How Guitar Chordal Fills Work


Chordal fills help make ordinary chords sound unique.
Chordal fills help make ordinary chords sound unique.
­Photo by Cocoon/Getty Images

­If you're like most budding musicians, you've probably noticed an eerie coincidence as you scan the tab and sheet music to your favorite songs -- they tend to­ use many of the same chords. This similarity surprises some beginning guitar players. After all, the guitar is a flexible instrument, capable of producing textured, nuanced harmonies and scales. So why stick to just three chords? More importantly, how do songwriters manage to make three chords sound so complex and appealing? Part of the answer lies in the use of chordal fills.

­Chordal fills -- groups of single notes played within the context of a specific chord -- play a crucial role in almost every guitar song because they make otherwise ordinary chords sound fascinating and unique. Guitarists using this technique strum a chord while s­imultaneously playing individual notes. This produces a countermelody, a second melody played at the same time as the principle one. These fills add a distinctive sound, transforming a simple c­hord progression into a unique, memorable tune.

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Using the G, C and D chords as examples, this iVideosongs tutorial will teach you how to spice up a basic chord progression by striking countermelodic single notes as you play each chord. With this simple, systematic approach to creating chordal fills, you'll add complexity and depth to your music in no time.

­Now that you're familiar with the underlying concept of chordal fills, break out your guitar and click to the next section to watch this technique in action.

Playing Guitar Chordal Fills in the G Chord

Armed with an understanding of countermelodies and chord transitions, you're ready to play your first chordal fill. This introductory video uses the progression between three chords -- G, C and D -- to illustrate the use of chordal fills. Beginning with a brief review of these three chords, the tutorial demonstrates the construction of a countermelody for the G chord. Following along with this step-by-step instruction, you'll be able to see how each note of this six-note fill is played.

With this new app­roach to the G chord under your belt, you're well on your way to making your own songs. Click on the next page and learn how the chordal fill technique applies to the C and D chords.

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Playing Guitar Chordal Fills in the C and D Chords

Once you've put some fills in your G chord, it's time to bring some style to the next part of this chord progression. Beginning w­ith a brief review of the G chord fills, this video applies the same concept to the C and D chords. While the individual notes you'll play differ depending on the chord, the general principle remains the same. The instructor's chordal fills build off one another, echoing the same pattern from one chord to the next. After watching this demonstration of chordal fills in the C and D chords, you'll be ready to play an entire three-chord progression using single notes as countermelodies.

Click on the next page to bring these chords together and fulfill your countermelodic potential.

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From Playing Guitar Chords to Writing Songs

Now that you've learned how to play chordal fills in a basic progression, you're just an inspiration away from creating classic, masterful songs like James Taylor's "Fire and Rain." The concluding segment of this tutorial uses the chordal fill technique to transfo­rm a simple three-chord progression into an actual song, demonstrating melody, rhythm and harmony.

At this point, the possibilities are virtually limitless. You've discovered a skeleton key to writing and playing songs on the guitar. As you continue to study this technique, you'll be able to create new and different fills, arriving at a sound all your own.

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If you'd like to continue filling your musical repertoire with more guitar tips and techniques, check out the rest of the video articles on the next page.

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