Guitar Chords Explained

Guitar chords form the backbone of most songs, acting like glue that connects all their elements together. From complex arrangements to simpler chord structures, there are endless ways chords can create songs.

Triad chords are the basic chord building block. Comprised of the 1st, 4th and 5th notes from a major scale, triads provide a firm foundation.


Triads are among the simplest chords, making up most harmonic progressions used in pop, folk, and rock music. Triads are easy to play and make an excellent place to begin exploring chord progressions.

To create a triad, simply take three notes that are separated by a third from the scale and play them together into a chord.

Each triad has distinct qualities which determine its dissonant or harmonious qualities, such as being major, minor, diminished, or augmented. Major and minor triads feature perfect intervals between their roots and chordal fifths while diminished and augmented triads contain imperfect intervals between root and chordal fifth.

To judge a triad, examine its lead sheet symbol and bass note attached. For instance, C major triad has three elements – C root note, D chordal fifth note and E augmented seventh – so take this into consideration when judging its quality.


Acquiring the knowledge necessary for mastering guitar chords begins with understanding scales. Scales are composed of notes which you can use to craft melodies, arpeggios and improvise over chords.

Example of Major Scale If you want to play a C major chord on guitar, using only notes C, E and G from a major scale you must hit all six strings of your instrument at once; while in contrast a minor scale contains only the lower three notes from all six strings on your instrument.

Additionally to understanding chords and scales, it’s also essential that you learn to read a chord diagram. This will enable you to determine which fingers should use on which frets to play which notes, while practicing each note/string individually can help ensure you hear its sound clearly.

As this will give you the most rewarding experience, practicing with a backing track is recommended. Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, experiment improvising over one-chord vamps.

Bar chords

Barre chords are an indispensable element in the arsenal of any guitarist, providing an excellent way to expand beyond open chord playing on the fretboard. Though more challenging at first, barre chords will add depth and dimension to your guitar playing once mastered.

A barre chord shape can be created by placing your index finger over all strings while positioning other fretting fingers over specific ones, creating a flexible chord shape which can be placed anywhere on the fretboard to form major and minor triads.

When barrering strings with your index finger it is crucial that you do not squeeze too tightly together your thumb and finger – this can lead to buzzing noises as well as being very hard on your hand. Instead, try flexing your thumb against the strings rather than compressing chord shapes too much with your index finger as you barre.

Open chords

Open chords provide a good starting point when learning guitar chords as they’re easy to finger. Furthermore, their sound compliments acoustic guitars perfectly.

These chords are built upon the major scale and usually consist of three or more notes based on that scale, including root, major third and perfect fifth notes.

To effectively finger these chords, it requires good hand position and being able to squeeze your fingers together without hitting any other strings (this is known as the dampening effect). Be careful only fretting strings marked with black dots while avoiding hitting those marked with an “x”. Doing this will prevent these strings from ringing unnecessarily.

At first, take your time practicing each open chord slowly. Check that all strings are ringing freely without accidentally muzzling any. When you have mastered each open chord you can begin combining them to form chord progressions.