Guitar Chords
Diatonic Chord Construction
(all instruments)

Chord - 3 or more notes played at the same time.

Strum along with tripfuse
using open
Em, G and C chords
click here

Chords are built from scales so we will start by building a major scale. For now we will use the C major scale.

Review Scales if needed.

C major scale on the staff.

Diatonic Chords - chords belonging to one key.

Stack the notes (line, line, line, space, space, space, etc) from each scale degree (note) from the C major scale and we end up with the 7 diatonic triads (chords) belonging to the key of C major.

Building chords.

We end up with a series of major and minor chords with the seventh one called diminished. These are the chords belonging to the key of C.

Because all major scales are built the same way:
the I IV and V are the major chords in every major key.
ii, iii and vi are the minor chords in every major key.
vii is called diminished in every major key.

C Major Chord

Stack the notes line line line from C and we end up with the 1st (C), 3rd (E) and 5th (G) degrees of the C major scale. If we translate this to the fretboard we have this:

It is not easy to strum just 3 strings so by adding another 1st and 3rd degree (both an octave higher) we can now strum strings 5 - 1. Much easier.
The low E is not usually played because it tends to sound muddy. Block the string by gently touching with your 3rd finger or bring your thumb up over and touch lightly enough to stop the string from ringing.

A Minor Chord

Build a chord from the 6th degree of the C major scale you will find the notes A , C and E. Because the distance between A and C is a minor 3rd (3 half steps) the chord will be called A minor. The difference between major and minor chords will be explained a little further down the page.

Once again we may want to strum more than just 3 strings. We can add our low A string and another E (second fret of your D string).

Progression - chord to chord. The order in which chords are played in a tune.

Let's work on changing between the C chord and the A minor. Only your 3rd finger will move. Your 1st and 2nd finger will stay in the same place for both chords.

The strum pattern below will have us play down strokes for 3 quarter notes on a C chord and then you will have one quarter note rest to make your switch to the Am chord. Remember to only move your 3rd finger.

Below we will look at two different ways to learn the difference between major and minor triads.

An interval is the distance between two notes.

Major vs Minor (Part 1)

A chord is major or minor depending on the distance between the first (root) and the third degree.In all of the chords above, the root is the bottom note and the third is the middle note. The top note is the fifth but has nothing to do with a chord being major or minor.

The first chord built in the key of C is a C major chord and contains the notes C, E and G. The distance between the C and E would be two whole steps. The distance between these two notes is called a major third, making the chord major. C Major
The chord built from the second degree is D minor and contains the notes D, F and A. This chord is minor because of the distance between the root (D) and the third (F). In this case the distance is one and a half steps or 3 half steps. This interval is called a minor third and therefore makes the chord minor.D Minor

Guitar chords and chord construction

Major vs Minor (Part 2)

Another way to think of major vs minor: The 1st, 3rd and 5th degree taken from a major scale equals a major chord (1 3 5) . Lower the 3rd degree one half step and you have a minor chord (1 b3 5) .

Stack space space from the fourth degree (F) of the C major scale and we have the IV chord (F).

The distance between the root (F) and the third (A) is a major third (2 whole steps or 4 half steps).

This major 3rd makes the chord major.

M3 = 4 half steps
F Major
Guitar fretboard F major triad or chord.

To make it minor we must lower the third one half step.

By lowering the A to Ab we now have 3 half steps between the root (F) and 3rd (Ab)

This -3rd makes the chord minor.

-3 = 3 half stepsps
F Minor
Guitar fretboard showing F minor triad or chord.
Note that the F minor triad could not belong to the key of C because the C scale didn't contain any sharps (#) or flats (b).

Guitar chords and chord construction

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Try another related free lesson - Arpeggio

or for more free lessons:
TripFuse Lesson - These Voices of Mine - strum in 6/8 with open Em, G and C chords
Tom Petty Lesson - open D, Dsus4 and Asus4 chords
The Power Chord - the main staple of rock and metal guitar


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