore function as follows – C as the flat 7th of D minor, E as the 9th of D minor and G as the 11th of D minor.

Example 2. F minor over E7 – the F minor notes function – F as the flattened ninth of E7, A flat as the 3rd of E7 and C as the sharpened 5th of E7. Note that the 5th in E7 is omitted so as not to create a clash with the sharpened fifth in the upper structure.

Example 3. D augmented over C7 – the D aug notes function – D as the 9th of C7, F sharp as the sharp eleven (or flattened fifth) of C7 and A sharp as the flattened seventh of C7. Note that the 5th in C7 is omitted so as not to create a clash with the sharpened fifth in the upper structure.

HOW DOES THIS HELP?

One of the ways that people learn guitar, especially when considering complex harmonic and melodic structures is through visualization. By using the cumulative method of learning where you take known structures such as the one shown at the top of the page, then start altering, it just makes life very difficult.

By using upper structures, we can address a very wide range of complex sounds by utilizing simple triadic voicings and arpeggios we already know.

Study the diagram below. If you look at the notes held within the red dotted lines, you’ll see that they are just simple minor arpeggios and in most cases, make up minor chords that in most cases, you’ll already know.

upper voicing arpeggios

Now, look at the chord that you would be playing over – C7 flat 5/sharp 9. Now, not all of these ideas are going to be used by you as some are just plain awkward and difficult. However, you will find many of them are and keep in mind that you are combining a C7 arpeggio (no fifth) with an E flat minor arpeggio to get this complex sound.

Hopefully you get the whole point of this article which is to help you realise that less really is more when you are considering complex chords and melodic lines and that a world of melodic and harmonic expression is there for players which in most cases builds on their existing knowledge.

JUST SCRATCHING THE SURFACE

As we went into lockdown in early 2020, I started writing a book that would take fifteen months to finish. Not only was it a huge undertaking (the final page count was 362 pages), but I also played all the musical examples, solos and backing tracks that came to over a hour and a half’s worth of music.

The book went on to be called UPPER VOICINGS, SYNONYMS & SLASH VOICINGS FOR JAZZ GUITAR. Having been released in late August 2021, it has now sold across the world: USA, UK, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Spain and Canada.

This book is also available as a spiral wire bound flat lie version which can be bought directly from the GMI Online Shop by clicking Wire Bound Upper Voicings Book.

Here is a brief content list of what is in this book.

SECTION ONE – FOUR CHAPTERS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING TOPICS:

Stacking Chords, Chord formulae, Chord extension & alteration, Triads as upper structures, Pseudo scales, Inferring altered dominants, Generating chords across the neck, Chord & line superimposition, Voice leading, Vagrant harmony, Inferring altered dominants, Single line solo ideas, Tri-tones & flat five concepts, Chromatic movement, Deconstructing altered dominants, Synonyms, Movable solo lines, Cascading chords, Motif development, Sidestep line movement.

SECTION TWO:

A three chapter lick library of 70 original lick ideas that demonstrate each upper structure voicing category. All licks are offered in mp3 format as well as including narration from the author on the points of interest and technical challenges of the line.

Each lick is provided in musical and TAB notation. Every chord type includes arpeggio patterns across the fretboard with large format easy to view chords included with each lick example.

SECTION THREE:

Three chapters offering original jazz guitar solo examples over three well known jazz standard progressions. Full analysis from a comparative, melodic and harmonic viewpoint is included. Solos are fully notated in music and TAB with chords provided in large easy to view format.

SUPPORTING DOWNLOAD

Over one and a half hours of mp3 files included. Section 1 music examples, Section 2 demonstration licks with author’s technical narration and Section 3 which includes complete solo demonstrations as well as a wide range of backing tracks for you to practice over the three included sequences. There are one hundred and sixty nine mp3 files in total.

If you have struggled to play over complex sounding chords, or your baffled by how you can possibly learn so many chord shapes and arpeggios, I know that this book will be a key to unlocking many musical doors.

If you are ready both technically and musically to do so, Upper Structures, Synonyms and Slash Voicings For Jazz Guitar will lead you to a higher level of musical expression from both a melodic and harmonic standpoint.

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Episode 51 – Trevor Gordon Hall’s Latest Album Release

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Prolific guitarist and composer Trevor Gordon Hall has just released his latest album “This Beautiful Chaos”. Ged Brockie from GMI discusses this and many other things including meditation with one of American’s rising acoustic stars

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Christmas Carols For Guitar 2 Released By GMI

CHRISTMAS CAROLS FOR GUITAR 2

After the runaway success of the James Akers Christmas Carols For Guitar, we’ve now released the aptly named Graded arrangements 2. With 12 more of your all time favorite Christmas songs for acoustic, fingerstyle and classical guitar players.

The release of the latest collection of twelve Christmas carols for guitar by guitarist James Akers, sees an even bigger book (now 94 pages) with amazing arrangements and a perfect compliment to the first book in the series this time in 2020.

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Episode 50 – GMI Podcast Retrospective

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Not Exactly In The Blink Of An Eye, The GMI Podcast Finally Hits Fifty

GMI - Guitar & Music Institute Podcasts For Guitar Players

Our podcast has now hit fifty episodes and we thought it be a great chance to relive some of the funnier and also poignant moments from the array of wonderful musicians, inventors and those connected with the music industry.

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TWO NEW BASS RESOURCE BOOKS RELEASED BY GMI

TWO NEW BASS GUITAR BLANK TAB & CHORD BOX BOOKS

GMI is delighted to announce the launch of not one, but two new resource books for bass guitarists. Both are derivatives of resource books we created for guitarists, but we are already seeing a fast uptake from bassists around the world.

They are well designed but not expensive and we’ve sell a growing amount around the world and we’re always looking to expand our range.

BLANK BASS CHORD DIAGRAMS BOOK

First up is a book we feel should have been brought out years ago, but we’ve been so busy writing and launching new music it fell by the wayside.

Blank bass chord book

 

Each page of the 100 page book includes 12 chord boxes that are six frets long. As we say in the book copy, no more bits and pieces of paper with odd chords or scales here and there.

 

 

 

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Episode 49 – Music Lawyers: Who Needs Them?

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If Your Only Thought Regarding Lawyers & Music Is That They Deal With All The Bad Things In The Music Business…Think Again!

It’s often said that musicians are pigeon holed by professionals. A range of stereotypes come to mind regarding laziness, unpredictability and flakiness. The thing is, it’s true both ways. Many musicians feel anyone connected with business and legal matters are not to be trusted. If you’re a musician, you need to listen to this interview with a practicing music lawyer. If you do have the former opinion, the following podcast will hopefully help change your mind.

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Sea Shanties For Easy Guitar Released By GMI – Guitar & Music Institute

Sea Shanties For Easy Guitar Released For Guitarists & Guitar Teachers

How To Play a Sea Shanty

SEA SHANTIES ARE MORE POPULAR NOW THAN EVER. NOW YOU CAN PLAY AND SING ALONG WITH THEM IN NO TIME!

Sea Shanties For Guitar Players

Sea Shanties For Easy Guitar offers you ten of probably the most popular sea shanty songs that can be played on guitar. Created by Ged Brockie, the sea shanty phenomenon is exploding around the world and now you can learn to play these wonderful songs quickly and with the backing tracks provided.

  • Play the chords and sing along with these wonderful songs from Sailors the world over. Sea Shanties For Easy Guitar offers you:

  • All songs include lyrics and guitar chord boxes.

  • Guitar chords and lyrics also provided in large easy to read text.

  • The songs are all TAB’D out for you to play the melody. No sight reading skills needed.

  • All ten songs are supported by free downloadable backing tracks and example rhythms for you to hear and learn to play from.

  • Each song comes with a short background history.

  • Help section for reading rhythms plus pages of extra chords for you to learn and play.

sea shanty on guitar

SONGS INCLUDED:

  1. What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor

  2. The Wellerman

  3. Leave Her Johnny Leave Her

  4. Spanish Ladies

  5. Blow The Man Down

  6. South Australia

  7. A Drop Of Nelson’s Blood

  8. Don’t Forget Your Old Shipmates

  9. Randy Dandy Oh

  10. The Banks Of Newfoundland

Buy this 74 page book as a flat lie wire bound version direct from the GMI GUITAR SHOP by clicking HERE or buy on Amazon by clicking the buttons below.

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Episode 48 – Help Musicians: A Pandemic Lifeline!

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It Is Not An Overstatement To Say That The Charity “Help Musicians” Have Made The Difference Between Many Musicians Surviving Or Going Under Across The UK.

The pandemic has hit so many people in all walks of live very hard. For many in the arts, the actual foundations that underpin their lives has been taken away; the opportunity to perform and earn a living.

Help Musicians are one of several non governmental options available. If you are a musician or you know someone who is and they need financial and or other help, then please listen and share this podcast.

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