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Alternative chords

Alternative chords
December 05, 2009, 01:04:19 AM
I'm looking for excellent examples of different chords aside from power chords (root-5th-octave) used in metal music:

Voivod - Brain Scan
Demigod - As I Behold I Despise
Metallica - Orion

I'd like to understand:
-how effectively other unconventional chords are utilized in metal
-how they affect tonality in a given song (not sure if 'tonality' is the correct word here)
-how they come in under distortion, etc. and whether or not counterpointing single-notes would be a better idea, a la At the Gates

Re: Alternative chords
December 05, 2009, 01:37:42 AM
Voivod is the first band I know of that started using the "tritone chord" a lot. I call it that because the chord is a triad that starts on a root note and then is built by adding two additional tritones.

It's since been borrowed and incorporated into a lot of black and death metal. Atheist, Immolation, Averse Sefira, Carbonized have all used it frequently.

The intervals it's built from are:

root an octave higher
tritone
root

For instance, the chord in the intro part of Voivod's "Macrosolutions to Megaproblems" is:

F#
C
F#

It has a real distinct sound because the note in the middle is equidistant from the two surrounding notes.

More examples:

Carbonized - Silent Journey

Averse Sefira - Detonation

Re: Alternative chords
December 05, 2009, 11:46:00 PM
Demilich's The Echo who's tabs are available on their website also uses the triton (or diminished fifth), and also an augmented octave, which gives you otherworldly chord configurations such as [dim5 -3 dim9] which sound really good, especially in the lower registers.
They also use major 6ths and 7ths in relation to the root. Very interesting, try playing it and tell me how it goes.

Re: Alternative chords
December 06, 2009, 12:03:28 AM
Don't forget Mayhem's 'Freezing Moon'. The intro is a fully voiced E minor chord. The bottom three strings (which form a power chord in that fingering) are strummed and the rest are arpeggiated from the top down. Immortal's 'Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss' works in much the same way, with the intro jumping back and forth from E to F minor. Lots of black metal bands take minor chords like this and strum different parts of them to get around the dreaded distortion fizz.


Re: Alternative chords
December 06, 2009, 06:54:52 AM
Yep, minor chords are all over black metal.

Demilich is an interesting band; as you say there are a lot of tritones, but also a lot of weird intervals that no other bands really use. I wonder sometimes if they were just using some strange guitar tunings when writing their albums, because most of it would be very unorthodox to play on a guitar in standard tuning.

Re: Alternative chords
December 06, 2009, 08:53:35 AM
Yep, minor chords are all over black metal.

Demilich is an interesting band; as you say there are a lot of tritones, but also a lot of weird intervals that no other bands really use. I wonder sometimes if they were just using some strange guitar tunings when writing their albums, because most of it would be very unorthodox to play on a guitar in standard tuning.

Lowered by 3.5 tones to low A. You need strings that would behave in this sort of tuning, probably thick new ones, or even a B string

Re: Alternative chords
December 06, 2009, 11:16:09 PM
Yes in reference to the string being tuned to A, using 60 gauge for the E is recommended.

Re: Alternative chords
December 07, 2009, 04:59:53 PM
Demilich is an interesting band; as you say there are a lot of tritones, but also a lot of weird intervals that no other bands really use. I wonder sometimes if they were just using some strange guitar tunings when writing their albums, because most of it would be very unorthodox to play on a guitar in standard tuning.

Looked like standard tuning to me, but they all have big hands.

Did anyone mention Sinister after the bassist took over, and started voicing chords differently?

Re: Alternative chords
December 08, 2009, 09:51:50 PM
Orthodox guitar teachers will tell you you can only use power chords with the distortion because anything more dissonant ones won't sound clear.  However, it is obvious that metal bands do use more dissonant chords.  Is there an effective way of conceiving of this that would help us decide whether a chord might sound good with distortion?  I always found thinking of the wave signals helped.  I know distortion clips off the top of the signal, and if we had a way of looking at how chords might look with and without distortion in the wavelength form it might help...

Re: Alternative chords
December 08, 2009, 11:39:51 PM
Orthodox guitar teachers will tell you you can only use power chords with the distortion because anything more dissonant ones won't sound clear.  However, it is obvious that metal bands do use more dissonant chords.  Is there an effective way of conceiving of this that would help us decide whether a chord might sound good with distortion?  I always found thinking of the wave signals helped.  I know distortion clips off the top of the signal, and if we had a way of looking at how chords might look with and without distortion in the wavelength form it might help...

you could be overly pedantic and claculate the comulative wave function of the chord with overtones and feed it into the distortion function. If you were a physicist I would recommend that for liesure time. On every other case you should just experiment in chords, positions and movements, you should even work scientifically - record them, arrange them, and study them.

Re: Alternative chords
December 09, 2009, 08:56:04 AM
Orthodox guitar teachers will tell you you can only use power chords with the distortion because anything more dissonant ones won't sound clear.  However, it is obvious that metal bands do use more dissonant chords.  Is there an effective way of conceiving of this that would help us decide whether a chord might sound good with distortion?  I always found thinking of the wave signals helped.  I know distortion clips off the top of the signal, and if we had a way of looking at how chords might look with and without distortion in the wavelength form it might help...

It's pretty simple. Intervals smaller than an octave must be perfect intervals (unison, fourth, fifth, octave if you're that far behind). Intervals larger than an octave can be imperfect. Black metal bends this rule. Since black metal makes such great use of the 'wall of noise' aesthetic, you can get away with throwing in a third or a sixth and it'll still sound right. Outside of black metal, you can use the imperfect intervals but they can only sound for a split second before moving on to something else.

Re: Alternative chords
December 11, 2009, 12:11:48 AM
It depends on what you mean by "chords used."  In "Ea Lord or the Deep" intro Mister Varg arpeggiates through a simple Cminor and then a Bminor followed by some Cmin noodling.  The keyboards in "Det Som Engang Var" add upper register notes to the power chord sequence of the guitar (E5, F#5, G5, A5 IIRC) that spell out some odd chords.  Gorgoroth use some minor 6th notes with power chords (watch the Black Mass Krakowa video to see)... Im pretty sure that they are not alone in metal in doing this; a power chord on the A string invites one to add the sixth note (or a fifth, which is also common) on the low E string.  "Transylvanian Hunger" main riff suggests A5, Amin, Asus2(or add9, can't remember how that rule works...) and on the slow breakdown there are several times where an  Eminor is played.  Rob Darken uses  the inverted power chord quite a bit ("Battle of Wotan's Wolves" main riff uses it quite distinctively) where the fifth note rather than the tonic is the lowest note played.  You might want to look into some of his more recent work, the guitars seem to be playing some more chords with some upper extensions, but its hard for me to tell because they are always mixed so far back.  Gorath sounds like they use some unusual chords.  There are doubtlessly many other bands and songs that use chords besides the 5th chord... black metal seems to like the flat 2nd, flat 3rd, flat 5, and natural 7th sound quite a bit in writing melodies/leads, and it would not suprise me in the least to see those notes turn up as harmony in chords.

Re: Alternative chords
December 11, 2009, 05:08:11 PM
[...]the intro jumping back and forth from E to F minor. Lots of black metal bands take minor chords like this and strum different parts of them to get around the dreaded distortion fizz.



You can hear this kind of neapolitan chord (Em, F; Em, Fm) in a lot of black metal.  Paralell conduction of minor chords reminds me to organum (old paralell polifony) but with a constant minor third that gives an eerie feling on it. Very interesting for the classic black metal bands, altough nowdays I prefer functional harmony in black metal (Summoning).


Re: Alternative chords
December 15, 2009, 07:57:26 AM
Orthodox guitar teachers will tell you you can only use power chords with the distortion because anything more dissonant ones won't sound clear.  However, it is obvious that metal bands do use more dissonant chords.  Is there an effective way of conceiving of this that would help us decide whether a chord might sound good with distortion?  I always found thinking of the wave signals helped.  I know distortion clips off the top of the signal, and if we had a way of looking at how chords might look with and without distortion in the wavelength form it might help...

you could be overly pedantic and claculate the comulative wave function of the chord with overtones and feed it into the distortion function. If you were a physicist I would recommend that for liesure time. On every other case you should just experiment in chords, positions and movements, you should even work scientifically - record them, arrange them, and study them.

Funny you should think my idea is pedantic.  On first impression, I would expect most to think this way.  However, I think a physics based approach cuts through all the BS theories, such as the predominant one which is biased to the diatonic scale, and is ultimately more naturalistic.

Conservationist posted this, and is actually quite in line with what I was thinking of:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0008144?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+plosone%2FPLoSONE+%28PLoS+ONE+Alerts%3A+New+Articles%29

Re: Alternative chords
December 18, 2009, 04:39:54 PM
Rob Darken uses  the inverted power chord quite a bit ("Battle of Wotan's Wolves" main riff uses it quite distinctively) where the fifth note rather than the tonic is the lowest note played. 

Isn't that just a perfect fifth?