Now that you know the major scale pattern, you can use that to construct many chords. Like scales, chords are based around patterns, but unlike scales, chords are multiple notes played at once. Once you learn the base patterns, like major and minor, you can use them with scales to make whatever chord you want, and then there is even more you can do! The amount of chords you know is only limited by how open-minded you are. Just because a chord sounds nasty doesn’t mean we can’t decipher what notes are in it and name the chord. For starters we will stick to the major chord in this lesson.
The pattern of chords is made up of the notes of a scale you would play together to make that chord. So imagine the major scale. Take the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale and play them all at once. Viola! You have just played a major chord. That’s a measly explanation, but if that’s all you need, then great. However, we will need to expand that a little more to fully understand things. Let's take the Gmaj scale and Gmaj chord and compare them.
On the left is the Gmaj scale, and on the right is the Gmaj chord. If we pick out the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale chart on the left, we would get the notes G, B, and D. So in short, we could play just these three notes and get a good sounding Gmaj chord. It is named a G chord because the lowest tone or bass note is a G and also because it is constructed with the Gmaj scale. But we can really fill up the sound of the chord by utilizing the rest of the strings. If we just repeated the notes G, B, and D on the 3 highest strings, the fingering of the chord might get a little twisted and difficult. So, instead of forcing your fingers into crazy patterns, just play the notes that are comfortable, making sure they are either G, B, or D. The most common way to play a Gmaj is shown in the picture on the right. Notice we have the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes in the 3 lowest strings and then G, B, and D are repeated on the higher strings. As long as you have the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale, you will have a major scale. It doesn’t matter where they are played either. You could play the 5th on the A string and 3rd on the G string and still have a Gmaj chord. However, take note that if the bass note (lowest tone) is changed, the name of the chord will change.
Constructing other Chords
To construct other chords besides the Gmaj chord, take the respective scale and pick out the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes and play them together. Say you're looking to play a Cmaj. Take the Cmaj scale, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and pick out the 1st, 3rd, and 5th. Since the 3rd and 5th notes of a major scale are on the same string, so one of them needs to be moved to another string. Since the G can be played with the open G string we can move the 5th note to the G string. Then the Cmaj chord will look like this: notes C, E, G. Next arrange them on the fretboard so that you can play them all together.
Note that you can play the C, E, and G other places as well to thicken up the chord, but this is a simple way to play the Cmaj chord. To add in more notes, you can also play the B string on the 1st fret, which is a C.
If you have any questions, be sure to watch the video and check out the forums. There are numerous resources on the site that can help you, so don’t let them go to waste!