Blues/Rock Chord Changes
The bVII (flatted seventh) chord is widely used not just in blues and rock but folk, bluegrass, country, and more. Van Morrisonâ€™s â€śGloriaâ€ť is a Iâ€“bVIIâ€“IV progression all the way through. The Romanticsâ€™ hit â€śThatâ€™s What I Like About Youâ€ť rolls through the same chords in a different order: Iâ€“IVâ€“bVIIâ€“IV. Another variation can be heard in the Grateful Deadâ€™s â€śFranklinâ€™s Towerâ€ť and the verses in Bob Segerâ€™s â€śNight Movesâ€ť: both are Iâ€“bVIIâ€“IVâ€“bVII. In â€śFire on the Mountain,â€ť also from the Dead songbook, the only chord change is Iâ€“bVII.
Example 1 shows a rock rhythm pattern in E with I, bVII, and IV. Play all downstrokes with the pick (or fingers if you donâ€™t use a pick), accenting the bass strings. Notice thereâ€™s a quick strum on the open strings before each new chordâ€”this adds a little more edge and also gives you time to change fingerings.
If youâ€™re working on a song that uses the I, IV, and V, try substituting the bVII for the V to give the progression a different feel. In general, you can use the bVII to add zing to a progression otherwise made up of diatonic chords. For instance, the Allman Brothersâ€™ â€śRamblinâ€™ Manâ€ť uses a Iâ€“bVIIâ€“I in the beginning of the chorus (â€śLord, I was born a ramblinâ€™ manâ€ť) to make that line stand out in an otherwise standard country/folk progression with the diatonic I, IV, V, and vi chords. Neil Youngâ€™s â€śAfter the Gold Rushâ€ť has the same set of chords and accentuates the bVII to add to the songâ€™s mysterious mood.
Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar, April 2013
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