Guitar Chords

Playing Chords Are Easy When You Know How!

"A guitar chords page with information to help you understand them..."

Chords are nothing more than two (more often three) notes played together either simultaneously, or in an arpeggio fashion (one note struck one after another to give a rippling effect in sound).

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Having said that, guitar chords can be notoriously difficult if you don't approach them in a technically correct fashion. This implies that your fingers must be at the correct angle otherwise you get chords that sound like a muffled, muted mess! I'm getting ahead of myself here. Let's start with how guitar chords look in music notation, guitar chord diagrams and guitar tablature...

As you can see in the guitar chord notation above, the "C" chord consists of these notes (lowest to highest): C, E, G, C and E.

The "Guitar Chord Box" and the "Tab" indicates that the C on the fifth string is played on the third fret, using the third finger. The E note on the fourth string is on the 2nd fret and played with the 2nd finger. The G is an open string (3rd string). The next C is played on the 2nd string first fret with the first finger and the highest note E, is also an open note played on the 1st string.

When fingering this chord (or any chord for that matter) you need to bend your fingers at the first joint and touch the strings with the tips of your fingers rather than the "pads" (underside of the tips of your fingers opposite the nail side).

This type of approach will ensure that each note is clearly sounded with no muffled, muted or "dead" sound coming from the strings. Guitar chords, when strummed, plucked or picked should sound clear and free of buzzing or muting. This also allows the overtones or "harmonic series" to be correctly sounded thus giving a chord its true, full sound.

Here is a picture from Fred Noad's a great book, Solo Guitar Playing, of how your fingers should look as they finger the notes (holding the guitar and looking down)...

All chords (including classical chords) are built on the notes of the scale. The name of the chord depends on the intervals (distance from the root note) within that chord. These are the intervals that make up the chords with their scale degrees and the distance from the root note on a single guitar string. I have used a single guitar string so that you can get some idea of the distance from the root an interval would be within chords...


Unison...1...No frets Minor 2nd...Flattened 2nd...1 fret


Major 2nd...2nd...2 frets


Minor 3rd...Flattened 3rd...3 frets


Major 3rd...3rd...4 frets


Perfect 4th...4th...5 frets


Augmented...Sharpened 4th...6 frets


Diminished 5th...Flattened 5th...7 frets


Perfect 5th...5th...8 frets


Minor 6th...Flattened 6th...9 frets


Major 6th...6th...10 frets


Minor 7th...Flattened 7th...11 frets


Major 7th...7th...12 frets


Perfect Octave...8th...13 frets


Augmented Octave...Sharpened 8th...14 frets


Minor 9th...Flattened 9th...15 frets


Major 9th...9th...16 frets


Perfect 11th...11th...17 frets


Augmented 11th...Sharpened 11th...18 frets


Minor 13th...Flattened 13th...19 frets


Major 13th...13th...20 frets


Here are the types of chords you're likely to use in everyday music (classical or otherwise) and their structure in terms of intervals...


Major...1,3,5 (e.g. Tonic note + Major Third + Perfect 5th).








Dominant 7th...1,3,5,b7


Major 7th...1,3,5,7


Minor 7th...1,b3,5,b7


Dominant 7b5...1,3,b5,b7


Augmented Dominant 7th...1,3,#5,b7


Diminished 7th...1,b3,b5,bb7


Suspended 4th...1,4,5


Major 6th...1,3,5,6


Minor 6th...1,b3,5,6


Six Add Nine...1,3,5,6,9


Minor 6 Add 9...1,b3,5,6,9


Add Nine...1,3,5,9


Minor Add Nine...1,b3,5,9


Major Ninth...1,3,5,7,9


Minor Ninth...1,b3,5,b7,9


Dominant Ninth...1,3,5,b7,9


Dominant Sharp Nine...1,3,5,b7,#9


Dominant Flat Nine...1,3,5,b7,b9


Minor Eleventh...1,b3,5,b7,9,11


Dominant Eleventh...1,3,5,b7,9,11


Dominant Sharp Eleventh...1,3,5,b7,9,#11


Major 7 Sharp 11...1,3,5,7,9,#11


Major Thirteenth...1,3,5,7,9,11,13


Minor Thirteenth...1,b3,5,b7,9,11,13


Dominant Thirteenth...1,3,5,b7,9,11,13


When playing classical guitar music you are playing chords all the time. There is not usually any indication of this via a chord box or even a chord symbol, but the chords are there ...in bundles! Indeed, the great jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, when interviewed for "Guitar Player" magazine was asked... "Did you ever run into any of the classical guitar players, like Segovia?"

He answered... "No, and I don't want to because these cats will scare you. It doesn't make any difference that they're playing classic, but there's so much guitar!" If you've ever had the pleasure of listening to Wes Montgomery soloing in chords, you can't help but be amazed. You then get some idea of what the classical guitarist achieves in terms of chordal work if the great Wes Montgomery is impressed with them.

It is unfortunate that most classical guitarist's (myself included until a few years ago) don't really know enough about the theory and naming of most chords. Do yourself a favor and apply yourself to the study of chords because it can only help your overall musicianship if you do.

Mostly, when playing chords, the classical guitarist will arpeggiate them. This is a great tool to use when done tastefully but can become a little "false" or pretentious when overdone. However, every guitarist, classical or otherwise should know how this is achieved. If you look at the graphic below, it explains how to achieve it. Just remember (if you can't read the notation) that each note is played evenly throughout the entire arpeggio...

Chords are also identified by a Roman numeral system or by its position in the scale. The system used is as follows...


Chord I = Tonic or root


Chord II = Supertonic


Chord III = Mediant


Chord IV = Sub-dominant


Chord V = Dominant


Chord VI = Sub-mediant or relative minor


Chord VI = Seventh


Chord I = Tonic (octave)


Another method of chord playing you should be familiar with is Barre chords. This is where you use your index finger basically to use your finger as a "bar" across the strings. To give you an example the E chord is used in the first position (first fret) on the guitar. If you keep the same shape on the strings but use a barre chord across the whole six strings, you can transfer this chord all the way up the guitar fret board.

Only the fingers you use changes at the first move i.e. instead of using fingers 1, 2 and 3 to finger the E chord you use fingers 2, 3 and 4 and use the first finger almost like the "nut". This makes an F chord. This can continue all the way up the fingerboard, and the chord will take its name from the note on the 6th string (lower E string). 

Barre guitar chords are used in most classical guitar music and in different formations. For instance,  you can use a half-barre chord, which can cover both 3 and 4 strings. The beauty of the barre chord is that, in most instances,  it makes guitar chords movable on the fret board.

I hope this little study of guitar chords has made your understanding of what guitar chords are,  and how they are made up, a little clearer.

Good luck with playing guitar chords in the future...

Oh! By the way. For further info on guitar chords click here...

More than Guitar Chords...

Here are a few related pages you may find useful...

For further information on this topic click here...

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