Guitar Chords For Beginners – Learn the Major and Minor Chords

Chords form the backbone of all music, and even one minor change can completely alter a chord’s sound and mood.

Each chord is marked by a letter and may also feature other symbols above it, while vertical lines that run down the diagram represent frets on a guitar neck.

The dots on the strings represent frets that need to be fingered while X’s indicate strings that should not be played or muted with other fingers or via picking hand.


Major and minor chords are two essential types of guitar chords for beginners to master, along with dominant 7th chords, that form the basis of most musical phrases. Minor chords offer darker sounds than their major counterparts and can often be used to create cadences in music.

To play minor chords successfully, it’s essential that you possess an in-depth knowledge of the natural minor scale. Below you will find some positions from this scale which correspond with CAGED system and span two octaves; further, these patterns can be broken down further into single octave shapes.

Minor chords consist of the first, lowered or flattened third and fifth notes from any major scale, combined with any suitable scale positions to form minor chords in any key. Fretboard diagrams for every minor scale position provide detailed interval relationships between strings and notes in this minor scale position, and recommended fingerings for playing that scale shape.


Chord voicings are various fingerings used to play chords. Each chord voicing creates its own distinctive sound and playability; some more complicated than others may add variety to your chord-playing abilities.

Beginners often find the minor version of chord shapes easier to play. This voicing retains the same form as its major version but with one fret subtracted off of the third note of each chord; this lower third gives this version its characteristic minor quality and sadder sound.

FIGURE 19 provides examples of minor chords with dominant seventh voicings that can be used as alternatives to their major versions, making this chord type particularly suitable for jazz/fusion and progressive instrumental rock styles as IV/V chords in minor key progressions.


Chord progressions are sequences of chords played in a specific order to express emotion or add tension within music. Chord progressions can be used to produce any style of music from lively melodies to moving ballads.

Learning how to read a chord progression chart is essential for any musician, particularly those writing their own songs. Chord charts provide a quick way of viewing popular chord progressions within a key. For example, Bill Withers’ iconic Em, C, G progression can often be found in pop music and can help create captivating songs without needing extensive musical theory knowledge.

Each major key has a relative minor key that contains similar chords. To determine the relative minor of any chord, just look at its root note and lower it by one fret; this will alter its sound and give it a more somber and introspective sound.


A chord chart that displays all major and minor chords found within one musical key can be an invaluable aid for songwriters creating chord progressions, as well as those learning how the notes in that key come together to produce chord harmonies and scales.

Minor chords tend to sound darker than major ones and are identifiable by the “m” symbol in their name. Their seventh scale degree can either be major 7 or diminished 7; both of which are frequently encountered when learning jazz guitar.

One way of understanding the notes in a key is through the Circle of Fifths, which displays how every note has either sharps or flats as you ascend and descend the scale. For instance, C has no sharps while G has one and D two. This makes it easy for any musician to visualize how key works with just two fingers on a fretboard.