Capoed G chords for A/Bb/B and modal songs [Released!]

The beta website (and as of May 30, the main website and mobile app) has just been updated to v335, which is a tweak that I think some of you will enjoy. It’s a bit hard to describe, so I made a video about it – or scroll down for the written explanation.

This update changes the audio samples used in the keys of A, Bb, and B: it now uses capoed key-of-G chords. This makes it sound a bit more true-to-life for bluegrass, where guitarists almost always play these keys out of G position with a capo. But the main advantage is better-sounding accompaniment for modal tunes in A, Bb, and B, since the G chord used does not include the third tone of the scale. The video above includes audio samples of each so you can hear the difference.

Please give it a try and let me know what you think. The most important thing is to ensure that nothing sounds worse than before, and that you quickly get used to the way these keys sound now. I have a lot of ways to tweak samples if you discover a particular situation where something doesn’t sound right, so tell me if you notice anything!

Side note: I changed how the bass is played in these keys as an experiment. It will now randomly change octaves throughout the song. Curious to know if folks appreciate the variety or find it annoying in any way. [Update: some did find it annoying, so I disabled it for now and will revisit the idea later.]

Don’t like it? First, please tell me! Then, feel free to switch it back using the toggle switch in the Instruments panel. (Still not sure what to call it, but for now it’s the only toggle switch there so you can’t miss it.)

Thanks for trying it out!


Really like it. Sounds a lot more natural to my ear.

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Very Good. Lets do it! So we’ll need to choose which mode to use for each tune or will this be automatic for modal tunes, Red Haired Boy, etc,

For now, all songs in G, A, Bb, and B will be played with modal-friendly chord voicings. (D, E, and F were less problematic than the old A/Bb/B voicings, so I haven’t changed them yet.)

Eventually, there may be some sort of “this tune is modal” checkbox that could change the voicing for a particular tune only, but I don’t think that’ll be necessary until more strumming features (such as bass runs) are released.

Side note: I don’t think of Red Haired Boy as “modal” in the usual old-time sense of the word… yes it uses a flat seven, but it uses a very string major third, so there wouldn’t be a problem voicing it with overtly major chords (as before). Should still sound good with the new chords, though.

Hey, I play Red Haired Boy in A Phrygian. :joy:

LOL… in 7/8 time no doubt! :joy:

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Really appreciate this change and the explanation

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I like it already !!!

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Thanks for working on this. I haven’t tried it yet, but a regular G chord has a major third played with the first finger. Are you damping that?

I haven’t played guitar much for a long time, but the way I get a thirdless G is to do a thumbed bar on the third fret with the G string un-stopped. I’m one of those guys that played my bar chords that way a lot instead of actually barring.

On mandolin I get a thirdless A by double stopping the 2 low strings and leaving the 2 high strings open.

The standard “bluegrass G” is 3x0033, with the A string being dampened by the index and/or middle fingers (and generally not being strummed anyway). In my opinion, the A string should be damped by default, even when playing an overtly major 3x0003 chord with the open B string. Thirds in the lower octave tend to make things sound muddy.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! The feedback I’ve received via email has generally been positive as well. I do think I’m going to revert the standup bass octave-switching for now as I got some negative feedback around that. Will revisit that idea later, perhaps as an opt-in/opt-out choice. But these new modal chords should hit the main site in the next week or two, I think.

All true. Try the G I’m talking about, though. It’s a power chord with 4 G notes and 2 D notes over 2 octaves.

So I am finally trying this out and went to the beta, but it seems to be operating in the old way. I can’t find a toggle. I changed a chord in a tune from Am to A (I had used Am but always wanted no third on thid tune) but with the “hear as you edit” activated I am still hearing distinctly a major 3rd. Obviously I’m missing something, but what?

Oh, in INSTRUMENTS. Got it. I was in editing and looking at chords.

…Actually, I still can’t get it to work. Toggled in Instruments, then changed my Am to A major but the chords still have a major 3rd.

I haven’t even tried it but I know it I’m gonna like it! Thanks for all your efforts Luke!

Great addition. Can you implement this for the key of G? I have a few tunes played in G modal and the chords without the 3rd would be great.

@LeePerkins The key of G already uses a 1 chord without a third (that 3x0033 G chord I talked about above) so it’s already modal-friendly. :+1:

@BrianWood It sounds like you may have changed the chords from Am to A but left the key as Am. It won’t use capoed chords with the key of Am, since that’s usually played without a capo. Edit the song and change the key to A and it should use a no-third 1 chord.

The main site and mobile apps now play the new capoed-G chord sounds for A, Bb, and B. :grin:

Works great! Thanks! I can’t remember if you said you might make it default but I think the toggle option is good to keep.

It’s the new default, but yeah the toggle to revert it back to the old way is still there. Eventually that UI will change but I’ll keep that option around somehow. (Actually I’ll probably expand it to allow you to specify the voicing to use for other keys as well.)