5. Sixths

Sixths and inverted 3rds are the same thing. I just call them sixths. As related to a C scale, this is the distance between E (3rd note of the scale) and the C above it, at the octave. This is also referred to as a major sixth. I will concentrate on these for now.  There are a number of good ways to familiarize yourself with them. Try the following:


Work them up and down the neck through the scale:


As with triads, choosing some simple I IV V based songs provides a good opportunity to get comfortable using them. Expand to different chords and progressions as you are able. Remember to think both horizontally:


And vertically:


Because playing 6ths requires crossing a string, you will want to either use the fingers or a pick plus one finger, as opposed to 3rds, which can be played with a pick only. Although you can play 6ths with a sweeping motion of the pick, this technique is usually reserved for octaves.

A popular use of 6ths is to play them alternately in a line, using slides on the lower voice to connect them:



As with triads and 3rds, the better your command of basic diatonic harmony, the more expressive your use of these elements will be.

© 2012 Jim Greenfield