Despite being labelled as “country rock” from the beginning, the Eagles’ music was never one-dimensional, and their ability to grasp a chord progression by the cowboy boots and yank it over the line to pop/rock is unquestionable. In this lesson, we’ll look at a four-bar progression that was inspired by the piano and explore various a9 chord voicings.
Graph 1: Melodic Opening
These chords have been given voicings that enable the addition of melody notes on the top string.
The fourth finger, for instance, can be freed from the fifth string and played on the top string at the tenth fret for the first chord. In order to resound the 10th fret, which will be held down by the barre, you can release it from the top string for the second chord. Your melody can be the top two notes of the C major chord, while the sixth chord of the C minor can be played by releasing finger four and playing the note G at the third fret.
Try playing these chords fingerstyle for the greatest results. Use your thumb to play the lowest note and the index, middle, and ring fingers of your picking hand to play the other notes.
Figure 2: Low-pitched melody
With the higher voicings from Figure 1, playing chords and adding melody notes is undoubtedly made simpler. However, we continue in this instance by doing the same and adding notes to shapes that are based on those classic open string cowboy chords.
In order to play the note D over the G major chord and then alternate between the top two notes of the E minor seven chord, finger four might be added to the B string. Play the D major chord straight and let it ring, adding the note A to the A9 chord with the help of finger three dropped on the second fret of the G string.
Figure 3: Backing vocals
The identical four-bar pattern as in figures one and two is repeated here, but without any melodic embellishment. Play each chord just twice, once for each beat. The concept behind this easier method is to envision yourself as a vocalist who is being accompanied, feeding in expressive harmony while remaining melodically uninvolved.
Take note of how the top two notes of the G major chord decrease two frets as it progresses to the G9. Similar voice leading is seen in the C to C minor sixth. That’s not to argue that big jumps are bad; listen to the transitions from E minor to A9 chord to D major.
Your fretting hand will find some of these movements challenging. Holding onto notes that are shared by two chords, such as fingers 1 and 3 between C and C minor sixth, will make things simpler. Always aim to transition between chord forms as smoothly and quickly as possible; practise any challenging movements repeatedly, and they will ultimately come.
Fig. 4: No Boundaries
This chord progression, which is based on the same four-bar chord progression but has some stronger voicings and an intriguing twist between the G major and E minor chords, can be used as a rising climax for a song.
Start with the fifth shape in figure 3’s open G major scale before switching to the Gsus4 chord, which serves as a less ornate, less jazzy, and more “country” replacement for the G13 and G9 chords we previously saw in examples.
Continue with the C and C minor chords, then for one beat each, play G/D and B/D before moving on to the E minor chord. Take note of how the chromatic bassline seems to heighten the impact of our landing on the E minor chord.
We have a low voicing of A major and an expressive D6 chord at the end of the progression, which should lead to the G major chord of your choice. We suggest the open string form from figure 3 or the initial chord from figure 2. As an alternative, return to figure 1 and reiterate the introduction.
If you’ve enjoyed mastering these sequences, try playing all the G major chords consecutively to observe how the notes are voiced. Following that, repeat the process for the extended G chords (G13, G9, etc.), C major, Cm6 chords, and so on.