Today I want to talk to you a little bit about chord extensions - the added notes on top of your standard major and minor chords that add some different flavours in a lot of the music we listen to. Specifically, I want to talk to you about how chord extensions are easily created by accident and how you might use those same happy accidents when composing your own pieces of music.
Imagine for a moment that you're in a band (if you're already in a band, less imagination required) and the guitar player is sitting in one corner just strumming away on a single chord. For the purposes of this scenario, let's imagine that it's a C major chord.
At the same time, the bass player is sitting in another corner, listening to that one chord that the guitarist is sending their way, and finding notes that seem to fit underneath that chord. The bass player can't really see the guitarist and it's too loud to talk, so they have to find these notes just by listening.
After a few random notes and some exploration, the bass player finds a note that works well. They play... any guesses?
Well, C would be the obvious choice, it's the root note of the chord! But no... the bass player is playing an A.
Go ahead and try it on the piano - a C major chord in the right hand and a low A bass note in the left hand. It sounds pretty great! And it should - you've just played a beautiful A minor 7th chord (Am7).
Scenarios like this happen often when musicians are jamming and trying out ideas. A guitarist might have a riff, and the bass player has an interesting take on what bass notes might appear underneath that riff. The smash of the chord and the bass note creates a whole new chord with a different name!
If the bass player played an F instead of an A, you'd end up with something called an F major 9th chord (Fmaj9), which sounds super fancy, but isn't at all difficult to play.
So the next time you're reading a songbook or looking at a chord chart and you see a complicated looking chord symbol that you're not sure how to play, see if you can work out if there's a simpler way of thinking about that chord as there might be a simple major or minor chord hiding in plain sight, disguised by a different bass note.
Things I've been watching/listening to this week: