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Periphery / Haunted Shores: Mark Holcomb Masterclass (Part 1)

November 15th, 2010




Chord Voicings & Thumb Technique

[Mark's guitar is tuned to Drop-C for all examples in this Masterclass: C G C F A D] One of the things I get asked about a lot are the chord voicings that we use. Our chords are a little bit different than a lot of metal bands, in that there are more intricate voicings than what you would normally hear in the genre, though I’ve always believed in having really simple progressions.

Haunted Shores - Chords

If you listen to Haunted Shores songs, we tend to use a combination of three or four different chord shapes pretty often. I learned this first chord [Fmin7(9,11)] a long time ago from my friend Nick Dodd, who used to sing in Haunted Shores. If you listen to a lot the music, there are layers, but it’s nothing excessive. A lot of that is just chords that are bigger then they really need to be. The chord that he taught me really opened the door for me. That chord gets recycled a lot in Haunted Shores songs. I’m not afraid to admit that, because it’s basically just a minor chord with different voicings.

You can build voicings off of that, just to add a little bit more specificity to a generic power chord. It’s not economical for you to just lay one finger flat across a bunch of strings without even thinking about other voicings. One thing I use interchangeably – Misha Mansoor, who’s involved in the project, taught me this chord [Gmin7(9,no5)]. That’s a sort of minor chord that adds complexity and specificity to a chord, as opposed to just being a general minor chord.

One habit I developed when I was younger was using my thumb a lot. That’s not a standard practice at all – you don’t really see people using it, at least as far as I know. With those big open chords in mind, I think a lot of what makes these songs Haunted Shores songs is the fact that there’s a lot of really syncopated, intense right-handed riffing to go along with that. Bands like Extol are a huge influence of mine – the way they combine thrashier riffing with big open chords.

Immaterial Main Riff

The main riff from ‘Immaterial’ has a lot of that. The riff starts out with this big chord in measure 1 [Cmin(add9)], and then goes to this one in measure 3 [Cmin(add9,11)]. That chord right there in measure 5 is the same one we went over earlier [Fmin7(9,11)], just picked differently.

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Haunted Shores - Immaterial Main Riff

Passenger Main Riff

The main riff of the song ‘Passenger’ starts with that chord [Fmin7(9,11)]. There’s that chord again. This next shape is kind of weird – in measure 2 you’re basically playing the higher voicings of this chord [Cmin7(9,no5)], which is a transposition of the chord we went over earlier. So you’re basically doing voicings off of another chord. It makes sense melodically – even though the chords don’t really match up, it’s all basically in the same scale.

This part in measure 6 is a little bit tricky, because you’re playing the voicings of that same chord down a 5th [Fmin7(9,no5)], but instead of letting the notes ring through, you’re palm-muting through them kind of quickly. It can be kind of messy if you’re not careful with it.

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Haunted Shores - Passenger Main Riff

Passenger Verse Riff

The Verse riff for that song uses this chord in measure 2 [Ab/C]. That next part is tricky – I can only play that part fast, I can’t really play it slow. It’s just one of those things based on feel rather than any sort of logic or rationale there. It just feels good to do.

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Haunted Shores - Passenger Verse Riff

Passenger Pre-Chorus Riff

This is the Pre-Chorus riff from ‘Passenger’: That’s probably the hardest part of the song to play because of the quick run in measure 2. The first chord is [Cmin7(no5)/Eb]. I don’t know what kind of run that is – it’s just something that’s based on it feeling natural with the slides and these runs on each string. Again, for those last chords I’m using my thumb, which is my roundabout way of playing chords that I’m too lazy to play normally. I could easily play them with my middle finger, but it’s just instinctual for me to use my thumb.

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Haunted Shores - Passenger Pre-Chorus Riff

[Special thanks to: DP and Editor Zach Jopling, Assistant Cameraman Habib Awan and Soundman Alex Hura, along with Chris Robinson for his excellent intro.]