Partial Chords & Puzzle Pieces – Part 1 (Jam Session #48)

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Partial Chords

In this week’s Jam Session (#48), we took our initial look into “partial chords” as Steve taught us to how to play 5ths, 4ths, 3rds, and Octaves.

First, we enjoyed an overview of Steve’s songwriting/recording process for his new album called “Loopers & Lullabies” which is to benefit his VOID Cancer initiative which helps provide programs for cancer patients and their caregivers.

We were reminded about the best pickup settings for playing different songs.  In general:

  • For clean tones, use a single-coil pickup
  • For distortion, use humbuckers

To make a more powerful C chord, add the G note to make it “fatter”.

How to choose which Key in which to compose a song

When deciding the Key for a song you are composing, it should be based upon the vibe you’re going for and what sounds good to you!

Vary the sound up by using partial chords. even only 2 strings, along with full chords that give the “bigger” sound.

There are 2 Categories of Partial Chords

  1. Consecutives
  2. Splits


There are 14 possible combinations!  Steve then explained all these combinations in detail. Example: a power chord.


There are 40 possible combinations.  These are partial chords where the strings are not adjacent to each other.

Tip for creating a solo:

Think of a full chord and play part of that chord over it (a partial chord)!  You can play the partial chord either together or as single notes.

4 Common Partial Chords

  1. minor 3rds
  2. Major 3rds
  3. 4ths
  4. 5ths (power chords)

A 5th is called that because we’re playing the 1st and 5th note of the scale.

Note: These rules don’t apply to strings 2 and 3 – those are different!

Classic Rock uses a lot of 4ths and 5ths (they have the “heavy” element to them).

3rds have an “emotional” element to them

Major 3rds = happy

minor 3rds = sad


Example would be playing 6th string B and 4th string B (aka “playing the octave”). This technique is used with distortion in a lot of Rock.  It gives an aggressive sounding lead.

Again, this doesn’t apply to the 2nd and 3rd strings so play octaves just on string 6 and 5 for now to avoid confusion.

This Week’s Challenge

Play an example of each partial chord:

From the consecutives

minor 3rd

Major 3rd



and from the splits


Looking for some easy guitar songs to learn? Check out this list of the top 100 beginner guitar songs.

Check out my reviews of the best online guitar lessons for beginners here.


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