IAN STEPHENSON on Tapping: Lesson #10

Left Hand 9ths

In Lesson 7 I talked about the right hand 9th position, and that it was VERY important. This time I'm going to elaborate a bit more on the subject, looking at 9th chords played with the left hand. Most of the ideas may not be strictly tapping, but they oftern are used to underpin tapping ideas.

We used a left hand ninth chord in the Flow my Tears example from last time:


                            __                     O   
                        |  \   | .  #                    
|----------11-------|   |---@--|--#-----------------------------
|-------9-----------|   |      / .              O
|----7--------------|   |-----/------#--------------------------
|-0-----------------|   |    /     #
Ninth chords, contructed by stacking 5ths (E-B, B-F#), are excellent chords for use on bass, because they have harmonic complexity (ie they sound nice) without containing any clusters of notes which sound muddy at low frequencies. The very open sound is ideally suited to bass, and produces in interesting tonal background on which you can develop other ideas.

[Technically these aren't 9th chords, as they don't contain 3rd's or 7th's - prehaps E5+9 would be a better description of the above chord, but I'll stick with E9.]

Perhaps the most famous use of ninth chords is the Police's Every Breath You Take. Simplifying the guitar line, first without the ninths, we get something like:

  B                                   Ab               

 E                  D                 B
Play this using your standard technique (fretting with the left, and picking with your right), until your left hand is comfortable with the stretches, then try playing the line entirly using hammer ons.

Now, stretch out your little finger to get those ninths - this may be a problem at first (If you find it too much of a stretch, then transpose the pattern up a few frets - once you're comfortable move it down a few frets to make it more difficult):

  B9                                  Ab9               

 E9                 D9                B9
Once you've mastered that, you'll find that a lot of stuff starts to make sense. The chord crops up over and over again - particularly in Stu Hamm style stuff. For example, here's part of "Surely the Best" (also found in Quahogs - for those that don't know Stu's wife is called Shirley Best).

  ^...^9th                                              ^.......^9th

  ^...^9th            ^...^9th 
This also provides a good exercise in right hand slides.

We also find more 9ths in "Terminal Beach", though some of these are best played using both hands:

                          ^..........^ 9th

  ^.....^                         ^.....^


[This transcription by 
Check the archives for the full version of this piece.]
The basic tonality of the piece is set by 9ths in the left hand.

Because the 9th chord we're using is so open, you're free to add extra notes into the chord with your right hand. Experiment by playing some simple progressions using 9th chords, and then expand this with new notes above the basic chord.

Once you start looking for them, these chords are very common in this style of music. Look out for them, and you'll have a good start on breaking down pieces into managable chunks.

End of Lesson #10. [Ian Stephenson on Tapping: Lesson#11 Ian Stephenson on Tapping: Lesson#9] [BassWork Index]

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