How to Spice Up Open Chords

Open chords in music occur when it is possible to insert a chord tone between other tones in the chord. Closed position occurs when chords are stacked in such a way that no other chord tone fits between notes of a stacked chord. Open chords provide a more spacious sound, while closed chords are generally sharper and brighter in texture. Making basic open chords more interesting is a technique that all composers should learn.

Step 1 Write out an open chord on your staff paper that you would like to make more interesting. For our purposes, we will begin with a C major chord. Make sure that the chord is spaced so additional chord tones can fit between each voice.

Step 2 Determine the mood that you want to create with your open chords. By simply re-voicing the chords, you can achieve a variety of effects. For a dark timbre, place the chord tones low in the bass. For a comfortable, casual timbre, place the chord tones in the middle register of the instrument. For a bright, cheerful texture, place the chord tones in the higher register of the instrument.

Step 3 Proceed to dress the chord further by considering what type of background elements will exist to support the open chords. Using fragments, or short excerpts, from the main melody will enable you to add additional structural significance to the chord. Think about your melody and see if there are any short ideas within the melody that can function independently. If there are, you can add those figures beneath the chord to help add additional structure.

Step 4 Take your basic three-note chord and add additional tones to it. Some commonly used tones include 7ths, 9ths and 11ths. These additional tones will change the basic sound of the chord and will help to create a more interesting open chord. It is best to add the additional tone in the top voice. To find the 7th, 9th or 11th, count the desired number of pitches from the root of the chord. In C, a 9th would be a D.

Step 5 Create chord progressions that work with your open chords. In general, keep the common tone between chords in the same voice. If you have a diminished chord, you must move the diminished interval by step to the next voice. Diminished intervals have to resolve. Finally, use the rule of the shortest motion to move from one chord to the next.

Study music composition lessons to get advanced instruction in improving your chords.


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