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View Full Version : Rootless Chords - What do You Think?



VegasGeorge
10-20-2014, 12:52 PM
I just bought a new chord book, it's the Gig Bag Series book. It shows a number of rootless first position chords. For example, it shows an Em7 in first position as 4232 (BDGB), and a Fmaj7 in first position as 2000 (ACEA). It took me a moment or two to see what was being done. Obviously, the first example sounds as a G chord, and the second as an Am chord. But the designated chords do contain those notes, it's just that the root notes, E and F are missing. What do you think of that practice? Did the editor know what he was doing, or were they just pulling notes out of chords and plugging them into the fretboard?

PeteyHoudini
10-20-2014, 01:07 PM
I don't have a problem with that. I have that Gig Bag book as well. Re-entrant tuning is a pain in the neck for chord inversions. I've always been planning on doing a video about different paper chord books so I was very glad to see your post. Hal Leonard goes for 2413 for Fmaj7. Both books seemed to have missed the obvious 0202 for Em7. My video's point would be you need several chord books to get as many ideas as possible.

I use this website when I need new ideas for my chord melodies (when my books don't have enough options):
http://www.ezfolk.com/uke/chords/A_major/a_major.html

cheerios!

Petey

Also: Ukulele Chord Dictionary (Alfred Handy Guide) also does the Fmaj7 as 2000. Can't find my copy on my shelf right now.
http://www.amazon.com/Ukulele-Chord-Dictionary-Alfred-Handy/dp/0882842080/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1374618185&sr=1-1&keywords=ukulele+chords

Jim Hanks
10-20-2014, 01:48 PM
To me, the rootless names are kinda "misleading" unless it's within the context of a larger arrangement like a full band or at least somebody else playing that root note. If you have a bass or guitar playing a low F note and you float 2000 on top of it, it'll sound like Fmaj7. If you just play 2000 by yourself, it's gonna sound like Am. :2cents:

Dan Uke
10-20-2014, 02:38 PM
I'm ok with it too within the context of a song. I was playing a chord / fingering piece (can't remember which one) and they had a chord that was missing the root but it sounded good within the song.

VegasGeorge
10-20-2014, 03:46 PM
Yeah, when I asked the question I was only thinking about playing solo, not in a group. Obviously, in a group if someone else is playing the root note, the overall effect is going to be OK. The idea behind the "Rootless Chord" question is, in fact, a rootless chord. ;)

PeteyHoudini
10-20-2014, 04:06 PM
The idea behind the "Rootless Chord" question is, in fact, a rootless chord. ;)
Or a "Ruthless Chord." ;-)

It depends on the chord progression... does it sound good when you change to that inversion while you're singing or playing as an instrumental? That's really what matters methinks.

Petey

Jim Hanks
10-20-2014, 04:06 PM
The idea behind the "Rootless Chord" question is, in fact, a rootless chord. ;)
In that case, it's just flat out wrong. :p

Jim Hanks
10-20-2014, 04:12 PM
It depends on the chord progression... does it sound good when you change to that inversion while you're singing or playing as an instrumental? That's really what matters methinks.
Of course I was joking (mostly) with the last post, but Petey is of course correct that if it sounds good, that's what matters. But to me, what that points to is not really a "rootless chord" but rather a "chord substitution".

ubulele
10-20-2014, 05:45 PM
I started to post a screed to this thread, but stopped when my face started going purple.

A minor chord for an incomplete (fifthless) 6th is iffy at best. For a rootless major 7th, that formation is just nonsense: the quintessential interval is completely lacking. More has to happen than just sharing a subset of notes. Those who know better should be very clear about these decrepit substitutions when teaching those who couldn't know better. You may give the student the illusion he's playing a "complex" chord, but the listeners will just hear what sounds simplest and most fitting, which is more likely just the minor chord following an alternative progression pattern—there are insufficient clues to the ear that something more interesting is going on. At best, they may be tricked by being so familiar with a full-sounding, definitive version of a song that you could play a single note and they'd hear the rest in their heads. But as accompaniment, such substitutions are bullpucky.

You've got four strings—use them! If you want to give the unique flavor of GM7, play a GM7. At the very least, play the major 7th interval, or failing that, its inverted minor 2nd counterpart. Your job is to lead the listeners, not ride lazily on their coattails or point them down cul de sacs.

rustysmith3
10-20-2014, 05:55 PM
I just bought a new chord book, it's the Gig Bag Series book. It shows a number of rootless first position chords. For example, it shows an Em7 in first position as 4232 (BDGB), and a Fmaj7 in first position as 2000 (ACEA). It took me a moment or two to see what was being done. Obviously, the first example sounds as a G chord, and the second as an Am chord. But the designated chords do contain those notes, it's just that the root notes, E and F are missing. What do you think of that practice? Did the editor know what he was doing, or were they just pulling notes out of chords and plugging them into the fretboard?

My nickels worth is summed up in one word -context. Gypsy jazz has a common theme of a trio with a bass, rhythm and lead guitar. I gave up on playing jazz on guitar because of the large chords. Then revisited it some years later when I began learning Django tunes and with 3 and 4 note rhythm chords. Rootless chords are not uncommon because you want 6/9, 13ths and other chords. Sometimes the rhythm guitar sounds more like a drum. The bass and lead set a feel that allows for rootless chords. If your playing solo it could cause some problems. I've worked out a version of All My Loving recently. Started with the melody and found chords to fit. Often they were 3 note chords without the root. Long as it sounded good I didn't care. Not completely true to the original but the melody is completely recognizable all the way through. I think what you are doing is more important than if a root is present or not. I really like your Pascal quote with exception that I am not always quiet, I've usually got some strings vibrating. :)

Memphis Weirdo
10-20-2014, 06:01 PM
I always thought of "rootless" chords as "indirect" chords, or "implied" chords. An appropriate amount of "indirect" is tasteful and beautiful. Too much "indirect" can sound like a bunch of annoying nonsense... as in, too clever for your own good.

A lot depends on whether or not you are responsible for carrying the melody. And, of course, it all depends on whether it sounds right.

All of my favorite bass players are crazy-indirect. They are always flirting around the root note.

stevepetergal
10-20-2014, 06:28 PM
I too have heard things like this called implied chords. I personally would try to avoid them on the ukulele. We have to omit notes from chords (like 9th.11th and 13th chords) simply because of the limitations of the instrument. Intentionally leaving out a note in a four-note chord seems like it would further diminish the music. Leaving out the root? Not for me, in any context on the ukulele. Maybe on an instrument without the ukulele's inherent limits. This doesn't seem like a course of study, just academic blather.

Jim Hanks
10-20-2014, 06:47 PM
We have to omit notes from chords (like 9th.11th and 13th chords) simply because of the limitations of the instrument. Intentionally leaving out a note in a four-note chord seems like it would further diminish the music. Leaving out the root? Not for me, in any context on the ukulele. Maybe on an instrument without the ukulele's inherent limits. This doesn't seem like a course of study, just academic blather.
Oh I beg to differ there. I just did a jazz ballad full of extended chords. I didn't want to leave out notes so I arranged it for two ukes. For example, Gm11 has 6 notes, so I put a normal Gm on a low G uke and then the 7,9,11 notes on a high G uke. Those notes happen to be F,A,C. What chord has those three notes? F major of course. So one uke is playing all notes completely outside the base chord and it doesn't sound like an F chord at all because of the low G root on the other uke.

(BOOM)That was the sound of your mind being blown. :)

This is a extremely deep course of study.

KaraUkey
10-20-2014, 07:24 PM
I don't have a problem with that. I have that Gig Bag book as well. Re-entrant tuning is a pain in the neck for chord inversions. I've always been planning on doing a video about different paper chord books so I was very glad to see your post. Hal Leonard goes for 2413 for Fmaj7. Both books seemed to have missed the obvious 0202 for Em7. My video's point would be you need several chord books to get as many ideas as possible.

I use this website when I need new ideas for my chord melodies (when my books don't have enough options):
http://www.ezfolk.com/uke/chords/A_major/a_major.html

cheerios!

Petey

Also: Ukulele Chord Dictionary (Alfred Handy Guide) also does the Fmaj7 as 2000. Can't find my copy on my shelf right now.
http://www.amazon.com/Ukulele-Chord-Dictionary-Alfred-Handy/dp/0882842080/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1374618185&sr=1-1&keywords=ukulele+chords

Very useful links. Thanks. Also reminds me I need to sort my bookmarked favorites into folders. Lol
As for the rootless notes, IMHO if it doesn't sound right, it isn't right.

Ukejenny
10-21-2014, 02:38 AM
Very doable on a piano, but one person and one uke and no bass player? Different story. Now, once you start adding another uke, a bass line, or other instruments, you can start adding color and nuance with the chord structures. For me, it is all in context.

stevepetergal
10-21-2014, 03:49 AM
Oh I beg to differ there. I just did a jazz ballad full of extended chords. I didn't want to leave out notes so I arranged it for two ukes. For example, Gm11 has 6 notes, so I put a normal Gm on a low G uke and then the 7,9,11 notes on a high G uke. Those notes happen to be F,A,C. What chord has those three notes? F major of course. So one uke is playing all notes completely outside the base chord and it doesn't sound like an F chord at all because of the low G root on the other uke.

(BOOM)That was the sound of your mind being blown. :)

This is a extremely deep course of study.

I get what you're saying. Don't have enough strings? Add an instrument. An excellent, and most academic point. It's off-topic, but you're right.

We're discussing leaving notes out (using a four string instrument) and the merits of such, not adding instruments in order to include more notes. We could add a piano, play it with our fists, and still (technically) leave out the roots of chords. But, that would be academic nonsense and not really pertinent to this discussion.

We can also arpeggiate and play six or eight-note chords, leaving out nothing, (example: John King's transcription of J.S. Bach's Prelude in C from his Well Tempered Klavier). But, this too is off-topic and adds nothing but academics to the discussion.

Off-topic, too: Can we get a copy of your jazz duet arrangement? (I'll trade you for some classical transcriptions.)

cdkrugjr
10-21-2014, 06:36 AM
One of the nifty things our brain will do is fill in what we expect to see and hear. In the context of a II-V-I progression, we treble players can get away with playing something like:

IIm9 (no root) Vx13 (no 5, 9 or 11), I69 (no 3)

and nothing will sound odd at all.

ubulele
10-21-2014, 11:22 AM
One of the nifty things our brain will do is fill in what we expect to see and hear. In the context of a II-V-I progression, we treble players can get away with playing something like:

IIm9 (no root) Vx13 (no 5, 9 or 11), I69 (no 3)

and nothing will sound odd at all.

In general, this is true. But the brain has to have enough context to know that there are gaps and to know how to fill in the gaps. Also, in extended chords, it's clutter to fill in all the notes, when what you're after is the essence of the harmonic structure or dissonances.

The central topic, though, as I read the original post, is whether it's valid (and honest) to pass off a chord like a simple minor as being a primary form of a more complex chord like X6 or XM7, particularly in a chord book and without comment. It makes sense for rootless 7ths, 9th and such because, between the other existing intervals and the harmonic context, your brain is given sufficient context. But in the case of Xm for YM7, it's more likely the brain will be misled to perceive it in another way. Chords like X6/9 are not at issue because they sound unusual enough that they're unlikely to be mistaken for a simpler and equally acceptable harmonic alternative like a minor chord. The brain favors the simplest musical explanation that makes sense.

Someone pulling a chord out of a chord book very often doesn't have the theoretical background (or will) to understand the chord; they just accept it on good faith and think "Whenever I see that chord on a song sheet, that's what I should play." They're not thinking "Do I have enough harmonic context?" And they are unlikely to question that anything is missing unless they happen to note that the imposter has the same shape as another chord they know. It may not sound right or sufficient when they use it, but they won't know why. The author has cheated them.

One solution is for the author or editors to put notation under the chart labelling each chord component. Glen Rose does this for some of the chords he introduces in his books. At least then a person can see what is and is not contained in the chord shape. I would go further, and make sure that the root position is always indicated in the chart, but showing the roots is a topic unto its own.

Jim Hanks
10-21-2014, 03:00 PM
Off-topic, too: Can we get a copy of your jazz duet arrangement? (I'll trade you for some classical transcriptions.)
Before this thread gets derailed further, we can continue this point on my song thread:
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?101308-Original-jazz-ballad-quot-Heard-a-Song-quot