Watch the Slippers online guitar lesson by Chris Buono from Funk Fission
Like the superimposed Em7(4/11) that is acting as a A7sus4/E played at the beginning of Slippers, the remaining chords are all secondary harmonic components intended to serve the primary Am sound. In the chart I provided the actual names of the chords, clusters (explained below) notwithstanding, so you can see what it is I’m superimposing. During the breakdown I will lay out for you what their superimposed function is when analyzed against an A root.
As just mentioned, within Slippers is a new chord formula I really dig called clusters. While these formulae are not very common and have no real rules established they could be thought of as harmony made up of primarily small intervals, most notably 2nds. In fact, a true cluster to me is a three note formula that is made up of only 2nds regardless of what type or order—major-minor, minor-major, major-major, or minor-minor. In the repeated part of the riff you’ll find two faux clusters that exist inside the pool of superimposed harmony under the Am umbrella. Both played with a staccato hybrid picking technique on offbeat 16th, the first one is a minor 3rd-major 2nd cluster played at the last 16th of beat 2 that’s spelled E-G-A. This gives you the 5th, b7th, and root of an Am7 chord in a nice tight package. Next up is the cluster at the 2nd 16th of beat 3 that features the reversed interval structure of a major 2nd-minor 3rd spelling G-A-C. This delivers the b7th, root, and b3rd this in another very cool sounding combination.
I try to use clusters where ever I can and if the opportunity is there, I try to play them within alternative techniques such as harp harmonics much like the great Tal Farlow or Lenny Breau … but that’s for another time!