All Guitar Chords Explained

1. What is a Chord?

A chord, by definition, is a collection of pitches, or musical notes, ringing out in harmony. In a guitar, a chord is usually manifested using at least 3 notes, and a lot of chords can be played with 5 or even 6 notes. Much like intervals, the variations of guitar chords are almost limitless. One can spend all his life learning and will still find more applications and combinations after his death. In this article, we will explore the realm of musical chords and how this concept is brought into life thanks to the strings.

There are two main types of chords: major and minor, whereby major chords sound uplifting and the latter does not.

2. Chord Construction

The composition of a chord cannot be any more straightforward – a chord is a group of notes, whose intervals harmonize. As such, building chords will require knowledge of the interaction between each note and each interval and how to combine them to form a chord.

Mastering the theory of chords will allow for the ability to manipulate the musical notes, separate or in unity. Plus, the guitarist seasoned in the use of musical theory will be able to explore the less-traveled paths of the musical realm, in turn, grow much more versatile as a guitarist. Treading these roads, fortunately, does not require much-advanced theory other than the framework of the chords and which note interaction will become chords.

3. From Scales to Chords

We have learned that scales do contain chords. In fact, chords derived from scales. For this reason, it is absolutely essential to learn how to form chords from scales. Incorporating two concepts does seem intimidating, especially when you are still beginning the journey of mastering musical theory. But rest easy for today we do bring you a very simple trick to do just this.

For this section, we will be demonstrating the technique using the key of C major. C major is one of the easiest scales to practice and experiment with since it does not contain any flat or sharp notes. As a reminder, here is how the scale goes: C D E F G A B.

First, simply pick a note on the scale, it can be any note and this method will still work just fine. This note will serve as the root note. And after that, we skip the note after that to have a 3rd and then skip another to have a fifth. Combine these three and we have ourselves a simple triad chord.

Let’s take the C in the C major scale for example. We have C as the root note, and then E as 3rd, and G as 5th. Play them all together and we have a C major chord.

Do remember that this trick is based on the theory of intervals, which means, this pattern is applicable for almost any scale. Let’s say now we are after the C minor chord, we use the C minor key, take the C as root, the 3rd and 5th, now we have C, E flat and G, the C minor chord.

3. Triads

Triads are the simplest and most basic form of guitar chords. As the name implies, they are composed of 3 notes. Simple as they are, they are also essential for the growth of a musician and are the prerequisites should be said musicians wish to move further in the world of melodic art. Due to the simplicity of its construction, triads are amongst the most versatile of the chords and will be of great use if applied correctly.

These 3-note chords consist of the following types: major, minor, diminished, augmented. These chords, due to their simplicity, will appear in a lot of songs. A good guitarist is expected to use these chords a lot.

Contruct major triads

The first of the triad chords, major triads are happy and uplifting. They can also provide a basic background in forming chords if guitarists pay close attention.

Forming a major triad incorporates the use of a root note, major 3rd, and 5th. For example, in the case of C major, we will have the C as the root note, E as 3rd, and G as 5th.

Construct minor triads

For minor triads, the flow of the intervals is very similar to major triads where only one note is different. The minor triads consist of a root, flat 3rd, and 5th. It is often easier to compare it to its major counterpart. For example, still using the key of C, to transform a C major to C minor, we simply switch the E (3rd) with Eb (flat third), then we will have the minor C as C, E flat, and G.

Augmented triads

Augmented triads are almost identical to majors in the composition, except for the 5th, where it is a sharp 5th in the case of augmented triads. For this reason, forming the augmented from major is very easy, as we only need to switch the two notes. Transforming the C major to C augmented can be done by replacing the G with G#, the chord will now become: C, E, and G#.

The Augmented chords will give the song a very magical and mysterious touch, they are also very versatile in execution.

Diminished triads

Dark and mysterious, the diminished chords appear a lot in jazz but are not as popular in Pop music. They introduce a fun yet exciting element to the song. Its composition is the Root note, flat 3rd, and flat 5th, very similar to minor triads. As such, forming the chord will using minor chords are very easy, as we simply move the 3rd note down half a step. For example, in the case of C minor, we replace the G with G flat. The notes of C diminished will be C, E flat, and G flat.

4. Major 7th:

The major 7th is no longer a triad. This type consists of 4 notes. however, they are still very similar to the Major chord, with one simple extension. The intervals of a major 7th is the Root note, major 3rd, major 5th, and major 7th. This means we can play the major 7th by simply adding the 7th to the basic major. In the case of C, the notes will be C, E, G, and B.

Do keep in mind that intervals do not at all change across the chords and you can apply this pattern to form other chords as well.

5. Minor 7th:

Think of the minor triad, now add a 7th flat after that. Voila, you now have a minor 7th chord. The minor 7th is slightly more melancholic compared to the major 7th, yet it sounds much more peaceful.

In the key of C, the minor 7th is played as C, E flat, G and B flat.

6. Dominant 7th chords:

In general, there are three types of 7th chords: major, minor and dominant. The dominant 7th chords are used a lot in the genre of Blues due to its funky feel. Dominant 7th , in the simplest explanation, is a mix between major 7th and minor 7th. Its intervals are: root note, major 3rd, major 5th and flat 7th.

Still using the key of C, we will have a dominant 7th by playing: C, E, G and B flat.

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