All music is composed of chords and scales. For an acoustic guitarist learning chord theory and basic application can be an easy way to boost your playing skills. Whether you want to sound like Eric Clapton or Jason Mraz, you need not only to know your chord shapes but also the theory behind them. A chord is a cluster of three or more notes. There are several different types of chords. Major, minor, diminished, and augmented are the four major categories of chords.. Let’s start with major chords.
Major Chords can be found in almost every song ever written on an acoustic guitar.
A major chord consists of 3 notes. The root (or first), the third, and the fifth.
They are called this because they are the first, third, and fifth notes of the major scale
If you don’t know your major scales yet there are three easy rules to follow in finding your chords notes. Finding the root (or first) of the chord is easy. It is always the same as the chords name. For example in an A major chord the root is A. To find the third, the second note of a major chord, you go up 4 half-steps from the root. An example of this would be that in a G chord the third is B. To find our last note, the fifth, we go up 3 half-steps from the third. In a C chord, G would be the fifth. These rules apply for every major chord and work every time. Remember start on your root then go up 4 half-steps, then 3 half-steps. To test yourself try figuring out the major chord for each of the 12 possible chords. An example would be in C chord; C, E, and G are the chord notes.
Applying major chords to guitar can be a little bit trickier than figuring them out but knowing the chords composition, instead of memorizing shapes, will allow us to play chords anywhere on the neck instead of being limited to one position. The first thing we need to realize is that the guitar has six strings and we want to only play three different notes. This means we are either going to be emitting strings or repeating notes in the chord. Using the same note in the chord more than once is not bad; in fact it delivers a more full sound. We know that strummed open the guitar gives us an E, A, D, G, B, and E notes. If we are trying to make a G chord then was can only have the notes G, B, and D played. This means we can leave the D, G, and B strings open (allowing them to ring) but we will need to change the other three strings to a different note that fits in our chord.
Starting with the low E we can work are way up the fret board until we find a note that fits in our chord. The first fret would give us an F which is not in our chord and the second fret will not work either producing a F#. If we put our finger in the third fret, however, we will get a G which is the root of our chord and a great starting spot for our chord. Putting the root note in the bass is not mandatory of making a chord but will help us get the purest chord sound. We then must continue this process changing the all of the strings, which need changing, into notes from our chords. For example we could put our finger in the second fret on the A string and get a B. This would be the third in our G chord so it will work. Then on the high E we can repeat the position we have on the low E and get another G. This will give us a chord that looks and sounds like this.
Let’s try another major chord. If we want to play an E chord you first need to figure out the notes of the chord. This will give us E, G#, and B. Then we have to figure out which strings we can leave open if desired. For an E we could leave the low E, B, and high E strings. We will have to cover the A, D, and G strings. Before you watch the video try to figure the chord out for yourself and see if it looks and sounds like the chord on the video.
Omitting Strings is sometimes necessary to get the desired sound. Lets look at a D chord for an example. To get the sound of the root in the bass for a beginners’ shape we will skip the low E and A strings and use the D as our starting point. This means we won’t strum the two lowest strings when we play our chord. Try to figure the chords out for yourself and see if it looks and sounds like the chords on the video.
Some chords will require full fretting which mean no strings can be left open. Two examples of this are B and F. These chords are a little more complicated to play but are necessary to learn on the way to becoming a great guitarist.
Another great exercise to do once you have learned the chord shapes is to pluck the strings one by one making sure you are not getting any buzzing and name the note you are playing. This exercise will greatly increase your fretboard knowledge as well as help you memorize the notes in each chord. We will need to remember this chord structure for later lessons.