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How to be great at the guitar part 1 - The Chords

Rating: 1 user(s) have rated this lesson Average rating: 5.0 Posted by: ZixRyder, on Oct 15,2011, in category The Basics Views: this lesson has been read 1920 times
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What is a chord?

A chord is basically a group of notes played together. There are different types of chords. The most common chords are the major and the minor chords. There are other types of chords like the fifth chord or the seventh but they aren't that common. Every chord is build form a scale. A scale is a couple of notes (mostly 7 different notes).

Major chords - form the C major scale

Let's start with the major chords. They sound "happy".

To build a major chord you need three notes to sound together. Let's make a C major chord. The C (major) chord is build form the c major scale. Let's take a look at the C major scale.

C D E F G A B C*
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
*This C is just an octave higher than the 1st C.A new C major Scales starts form here

To build a C chord you need the root of the chord (1st note, C) the major third (3rd note, E) and the perfect fifth (5th note, G).
So for the C chord we will have these notes: C-E-G (1-3-5). these three notes can be repeat itself if you play a chord. For example the "basic" C major chord contains two C, two E and one G (1-3-5-1-3). Let's take a look at different variations for the C major chord.


Okay, now it's time for build the rest of the major chords. We still have to build an F, a G, and an A chord, so let's take a look at the scale again.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

To build any major chord we need the 1st, 3rd and the 5th note form the scale. So for the F major we need an F (4th of the C major scale but the 1st of the F major scale), an A (6th of the C, 3rd of the F scale) and a C (1st of the C, 5th of the F scale). So the F major chord contains: F-A-C.

Let's build the other one and then I'll show you two variations for each chord.
The G major chord contains: a G (5th of the C), a B (7th of the C) and a D (2nd of the C). So again G major: G-B-D.

 |F major|G major|

Minor chords - form the C major scale

Yes we can build minor, "sad", chords from a major scale. Any major chord contains these notes: 1-3-5, but for the minor chord we will have this: 1-b3-5. What does this mean? This means we will have the third note lowered with a half note (semitone). The half notes are those black key on the piano/keyboard and on the guitar the middle fret between two frets. For example. between the 3rd and the 5th fret there is the 4th fret and the 4th fret is a half note.

So let's build our first minor chord the D minor (Dm) chord.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Oh yeah. The good old C major scale. So for a Dm chord we will have a D, an F and an A note. You can say, that's the same 1-3-5 stuff like the major chords. Well no. Let's look at the C chord for an example. The C major chord contains a C, an E, and a G note. The distance between the E and the D note is a whole step (C-C#-D-D#-E-F). For the Dm chord (D-F-A) the distance between the E and the F is a half-step (D-#-E-F-F#). So the Dm's 3rd note is lowered with a half note. The D major would be D-F#-A (1-3-5), but the Dm minor is D-F-A (1-b3-5).

Okay, now let's build the other two minor chord form the C major scale, the Em and the Am.
The Em chord goes like this: E-G-B (1-b3-5).
The Am chord goes like this: A-C-E (1-b3-5).

Let's see some examples for these chords:
 | D minor    |E minor|A minor|

The B diminished chord - form the C major scale

So far we have these chords: C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, C major (an octave higher). One note is missing, the B (H for the European readers). Well, let's try to build that B chord.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Okay, so the first note will be the B, then the second will be the D, but what happens when we want to add the fifth note? Let's see that C major scale again, with the notes outside the scale.

C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B (C) <- the note bolded are in the C major Scale.

Let's see how the Dm Chord is build up.

C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B (C) <- D-F-A (D-two half-notes between-F-three half-notes between-A)

The problem is that we can't use this formula to build up our B chord, because it would be: B-two half-notes-D-three half-notes-F#.
So we have to lower our fifth note. So the formula for this chord will be: 1-b3-b5. And this note is called, the B diminished chord. (Bdim). This is the most evil sounding chord from the scale.


So again, to build a major chord you will use this formula: 1-3-5 (1st note-three half-notes between-3rd note-three half-notes between-5th note), to build a minor chord: 1-b3-5 (1st note-three half-notes between-3rd note-two half-notes between-5th note) and for the diminished chord: 1-b3-b5 (1st note-two half-notes between-3rd note-two half-notes between-5th note).

Next time, I will talk about alternative picking and economy picking.

I hope this helped.

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