#Guitar Lesson: Shell Voicing Extensions

LA Music Academy's Tariqh Akoni

In a previous lesson, we looked at Guide Tones and Shell Voicings. The next, step is to see how we can extend these voicings. Remember, we have our basic “building blocks” of Triads, and 7th chords. Now we’re going to continue to “extend” our voicings by adding 9th, 11th, and 13th chord tones. The trick is to simply take these Shell Voicings and reach forward (above the voicing) to explore which tensions are available (the words Tensions and Extensions are typically used synonymously as we “Extend” our voicings but the notes cause more “Tension” needing resolution).. As an example, take our Cdom7 Shell Voicing (1, 3, b7), reaching ABOVE the voicing, we could grab another Root, b9, 9, #9/b3 or 3.

Example 1

Here is a list of the most common Major, Minor, and Dominant Family chords:

Major, Minor and Dominant Family chords

As we look at our Shell Voicings and how we can extend them, you’ll notice that we’ve discarded the one’s that are too difficult to finger. The following is a compendium of all Shell Voicing Extensions. You’ll see a lot of old familiar friends within these voicings. Remember, these are not “grips” to be memorized. Try to think of them as their Shell Voicings with extensions, and learn them slowly to add to your repertoire. As a side note, we’ve distinguished our dominant family chords as either Non-Functioning Dominants (those that don’t resolve down a fifth) and Functioning Dominants (those that DO resolve down a fifth). Non-Functioning Dominants can contain the #11 (Lydianb7) while Functioning Dominants have true alterations (b5, #5/b13, b9, #9).

Major Family

6th String Root

5th String Root

4th String Root

  Minor Family

6th String Root

 5th String Root 4th string Root

Dominant Family – Non-Functioning

6th String Root

5th String Root


4th String Root


Dominant Family – Functioning

6th String Root 5th String Root

4th String RootOkay… this is a LOT of chords. Now remember, DON’T BE INTIMIDATED. The goal is twofold: a) to see the application of these extended voicings and how they’re generated b) to perhaps find some voicings that are intriguing. To practice, take these through the circle of fifths or fourths and try to put them to use in an arrangement or while comping. In addition, try to “see” which CAGED position surrounds each voicing and all the available notes nearby. This is a great deal of work, but with diligence you’ll soon impress your friends and frighten your enemies.

Good Luck!!!

-Tariqh Akoni

Tariqh Akoni is Los Angeles Music Academy College of Music Guitar Department Chairman. He is a performing/session guitarist and currently on tour with Josh Groban.

Want to learn more about the LA Music Academy guitar department? Check out Tariqh’s video introduction below:

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4 responses to “#Guitar Lesson: Shell Voicing Extensions”

  1. Ricky Comiskey says :

    Tariqh. I love this explanation of how shell voicings work. It reflects my understanding of the topic and especially tying it into the CAGED system. Thank you for a very informative article. I always teach my students that there’s no need for volumes of chords books when you understand the stucture of chords, extend them from the shell voicings and apply them to all 5 shapes. Best wihes Ricky (Ricky’s school of rock UK http://www.rock-school.co.uk)

  2. chris blyth says :

    Cool, thanks thats great showing all the fingering variations…

  3. chris blyth says :

    thanks. Would’nt it be nice to see a naming system that differentiated between Cmaj7 where it goes e.g 1-3-7-3, and 1-5-7-3 then it would be more obvious to the beginner why something sounds different ? What do you think of the intervals between the chord tones being as important as the tones themselves ?

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