Guitar Chords Explained

At its core, every chord has its own individual sound due to different intervals between notes in its scale (see chord-clock).

Once you have mastered major and minor triads, we will explore more complicated chords like seventh chords and augmented chords as well as extension notes which add new tonal colours to a chord.


Triads are three-note chords comprised of a root note, third note and fifth note arranged into an arrangement with three distinct shapes: root note, third note and fifth note. Triads serve as building blocks of many four and five note chords; therefore it is vitally important that guitarists understand triad shapes for fretboard freedom.

A triad’s quality–major, minor, diminished or augmented–is determined by the intervals between its root and both third and fifth notes. To identify it on the staff, draw its root note first before writing third and fifth notes directly above it using closed spacing (i.e. without doubled notes or wide intervals). To identify it correctly.

Same holds true with voicings, which involves shifting the root position and/or doubled or extended notes across multiple octaves to change its appearance; however, note that its name will remain unchanged due to octave equivalence principles.

Sus4 chords

Suspended chords are an effective way of adding tension and ambiguity to your progressions, creating chromatic sequences similar to what Luther Vandross employed in Never Too Much by using consecutive sus4-maj movements – as seen in The Who’s Pinball Wizard intro for instance. They work well as tonic chords as they can also be resolved into major or minor chords on the same root; using multiple instances could even build up tension such as seen in its intro.

Normal major triads consist of the root, 3rd, and 5th notes from a scale (1-3-5). A sus chord can be created by replacing the third with either a perfect 4th (sus4) or major 2nd (sus7), creating lighter and less stable chords than their parent chords; these variations can even be played without ever returning back to them; an approach often used in Renaissance music as well as jazz where these sus chords add a dreamy sound that works particularly well when used to add dreamy sounds into songs.

Major and minor chords

Major and minor chords form the backbone of any musical style. While major chords tend to sound bright and upbeat, while minor chords often tend to sound melancholic or depressing – this rule should serve as an aid when learning chord progressions.

Both major and minor chords consist of a root note, minor third note, and perfect fifth intervals; with minor third being three semitone steps lower than major third and seven halftone steps below root respectively.

Stacked chords create the minor triad and can form either an augmented or diminished chord depending on whether a minor seventh chord is included. Chords are identified by their fifth, so if it contains one it would be named Cm7.

Practice chord shapes to build muscle memory is key in improving any skill. Even 15 minutes a day of consistent practice will accelerate progress and make playing guitar more enjoyable.


Scales are at the core of music theory. A set of notes belonging together and serving as the foundation for chords; chords consist of intervals (notes that share similar pitches but differ in terms of their notes) within a scale.

For guitar, two essential scales to learn are the major and minor scales. Both contain seven notes; with the former also including an altered chord with flattened seventh and sharp ninth notes (flattened seventh-sharp ninth chord).

The Circle of Fifths can help you learn which chords work well together by measuring whole steps and half steps as well as major and minor changes. To use this tool effectively you must understand your keys as well as be able to count whole steps and half steps and understand major/minor distinctions.