Chords

Warning: You must read the article “Intervals” before you read this page. The topics discussed in this article are closely related to those found in the “Intervals” article, and an understanding of the information in that article is crucial to the success you will have with “Chords.” You can find the “Intervals” article on the “Theory” section of the site.

A chord is made by playing at least three different notes at the same time. The first note of a chord is called it’s root. A chord can be built on any note as it’s root note. The next note of a chord is the third note up from the root, while the next is the fifth note up from the root.
scales c chords
Let’s pick C as the root of the chord we will be building. Starting from C, the third note up is the E note. The fifth note up from C is the G note. Thus C-E-G would be a C chord. However, chords, just like scales, can be either major or minor, so we need to figure out how to build each of these types of chords.

Major chords
scales c chords major
Major chords are built with a Major 3rd (M3) and Perfect 5th (P5) from the root. A M3 has four half steps, or four frets, while a P5 has seven half steps, or seven frets.
scales c chords2
A C Major chord (C-E-G) naturally falls within the above pattern without needing any accidentals. C to E has four half steps (C#, D, D#, E), while C to G has seven half steps (C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G). Notice that building a chord is related to the scale the root note is in. The C major scale naturally has no sharps or flats, and thus the C major chord also has no sharps/flats.
scales e chords
Here we have an E Major chord. We needed to add a G# to make it fit the pattern above. E to G# is four half steps (F, F#, G, G#), while E to B is seven half steps (F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B). Notice that here, too, the chord is related to the scale of the root note. The E major scale has a G# and a B natural.

Minor chords
scales c chords minor2
A minor chord is built by lowering the 3rd degree of a major chord down a half step. It is built with a minor third (m3) and a Perfect fifth (P5).
scales c chords minor
Lets look at the C major chord again. To make this chord into a C minor chord, we will lower the 3rd note, the E, down a half step to E flat (Eb). We keep the G as is. Thus, a C minor chord is built like this: C-Eb-G.
scales e chords minor
Let’s also look at the E major chord. To make this E major chord into E minor, we will lower the 3rd degree of the chord, the G#, down to a G natural. Thus, an E minor chord is built like this: E-G-B.

Look in the “Technique” and “Excercises” sections of this site for videos and tips on playing chords on the guitar.

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