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Shell Voicings - Introduction

Tutorial: Shell Voicings
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Shell Voicings - Roots on the 6th String

Hi there everyone and welcome to this tutorial on Shell Voicings.

Shell voicings are chords which contain the minimum number of voices or notes required to outline a particular harmonic sound. In other words, if I wanted to play a Cmaj7 chord for example, a shell voicing would contain the minimum number of notes required to get the sound of a Cmaj7.

Today we'll be looking at shell voicings for 4 types of chord, all of which will be 7th chords. The 4 chord types are:

Major 7th chords

Minor 7th chords

Dominant 7th chords

Minor 7th Flat 5 chords

Believe it or not, we only need three notes to outline each of these chords even though these chords normally all contain four unique notes. This is because we can omit the 5th from the chord and still retain the signature sound of each chord. In other words, its function in a chord progression will still be the same so long as we play the root, 3rd and 7th of each chord. The 5th is not needed. If we omit the 3rd or the 7th then our ears become less sure of what chord type we're trying to outline and the root is needed for reference. If we were playing with a bass player we could even omit the root and just play the 3rd and 7th of each chord. This happens a great deal in blues and jazz guitar playing!

So, each shell voicing is going to be constructed from a root, 3rd and 7th giving us chords that are both easy to remember and to play. Nice!

In this tutorial we'll learn the shapes required to play each chord and put them into chord progressions right away. At the end of the tutorial I'll show you how you can expand your chord vocabulary further using these shell voicings as a starting point.

Enjoy this tutorial and ask away if you have any questions in the forum!

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