WHY USE TWO HAND CHORDS AND CLUSTERS?

Because they sound great! Two-hand chords and clusters allow you to play voicings on the guitar that would normally be impossible to play. Unless, that is, you have more than one guitarist to work with, or more than five fingers that are abnormally long. And two-hand guitar voicings are done without the percussive ping you get from tapping on the fretboard.

Many beautiful chords are small and harmonically minimal by comparison, but the chords included here are the more lush, rich, thickly voiced kind. That doesn’t mean that they are intended to replace conventional chords, only that they provide a harmonic supplement to traditional guitar chord vocabulary. And they are yours for free!

HOW IT WORKS

Whenever there is an indication to use the same numbered finger in a particular voicing (a need for two 1st fingers in the same chord, for example), use the left hand for the numbers furthest to the left (lower frets, lower pitches) and the right hand for the numbers furthest to the right (higher frets, higher pitches).

Here’s an example:

To play the first of the above F major chord “clusters,” use your left hand to fret the notes on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd strings. Now press on the 7th fret of the “D” string with the 1st finger of your right hand, and press on the 10th fret of the “A” string with the thumb of your right hand. Then, strum upward with the pinky (4th finger) of your right hand; slowly for a cascading, harp-like effect, quickly for a more traditional chording sound. Be sure to maintain sufficient pressure and finger angles in order to produce a clean sound.

Listen to the first chord cluster of the F major clusters

HEAR “TWO HAND CHORD CLUSTERS” ON YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnnffA8v6X4

Fingerings for You Tube video “Two Hand Chord Clusters”:

MORE ON FINGERINGS

My fingerings are only suggestions; use whatever fingering makes sense and is comfortable for you. For the right hand fretting, I find that the 1st and 2nd fingers, and the thumb, are the most commonly used. Depress strings with the right hand the same as you normally would do so when using the fingers of your left hand. The letter “T” indicates the use of the thumb of your right hand. The letter “L,” though rarely used, would indicate the use of your lip. You will find it useful to keep the nails on your right hand, including your thumb nail, short in order to get a clean sound.

CHORD LABELS

Chords and clusters are labeled by the highest pitch. For example, the label “9th” next to an A minor chord indicates that the A minor chord is voiced with the 9th, “B,” as the highest pitch. I’ve made no attempt to provide an exhaustive list of chord and cluster possibilities; there’s plenty of room for you to come up with your own voicings. The categories I’ve placed all chords and clusters in follow the scales upon which their pitches are derived.

WHAT IS REQUIRED OF YOU?

Nothing more than curiosity, creativity and a good ear. On the other hand, knowing a little about jazz chord voicings, voice leading, chord progressions, chord embellishments and alterations, and intervals might also prove useful. Good luck and good music!

Steve Montgomery – Summer of 2011

CONTACT ME

Sharing your comments, questions and personal applications is greatly appreciated.

gatosr@sbcglobal.net

FEEDBACK

Mr. Scofield,

In 1982 when I was 19, I showed you a couple of pieces I had written for two hand chording. For the final bass note in one of the tunes I used my lip while fretting with both hands. I thought you might be interested in the site I’m currently putting up on the topic of playing guitar chords with two hands. It includes thumbnails of chords and chord clusters that require the use of both hands fretting at the same time. It also includes some explanatory text and some audio samples of me using the technique on some of my arrangements and originals. Do you mind visiting the site and letting me know what you think?

Steve Montgomery

Hi Steve

Yes, I remember! . . . 1982, wow . . . time flies. I checked out your website, it’s great! . . . you’ve got me thinking . . . Thanks and good luck with your music!

John Scofield

_______________________________________________

Steve,

I’m delightfully impressed with what you’re doing. The playing is exquisite and your chord-structure is gorgeous.  I love “Home.” It is simple and lovely. I also loved “Lulu by Carlight” and “Rainbow,” too. I listened to all of your bites and was really glad to hear what you are doing. I’d love to see you go into the studio and do a really good CD of your playing. I’m also curious about how you tune your guitar. You are doing some really interesting things that require much more than just a typical EADGBE tuning!

Thank you for sharing your amazing creations with me.

Rob Landes

_______________________________________________

Hi Steve,

I like the sound of these chords, but I was having trouble getting the “thumb” note to ring because I have a long thumbnail.

Best,

Ben Monder 

_______________________________________________

Very interesting 2 hand voicings! It seems that you’ve built a whole world of thinking about new jazz concepts with this technique!
Hippolyte Bergamotte 
_______________________________________________

Hi Steve,

I checked your site, great collection of voicings. Certainly solves the problem of reaching close voicing inversions, not to mention various kinds of clusters. This inspires me to experiment for sure.

Thanks and all the best,

Steve Cardenas

_______________________________________________

Steve,

I love your stuff man…you should put this in book format and sell it…quickly…I’ll be the first to buy a copy. I would like to explore some of these sounds…and find the ones that work for me. Great stuff.

Thanks,
Thaddeus Hogarth

_______________________________________________

Steve,

I got a chance to check out your website.  Very intriguing!  I really enjoyed listening to the mp3 clips.  Many of the voicings have a harp-like quality to them, so I think you’re really onto something.  I’d enjoy hearing more mp3 clips of your voicings!

Congrats on the site, and best of luck to you,

Scott Hardy

_______________________________________________

Steve,
i just lost myself in your audio clips. Far freakin’ out! Seriously, they are beautiful and compelling. Your works should be made available in book form. If there is a book in print already, i want one.
Schell Barkely

_______________________________________________

Hello Steve,

You have a very unique sound that I enjoy listening to. I’m sure part of it is your technique, but I always believed that those kinds of techniques are born out of musical urges.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance,

Eddie Lewis

_______________________________________________

Hi, Steve.

I checked out your website and was very impressed with your playing and the sounds you get with your two-handed technique. You get some sounds unlike any I’ve heard. I’ll check out more of your site when I get some time and get back to you.

Thanks for getting in touch,

Tom Lippincott

_______________________________________________

Steve,

I read thru your instructions and think they are quite good in explaining. This is a wealth of material as you cover all the chord types. The fact you want to share it with people is both kind and generous.

Byron Atkins

_______________________________________________

Hi Steve,

I listened to all of your music on your site – really beautiful music.  I love your style and the sound of your two hand voicings. My favorite tracks are Be, Deep Feelings and Travis. I also love the atmosphere and lush effect the voicings create on Rainbow, and the arrangement of Walking in a Winter Wonderland with All blues is awesome.
Thanks for sharing your page, very honest and sincere music.  I’ve passed the link on to guitarist buddies of mine.
Thanushka Lewkebandara

_______________________________________________

Your voicings are very interesting. I haven’t heard anything like it before. Sounds great, inspiring!

Alf Carlsson

_______________________________________________

Wow, thank you Steve for your great blog! Very interesting ideas and beautiful music; well, isn’t that the most important thing after all?

Guelda

_______________________________________________

Hey, Steve —

This looks very nice. It’s understandable — I feel like I could try your instructions and get decent results . . .  even for a trumpet player!   = )

Nice to hear from you,

Carol Morgan

_______________________________________________

Very interesting to read about your dual-hand technique. I like the “strumming with the pinky” part.

Cheers,

Ilya

_______________________________________________

Steve,

The world needs more marching band music.

Walter

_______________________________________________

Hey Steve,

I took a look at your blog, very nice. Did you come up with the two hand guitar voicings yourself?

In Christ,

Mike

_______________________________________________

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the good feedback. Yeah, I developed the idea on my own in the early 80’s with two seeds to push things along: (1) I was in a jazz big band that was playing some pretty difficult pieces, but since our piano player quit at an inopportune moment, I had to attempt to cover some of his parts. One tune by Thad Jones had a chord that went like this (from top to bottom): F#, D, B, G, F#. This is impossible normally. But then (2) I thought about how Eddie Van Halen was using two hands (tapping and for a different style) and figured maybe I could use both hands to play some of the jazz piano chords and just kept tinkering with it.

Then I went to Boston (the land of Berklee and 10 thousand guitarists) and compiled a bunch of two hand chords and wrote some pieces for the technique. While I was there I met a 20th Century composer, Merton Brown, and interested him in writing a couple of pieces for the technique (they were pretty difficult but also unique, as far as I was aware, for guitar music of the time). Merton was in on the second wave of atonal composers. He roomed with John Cage (!) was buddies with Lou Harrison (the guy that finished some of Charles Ives’ works), studied with Carl Ruggles, was favorably reviewed by Virgil Thompson, and hung out with a host of other movers and shakers of that style and period. Merton wrote a kind of delicate, minimalist atonal music that could fool you into thinking it was tonal. He was clearly influenced by the music of Duke Ellington and George Gershwin. I was very lucky to have known him and proud to have introduced him to the solo works of pianist Art Tatum.

While I was in Boston (still early 80’s) I was introduced to the music of John Scofield and he became my new favorite guitarist, although Jim Hall was a very close second. I went up to Scofield on the break of one of his gigs and told him I’d like to show him how my two hand chording worked and how it was different from what Stanley Jordan was doing. Scofield said sure, come to Berklee the next day and show me what you’re doing. The next day I was real nervous but I played a piece for him that I’d written that used both hands. He said he liked the song and that if I kept at it I might have something in 10 years or so. As a 19 year old this wasn’t very encouraging, but now that I’m 50, I get a kick out of the comment and think it was a good one (both humbling and accurate).

I’ve looked around for someone doing the same thing so that I could trade ideas and learn from them, but I haven’t found anyone so far. I know there are lots of tappers out there, and lots of guys doing excellent stuff with artificial harmonics, but my chords seem a bit different. Some truly great players that have a bag of tricks and that I’d love to sit down with and show them how I do chords (Ted Greene, Alan Holdsworth, Phillip DeGrue, Pat Metheny, Lenny Breau, Phil Keaggy, etc.) are unfortunately also pretty hard to get a hold of.

I really don’t mind whether or not I get a lot of traffic at this blog; my goal is to make the technique available to other guitarists and maybe get some feedback, or maybe get the chance to hear how someone else might apply it. So please tell anyone that you feel might be interested. I understand I’m not the end all, and I’d love to see what others can do with this idea.

Sorry for the excessive amount of self-absorption,

Steve Montgomery

_______________________________________________

MUSIC SAMPLES THAT CAN BE FOUND AFTER THE CHORD AND CLUSTER FINGERINGS BELOW:

Be

Deep Feelings (intro)

Deep Feelings (solo accompaniment)

Home

Jesus

Breathe

Lulu by Carlight

How He Loves You and Me

Come Home

Travis

Rainbow

There is

Try

Angels

Silent Night

Snow

For Emily

Heart Failure

Star

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

_______________________________________________

DIATONIC BASED CHORDS AND CLUSTERS

Fingerings for G major chords

Listen to G major chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for F major clusters

Listen to F major clusters

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for A minor chords 

Listen to A minor chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for D minor clusters

Listen to D minor clusters

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for D7 chords

Listen to D7 chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for F7 clusters

Listen to F7 clusters

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for G major7 b5th chords

Listen to G major7 b5 chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for G major7 b5 clusters

Listen to G major7 b5 clusters

_______________________________________________

“JAZZ” MELODIC MINOR BASED CHORDS AND CLUSTERS

Fingerings for A minor major 7th chords

Listen to A minor major 7th chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for F minor major 7th clusters

Listen to F minor major 7th clusters

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for Am7b5 chords

Listen to Am7b5 chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for Dm7b5 clusters

Listen to Dm7b5 clusters

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for D7 altered chords (dominant 7th chords based on the “jazz” melodic minor scale that include a b5th, #5th, b9th, and #9th)

Listen to D7 altered chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for E7 altered clusters (dominant 7th chords based on the “jazz” melodic minor scale that include a b5th, #5th, b9th, and #9th)

Listen to E7 altered clusters

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for D7 “nonaltered” chords (dominant 7th chords based on the “jazz” melodic minor scale which include a b5th)

Listen to D7 nonaltered chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for Bb7 nonaltered clusters (dominant 7th clusters based on the “jazz” melodic minor scale which include a b5th)

Listen to Bb7 nonaltered clusters

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for Ab major#5  chords

Listen to Ab major#5 chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for Ab major#5 clusters

Listen to Ab major#5 clusters

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for G7sus4b9 chords

Listen to G7sus4b9 chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for G7sus4b9 clusters

Listen to G7sus4b9 clusters

_______________________________________________

DIMINISHED BASED CHORDS AND CLUSTERS

Fingerings for G diminished chords

Listen to G diminished chords

______________________________________________

Fingerings for G diminished clusters

Listen to G diminished clusters

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for C13b9 chords

Listen to C13b9 chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for F13b9 clusters

Listen to F13b9 clusters

_______________________________________________

APPLICATIONS

Fingerings for chord applications

Listen to Chord applications

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for cluster applications

Listen to Cluster application 1

Listen to Cluster application 2

Listen to Cluster application 3

_______________________________________________

CHORD COMBINATIONS

Fingerings for G major and A minor chord combinations:

Listen to G major and A minor chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for G major and D7 altered chord combinations:

Listen to G major and D7 altered chords

_______________________________________________

Fingerings for G major and D7 nonaltered chord combinations:

Listen to G major and D7 nonaltered chords

_______________________________________________

ORIGINALS AND ARRANGEMENTS

BE

“Be” was written for the birth of my son, Stephen. The first chord is a dissonant “B”; the last chord is a consonant “B.”

Fingerings for “Be” by Steve Montgomery:

Here’s “Be” written out on the staff:

Listen to Be

_______________________________________________

DEEP FEELINGS (intro)

“Deep Feelings” was written for my wife. The two-hand chord clusters are easy to hear in both the intro and in the accompaniment for the guitar solo.

Fingerings for the intro of “Deep Feelings” by Steve Montgomery:

Listen to the intro to Deep Feelings

DEEP FEELINGS (solo accompaniment)

The changes to the solo section are the same as with the “head,” which is not included here. There is a quote from the beginning of “The Rite of Spring” by Stravinsky.

Fingerings for the solo section of “Deep Feelings” by Steve Montgomery:

Listen to the accompaniment for the solo section of  Deep Feelings 

_______________________________________________

HOME

“Home” was written with the Prodigal Son in mind; the departure, the return, and the acceptance. Thanks to Kevin Moody for a great job of sight singing the vocal part.

Fingerings for “Home” by Steve Montgomery:

 Here’s “Home” written out on the staff:

Listen to Home

_______________________________________________

JESUS

“Jesus” (“Jesus Loves me this I Know”) was intended for female voice, but Kevin Moody did a great job of  sight-reading my arrangement and filling in for me.

Fingerings for “Jesus” by Steve Montgomery:

Here’s “Jesus” written out on the staff:

Listen to Jesus

_______________________________________________

BREATHE

This is my arrangement of the old Church Hymn “Breathe on me Breath of God,” with Kevin Moody sight singing the vocal part.

Here’s “Breathe” written out on the staff:

Listen to Breathe

_______________________________________________

LULU BY CARLIGHT

“Lulu by Carlight” is a combination of bits and pieces taken from “Lulu” by Alban Berg (one of Arnold Schoenberg’s students), the jazz standard “Stella by Starlight,” and some of my own ideas. 

Here’s “Lulu by Carlight” written out on the staff:

Listen to Lulu by Carlight

_______________________________________________

OH, HOW HE LOVES YOU AND ME

This is the intro to an old Gospel tune that I’ve revamped a bit. It provides an easily recognizable example of two hand voicings.

Listen to Oh, How He Loves You and Me

_______________________________________________

COME HOME

“Come Home” is my take on another old Gospel tune that I’ve tinkered with a bit. It gives a clear example of two hand guitar voicings.

Listen to Come Home

_______________________________________________

TRAVIS

Travis is an original I wrote in memory of the late great Merle Travis. It has two hand guitar voicings sprinkled throughout.

Fingerings for “Travis” by Steve Montgomery:

Listen to Travis

_______________________________________________

RAINBOW

As you can hear, the chords at the beginning of my arrangement are conventional, but they change into two hand voicings when the melody starts.

Listen to Rainbow

_______________________________________________

THERE IS

This is my combination of  “There is a Savior” as performed by Sandi Patty, and “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. For most of it I used conventional guitar chords, but the intro has a few good examples of two hand guitar voicings.

Listen to There is

_______________________________________________

TRY

For this tune, I just put together a repeating set of two hand voicings, and then improvised the melody on top.

Fingerings for “Try” by Steve Montgomery:

Listen to Try

_______________________________________________

ANGELS

I wrote this as a simple exercise to showcase a couple of two hand chord clusters I had recently discovered. A few overdubs assisted things in this case.

Listen to Angels

_______________________________________________

SILENT NIGHT

For this traditional Christmas song I used two hand chord clusters for the accompaniment to the guitar solo.

Fingerings for “Silent Night”:

Listen to Silent Night

_______________________________________________

SNOW

This is a quick study for two hand voicings based on Claude Thornhill’s “Snowfall.”

Fingerings for “Snow” by Steve Montgomery:

Here’s “Snow” written out on the staff:

Listen to Snow

_______________________________________________

FOR EMILY

After explaining my two hand guitar technique to Emily Remler, she suggested I make a recording and send it to her New York address. I put together a short chord study entitled “For Emily,” which quotes “Emily,” “One Less Bell to Answer,” and “A Time for Love.” I then sent it to her for comments and suggestions. About a month later I learned of her unfortunate overdose and untimely death.

Fingerings for “For Emily” by Steve Montgomery:

Here’s “For Emily” written out on the staff:

Listen to For Emily

_______________________________________________

HEART FAILURE

I wrote this with spiritual, rather than physical, failure in mind.

Fingerings for “Heart Failure” by Steve Montgomery:

Here’s “Heart Failure” written out on the staff:

Listen to Heart Failure

_______________________________________________

STAR

I put this together as a chord study based on the introductory “verse” to “Stardust.”

Fingerings for “Star” by Steve Montgomery:

Here’s “Star” written out on the staff:

Listen to Star

_______________________________________________

WALKING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND

For this tune I played the bass part to “All Blue” by Miles Davis and then overdubbed the guitar parts. I used two hand voicings briefly in the background of the intro, and then again for the first 16 bars of the guitar solo.

Fingerings for “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”:

Listen to Walking in a Winter Wonderland

_______________________________________________

BLANK FRETBOARDS

Advertisements