Chords based on fourths

There are also chords based on fourths instead of thirds.  These chords in fourths were made popular by McCoy Tyner (John Coltrane’s piano player).

Quartal voicings have a jazzy sound and work very well in modal music.

How is the jazz guitar chord in fourths constructed and how does it look on the guitar neck?

Quartal voicings are used most often in modal music and most often in a minor or dominant key.

Let’s start with the D Dorian scale:

D      E      F      G      A     B     C

Let’s build a chord on the first notes of the D Dorian scale, but instead of stacking thirds we’ll be stacking fourths:

D    G    C    F

The result is a chord you could call a Dm11, but I don’t want to give names to these quartal voicings because they behave like harmonic chameleons:

    • If we put a D in the bass of our first example, we get a Dm11.
    • With F in the bass we get an F(6,9).
    • G in the bass gives us a Gsus4.

We could go on building chords on the other notes of the scale, but I think you get the picture.

Let’s have a look at the guitar tab for chords in fourths:

1)  4 string chord, lowest note on the A string

Here are the guitar chord diagrams for the 4 chord shapes you have to remember:

2)  4 string chord, lowest note on the D string

Here are the guitar chord diagrams for the 4 chord shapes you have to remember:

I like to look at and use quartal voicings more as an harmonized scale then as actual chords: they are very usable as a solo improvisation device.  They also work well for accompaniment or for creating vamps.


document for print: Chords based on fourths

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.