Double Stops and 3-Part Chords

(written in 1984)

A double stop consists of playing two notes at the same time. In this lesson, I will explain some double and triple stop techniques.

Next time you’re soloing and you run into a brick wall, try employing double stops. Descending thirds is a good one. For example, if you’re in the key of E Mixolydian (major scale flat 7: E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D), start with C# on the D string and E on the G string. Now you’re going to move in parallel diatonic thirds. This means you’re playing the intervals of either a third or a minor third, whichever it takes in order to stay diatonic to (in the key of) E Mixolydian.

Moving down the neck, your next choice of notes would be B and D. Then A and C#, etc.

If you sit for three or four hours and play nothing but 3rds all over the place, eventually you will come up with some great things. Try muting them with the palm of your right hand, jumping octaves, and alternate picking them.

After you get 3rds pretty happening, try 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, octaves, 9ths, 10ths, 11ths, 12ths, etc. If you spend some time on each of these, it will definitely show in your playing.

Another similar technique is the use of triple stops. This is effective when playing chords or comping. Take a diatonic triad on the top three strings and move around in a diatonic parallel motion. For example, if you were in the key of E and were playing a B minor triad (voiced F#, B, D, 10th position) moving downward, your next triad would be an A (voiced E, A, C#). The next chord could be an E triad (voiced E, G#, B). Then go to a D triad (voiced D, F#, A). You can use this technique with chords voiced in 4ths, also.

One thing to be careful about when playing through these chords is how you resolve them. Experiment!

You don’t have to know the names of these chords, although it’s nice to learn what they’re called.

Try it with restricting yourself to three notes per chord; then try four notes per chord. Try using only certain strings, etc. String a whole bunch of these chords together, move the positionings and basically just experiment. You’ll never get bored.

The voicing of a chord refers to the order of the notes in relation to the scale. For example, a G chord in open position is voiced 1, 3, 5, 1, 3, 1. This means the first note of the chord is the first note of the G major scale, the second note of the chord is the third scale degree, the third note of the chord is the fifth scale degree, and so on.

Another way to come up with chords you’ve never played is to write down a series of numbers and use them as a voicing to a chord. Take the numbers 1, 3, 6 and 5. That spells out a major 6th chord. Use a string of numbers like a telephone number (777-1369). If you were to play all these notes in this order, it wouldn’t sound very good. As a matter of fact, there aren’t even seven strings on the guitar, hey. [Note: these lessons were written in 1984]. So, take the last four numbers. That spells out a nice chord. From there, you can alter it to find that lost chord you so earnestly seek.

Some people bet on lotteries in this fashion. We build chords.