Guitar Chords and Chord Progressions

Chord progressions form the backbone of any great song, and understanding their creation and their associated harmonies is crucial to creating your own progressions.

Triad chords are the simplest type of chord. Composed of three notes that are spaced apart by what is known as a semitone interval, this chord type requires only three notes to create it.


Triads are chord shapes composed of three notes; specifically the root, major third, and perfect fifth of any minor scale. While major triads have closed voicing, minor triads are open voicing; they can be played both open strings as well as the first string set.

Triads form the basis of all chords, so once you understand their basic shapes you can move them around the fretboard to form larger chords or arpeggios.

To determine whether a triad is major or minor, play its root note (C in this example) and listen. Another method would be counting semitones between its roots and third notes as this will give an idea of its quality.


If intervals are unfamiliar to you, take some time to educate yourself before continuing – they form the basis of music theory and should not be underestimated!

Moving up one semitone from a major second yields minor third, and ascending another semitone yields perfect fifth – it’s easy to understand why so many chord progressions use these intervals as building blocks.

Use the Circle of Fifths to easily locate minor chords in any key. It also works well as scale practice, helping you build up a large vocabulary of key names; and sight-reading music – you’ll know exactly which sharps or flats you need for any given key! Once you become proficient using it, finding minor chords will become second nature on any fretboard!


To create a minor seventh chord, begin with a major triad and lower its third to create tension within your progressions. These chords are great ways of adding tension.

Add a minor seventh chord to a dominant 7 chord to create depth and tension within the soundscape; these chords are common in pop music.

Drop 2 voicings provide another effective means of adding minor sound to chords, with their rich, beefier tones suited for snappy funk progressions and easier playing with closely spaced fingers, not needing large bass string stretches like those found in Doobie Brothers songs Long Train Running or Heart of Gold by Neil Young.


Sixths (also referred to as added sixths, sixth chords or triads with added sixth) consist of major or minor triads with an added note – either flat or sharp depending on its placement in the chord diagrams below).

These chord voicings may not be as common, but they provide a distinctive sound that can add variety to a song’s progression. They particularly shine when placed after a minor seventh chord.

As one of the simplest movable chord shapes available to guitarists, creating a minor sixth is an essential early lesson on guitar. Requiring no large finger stretches and fitting comfortably under your index finger, Cm6 chord interval qualities are described below along with short interval note names/abbreviations in brackets.


Learning to change chords cleanly on the fretboard is one of the key skills a guitarist must acquire early on, not only for technical reasons but also so as to avoid those awkwardly-formed chord shapes that often plague beginner songs! It will help avoid those big clunky shapes so often found in beginner songs!

Switching major triads to minor is simple: just find the original chord’s third note, typically C, and move it down by half-tone (or tone depending on your tuning system) until it lands at E flat, known as a lowered third.

Similar to making dominant seventh chords by stacking major and minor thirds together (called tertian triad), you can also build other chords using this principle – for instance augmented fourth or quintal sevenths – giving yourself more options for crafting interesting and unexpected sounds with your chords.