DulciTheory Newsletter -- Issue #9: Fingerboard Surveys and Chord Formulas for the Key of G: A minor Chords

INTRO

Last issue we mapped out the G Chords (I) in the D-A-D tuning. This issue, we'll continue along with the scale tone triads of the Key of G, concentrating on A minor (ii)

CONTENTS:

  • 1.) Am (ii) CHORDS
  • 2.) CHORD FORMULAS
  • 3.) LOCATING INDIVIDUAL CHORDS
  • 4.) CHORD SHAPES
  • 5.) WORKING OUT THE REST OF THE CHORDS IN G

Am (ii) CHORDS

Here are the three notes comprising an A minor triad mapped out at all their possible locations on the fingerboard, up to the 10th fret. Remember that we have NOT re-tuned our dulcimer to fit the key -- instead we are going to learn to play in the KEY of G WHILE TUNED D-A-D.

(notice that there is an "X" where the D's should be just to the left of the nut. This is like a place-holder to fill those spaces, but it also indicates that this note is not one of the ingredients in our A minor chord):

X|----------E|---------|----|------A|------|--C|---|---|----E|----|--|
A|-----------|---------|----|------E|------|---|---|--A|-----|----|--|
X|----------E|---------|----|------A|------|--C|---|---|----E|----|--|

Now, you might ask what this chart will do for you. This is a VERY good question, actually, and if you can understand the reasoning behind it, you will be able to easily construct your own reference charts for whatever chords you are interested in.

CHORD FORMULAS

Chord Formulas are a good place to start. They give you the basic ingredients, or pitches, in a chord. All of our 3-note "triads" have three ingredients, and for Am the ingredients are A, C, and E.

So the chart above simply maps EACH AND EVERY OCCURRENCE OF A, C, and E across the entire fingerboard up to the 10th fret. Now, this information doesn't have IMMEDIATE PRACTICAL VALUE for you as a dulcimer player trying to play in G while you're tuned D-A-D. However, over the long term, you will find out that knowing where your chord tones REALLY HELPS.

LOCATING INDIVIDUAL CHORDS

Getting to the practical, then, we need to locate individual chord positions from the complete Am survey chart. Probably the most important chords, at least to start, would be those containing all three pitches in the A minor Chord Formula: A, C, and E. Let us start from low to high.

Here are two complete A minor Chords in TAB:

  Am   Am/C

--4----6-- 
--4----7--
--6----8--

Now....refer back to the survey chart. Do you see how each of these lower-fret chords contains the three essential ingredients?

[did you notice how I labelled the chords above with their standard pop symbols? You don't see it too much in folk music, but I labelled the second chord in "slash notation", which can be read as: "A minor with a C bass".]

CHORD SHAPES

Since we need a C for a complete Am chord, and we don't have many C notes in the lower frets of the dulcimer (we have to wait all the way to fret 6!), we don't get a complete set of chord shapes like we did for the G Chords. Anyway, here are a few of the individual voicings in TAB:

-----4----6----6----8----
-----4----4----7----7----
-----6----4----8----6----

WORKING OUT THE REST OF THE CHORDS IN G

At this point, there should be nothing stopping you from working out the rest of the chords in the key of G, keeping in mind that many of these are the same chords we already know for the key of D. The main difference is that the central REFERENCE POINT, TONIC CENTER, OR "I" is now G -- instead of D. This is a crucial difference when you are playing in G while tuned D-A-D: each chord now has a different FUNCTION when related to D.

Next issue we'll take a look at some chord progressions for the key of G (while tuned D-A-D), so you can get some practice actually playing in some key other than D.