Chord Fragments

Let’s see…how many silly puns could I have used for a title…Frag-gle Rock…Frag-en-stein….Count Frag-ula…Frag-ocaster…Ok enough of that.

Let’s face it…it’s not fun to just play full barre chords all the time, and sometimes it’s already being done by the other guitarist in your band. Or perhaps your keyboard player is squatting all of the sonic real-estate and you only have a wee little bit of space to claim as your own.

That is where fragments come in. Instead of playing the entire chord, you can play little pieces of them, and make fills and ornaments that add some style to whatever you’re playing. Hendrix is a well-known user of such tactics, among others.

I’m going to assume you have a basic understanding of the barre chords and how they move up the neck, so let’s jump in.

The biggest challenge when you first dig into this is just knowing how to navigate the fretboard for any given position, in any key. Once you get a handle on how the notes connect, you can pretty much wander freely around the neck making up little pieces as you go. BAM! Guitar is fun again, people are happy, dancing breaks out in the streets…

Here’s a quick and dirty tab of some fragments in the key of C. Note that the C chord is carried all the way up the neck through it’s inversions. You can do this for all 12 keys, and all chord types. (Sounds overwhelming, huh?) But really, once you get a few strategic ideas under your fingers, moving to other keys is a snap.

C chord fragments

Each line shows the chord and then some simple shapes to play around it. You’ll quickly see the same basic ideas popping up again and again, in each position on the fretboard. Did I plan it that way? You betcha! Once you learn how to find the same sounds in multiple locations on the neck, what do you have?? That’s right – Freedom of Movement! Damn this is fun.

Ok, here’s the audio for each position, all still in C major. Starting in open C and moving to the octave just like the tabs.

Open position:

3rd fret:

5th fret:

8th fret:

10th fret:

12th fret:

Note that there are a few notes here and there that aren’t directly from the C Major scale. I like to add a little spice like a dom 7 or min 3rd, etc… every now and again to spice things up. This is music, not math class…

The main thing to take from all this is how you can add some variety to your rhythms by sprinkling little fragments around in cool ways, breaking up the monotony where appropriate. Of course you should use with discretion – I’m sort of overdoing it for the sake of the article, and besides… it is MY website. Muuuhhaahahaahaaaaaa!!!

I will leave you with this final blurb, this time in the key of E major, similar stuff, moving randomly around the neck (maybe a bit too random, but hey) Just to give you another variation of these concepts.

Around the neck:

Go forth and Fragify!