Vertical Truth: Chordal Mechanisms for the Guitar

Unit 6: 7th Voicing

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This product is a PDF download that contains:

  • 11 Lessons

  • 22 Pages

  • 45 Fretboard Diagrams

  • 21 Notation Examples

  • 11 Demonstration Video Links


PLUS...Every demonstration video has dozens of embedded dynamic fretboard diagrams.


Want to know what all the above looks like? Check out this promo video:

What Are 7th Voicings?


A 7th chord consists of 4 notes; root, 3rd, 5th and 7th.


7th voicings omit the 5th so they are 3-note 7th chords consisting of the root, 3rd and 7th. The term, "voicing" is used because the 3 notes are spoken of in choir-terms as in, "alto," "tenor" and "bass." The "soprano" voice is reserved for the melody, whatever it may be.


There are two voicings we'll be working with, "Close" and "Open."


Close Voicing (or Close Position) retains numerical order from low to high; root-3rd-7th. The notes are "close" to each other. In Open Voicing (or Open Position) the 3rd is raised an octave; root-7th-3rd, from low to high.

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The application should be obvious; we add a melody note to each voicing. It's a way to harmonize melodies, also known as, "chord melodies."


Harmonizing the melody of a given song with Close and Open

Voicings is the main focus of the Unit 6 lesson series.

In the video below I give you one position (out of 3) for Open Voicing 7th Chords and one position (out of 4) for close voicing. There are 4 types of 7th chords; Major, Dominant, Minor and Diminished. The root for the Open Voicing will be on the 6th string, the root for the Close Voicing will be on the 5th string:

Here are two ways to drill these chords:

With these 2 positions you have the foundation for creating your own chord-melody arrangements of any song you want! You don't have to go googling for arrangements which you then learn by rote without understanding how they were created in the first place.


Keep in mind that what I have given you here is a small portion of the first lesson. There are 2 other positions for Open Voicing and 3 other positions for Close Voicing – and then 10 more lessons!


So what does it look like to add melody notes to these chords? Take a look at this short clip from one of the demonstration videos of the song, Autumn Leaves:

Even though creating chord melody arrangements is the focus of this lesson series, there are several other things that happen as a result of applying Open and Close Voicings to melodies:


  • It combines the strengths of root-position 7th chords (root in bass/parallel voicing) and 7th Inversions (common-tone voicing). For a preview of this concept see the blog, Back to Bach.

  • It provides vocabulary for comping to Blues, Jazz standards and also the Gypsy Jazz genre, but can be - and is - applied to all styles of guitar playing.

  • It lays a foundation for adding 11ths, 9ths and 13ths, as well as all the alterations of those extensions - which will be covered in Unit 7: 9th Chords. For a preview of this concept, see Quick & Dirty Altered Dominants.

  • It provides the most common types of chord voicings that are used with walking bass lines. Walking bass lines will be taught in another lesson series - possibly a blog, but knowing the material from Unit 6 will be necessary to understand it.

Here's an example of using Open and Close Voicings to comp to a Blues:

Here's an example of using Open and Close Voicings to comp to a Standard (Autumn Leaves):

It lays a foundation for adding 11ths, 9ths and 13ths, as well as all the alterations of those extensions. Examples:

Unit 6 provides the most common types of chord voicings that are used with walking bass lines. Walking bass lines will be taught in another lesson series - possibly a blog, but knowing the material from Unit 6 will be necessary to understand it. Here are a couple of examples of walking bass lines using Open and Close-Voiced 7th chords:

Some common questions:

  • Q: Do I have to be able to read music?


  • A: It helps but is not absolutely necessary. The PDF and the demonstration videos contain dozens of fretboard diagrams. It is possible to come up with chord-melody arrangements by ear, but being able to figure out the melody note that goes on top of the chord by looking at sheet music or a fake sheet is better. You don't have to be able to SIGHT-READ music, you just have to be able to figure out what a given note is and then be able to find it on the guitar. At the end of the lesson series there are 4 tunes that I arrange for you so that you can see how it's done. Sight-reading the tune in real time is not part of that process.

  • Q: The Key Circle has always confused me.


  • A: Yeah, I get that a lot. The Key Circle (or the Circle of 5ths or the Circle of 4ths) is a very deep mechanism but the way I apply it to the guitar is very simple. I use it as a way to memorize 12 notes on the 6th and 5th strings from which you can get to any note on the guitar neck WITHOUT memorizing note names on every string. It's the foundation of knowing the instrument. Rather than get into it here, you can get the 5-Lesson Foundational Series (which is ALL ABOUT the Key Circle as applied to the guitar) FOR FREE via the link below.


  • Q: I didn't understand about the 4 types of 7th chords and how you get them. Do you go into more detail on that in this lesson series?


  • A: Not explicitly. It could be deduced but this series presupposes you know all that. Out of what has come before, there are two that are essential to optimize your take-away from Unit 6: 7th Voicing. They are:

  1. The 5-Lesson Foundational Series. EVERYTHING and I mean EVERYTHING is based on it. It's so important I give it away for free all the time and this launch will be no exception. If you don't have a sure-fire method of finding any note any where on the guitar neck this is the solution to that problem. 

  2. Unit 4: 7th Chords. It's necessary to know the 5 types of basic 7th chords and what distinguishes one from the others in order to make the 7th Voicings I teach you in this series fully functional. 

Those are the essential prerequisites; of course, the optimum value would be all the prerequisites:


The retail price for Unit 6 7th Voicing is $79: Anyone can purchase - if you want to pay full price with no other strings attached, just click on the button below:

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The guitar has been a Grand Obsession of mine for over 50 years. I love everything about it. I've been a full-time professional performing musician since the early seventies. I've taught 50-100 personal students a week since the early eighties.


I know what it takes to play, teach and learn. I'm passionate about playing as well as helping people obtain the priceless value that I've received from music and the guitar.

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