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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: B7, A7 and Other 4-finger Cords

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kcottom - Posted - 11/25/2023:  09:25:19

I've been playing a few tunes that have a A7 cord. That cord (as I've seen it on charts) is barred across the second fret with the pinky fretting the first string on 5th fret. I just don't seem to have that reach in my hands. The B7 is almost the same (reaching from 4th to 7th fret). I've tried some finger stretching exercises but these position just to be beyond me. What do others do with these cords?

I usually just play the A cord instead of A7 but that misses some of the depth of the tune.

deestexas - Posted - 11/25/2023:  09:46:42

Sounding the fifth strung (G) with the A bar produces an A7 chord.  A full G shape up two frets will work as well.

Edited by - deestexas on 11/25/2023 09:48:10

chuckv97 - Posted - 11/25/2023:  09:54:55

Or , index on 4th string, 2nd fret, open 3rd string, 2nd string 2nd fret , 1st string 2nd fret.
For a B7 , 4th string 4th fret , 3rd string 2nd fret , 2nd string 4th fret , 1st string 4th fret.
btw, what seems impossible at first will, over time and practice, become possible. Your fingers and hands will stretch out to grab those positions.


deestexas - Posted - 11/25/2023:  09:58:07

There are many choices - here's a good site that might help

Here' another A7    




deestexas - Posted - 11/25/2023:  09:59:32

another B7

Culloden - Posted - 11/25/2023:  10:53:30


Originally posted by deestexas

another B7

That's the B7 chord I use in The Old Home Place (a la Doug Dillard instead of J D Crowe.)

Old Hickory - Posted - 11/25/2023:  12:55:02

Alternatives above hit the leading options.

But I'd ask: If you're not playing backup, do you really need all four strings? Especially the fourth string. If a melody note isn't happening on the fourth string there's nothing wrong with omitting it.

I typically play the B7 x244 or x201. If I really want the low F# maybe I'll pick it up the back end  of a forward-reverse roll. Sometimes substituting open second string for the first string note-- still with middle. If I'm quick enough it eliminates a stretch.

Or learn the technique of not putting a finger down until you absolutely need it.

A7 can be x222 plus open 5th, which is a gimme. It can also be x022 if you don't mind eliminating the root -- which is totally allowable. As an experiment, try lifting the fretting finger off the first string on the back side of a forward-reverse roll. Make it open. See if adds a sense of movement. I do this on a C chord a lot.

waystation - Posted - 11/25/2023:  13:25:32

Sevenths are very flexible chord positions. Starting with a major triad, root-major 3rd-5th, you can make a 7th chord either by raising the 5th three frets or by lowering the root two frets. Depending on the chord shape you use, one or both of those moves may be reachable, and you may even have a choice of first or fourth string to add the 7th note on the top or bottom of the chord.

You can create a seventh chord in any of these ways:

Based on a bar chord: the 5th is on the first and fourth strings, so you can raise either of those strings three frets. This is the chord shape that the OP described. But you can also make a 7th chord by lowering the third string, which is the root note of the chord, two frets. So your A7 would be 2022 (4th to 1st string), a B7 would be 4244, and so on. This shape gives you a 7th chord that's missing its root note, but you likely won't miss it when you play the full chord. If you're playing it with other people, their instruments will fill in the root and complete the chord for you.

Based on an F shape: The root of an F shape chord is on the first and fourth strings, so lower either of them two frets. For A7, that's 7655 or 5657. The 5th of the chord is on the second string, so raising that string three frets gives you 7687. This chord has no 5th, but again you won't really miss it most of the time.

Based on a D shape: The root of the D shape chord is on the second string, so lowering it two frets would give you an A7 using 11-9-8-11, again missing the root note, and a fairly stretchy position especially when you move down the neck to lower pitched chords like D7. On the other hand, the 5th is on the third string, so you can easily raise it three frets to give you 11-12-10-11. Again, missing 5th, no big deal.

All of these positions are fully fretted, so you can move them around to get whatever 7th chord you need. Two frets lower, G7. Two frets higher, B7. Three frets higher, C7, and so on.

B7 looks like a special case because of the open B second string, but most of these positions just use the open string where a fretted note would be in a higher pitched chord. The "Old Home Place" B7 charted above by deestexas is 1201, which is the D shape 7th with the missing 5th that I described above.

Use these shapes and you can find a 7th chord to fit pretty much any need. You can use the same method to find shapes for any other chords you need - 6ths, diminished, augmented, etc. You just have to understand how the chord differs from a major triad, and adapt the standard shapes accordingly. Since you have enough fingers to cover all four long strings, you have complete control over your chords, unlike guitarists who have to work in open strings pretty much all the time. There is no instrument better than a banjo for learning chord theory.

Good Buddy - Posted - 11/25/2023:  13:32:12

Chances are, you won't need to play every note of an A7 or B7 chord. Figure out which notes you need to hit and just hold those notes down. If you are Vamping, play further up the neck with the G shape chord and add the 7 on the first string. A7=7655, or 5655 or 5657, B7=9877 or 7877 or 7879. The chord shape will depend on what notes you need. Eventually you are going to want to know how to play every chord several different ways and in the different positions.

I see Way Station beat me to the punch while I was typing.

Edited by - Good Buddy on 11/25/2023 13:33:53

BobbyE - Posted - 11/26/2023:  06:51:57

If you have normal size hands you are talking technique as far as I can see. No reason to not get the A7 chord as you describe it by barring the strings with the index finger and then reaching up with the pinkie to note the string at the proper fret. If you spread your fingers out and measure from your index to your little finger, you will see a greater distance there than is between the frets I suspect. Just work at it. You need all these skills to get the differences in sounds that make bluegrass banjo what it is. No harm in finding alternatives, but let it be a skill and not a crutch.


waystation - Posted - 11/26/2023:  10:00:25

Agreed that it should be possible for most people to do the 3-fret span to get an A7 chord at the second fret, but it's also important to know that there are sevenths, as well as other interesting chords, all over the neck. The x/x/x/x+3 form is not always the one you want to use, sometimes you want the notes to stack differently.

monstertone - Posted - 11/27/2023:  10:40:46

Depending on the situation, it is not always necessary to play every note in the chord. When playing with others, someone else will often cover for the missing note. The 7th note takes significance, suggesting change.   

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