Guitar Chords – More Than Words

Chords are groups of notes played together at specific intervals (recall intervals from the 1 3 5 rule) that come together to produce sound. Triads are the simplest chords.

Number your fingers on your left hand, imagining that each finger contains an alphabet letter written on it – beginning with C.

The 1 3 5 rule

Chords are composed of multiple notes played simultaneously and their intervals determine their quality and function. Beginners typically start out learning open chords that use major and minor keys, since these chords offer limited shapes that can easily fit onto fretboards when tuned using standard tuning tuning.

Power chords are a staple of rock music, appearing frequently across many styles. Consisting of two notes–usually root note and fifth–they can even include an octave of these chords if necessary. Commonly notated as C5 or C(no 3), these aggressive-sounding chords often include distortion or other effects to produce their sound.

Nuno Bettencourt makes his songs stand out by adding dynamic power chords without becoming repetitive by employing intriguing rhythm patterns, such as playing percussive hand slaps every other beat to maintain a steady groove and make his chords feel even more powerful.


Triads are essential building blocks of any chord progression. Their straightforward sound and sturdy structure allows you to quickly set down roots for your musical creations.

Triads in each major and minor key have distinct qualities determined by the intervals between their notes. Chord symbols represent major triads with the name of their root note and an accompanying note to denote their quality (such as Cmaj) while diminished/augmented triads may include either an “mi” sign (lowercase letter “mi”) or a superscript circle symbol (o).

Quality can dramatically change the sound of your music. A triad’s quality can add emotion or tension; for instance, one featuring major sevenths will sound much harsher than without. Furthermore, extended triads known as tetrachords, pentachords, and hexachords add complexity by providing more complex harmony that adds richer sounds to melodies while creating emotional movement.

Dominant 7th chords

Dominant seventh chords can add tension to a progression by combining major triads with dominant seventh intervals above their root note, creating dissonance and increasing tension within a chord progression.

These chords can also be found in country music and blues; Elvis’ uptempo hit “Heartbreak Hotel” utilized A7, B7, and E7 dominant 7th chords to give its signature sound that makes you want to move your hips.

Drop 3 voicing is another method of creating a dominant seventh, by lowering both third and seventh strings by an octave in closed voicings. Below are four different drop 3 dominant 7th voicings on the guitar neck; black indicates root voicing while blue, red, and green notes signify first inversion (inventory), second inversion, and fourth inversion respectively.

Chord extensions

Chord extensions add additional notes not present in their parent scale to an already established chord, creating tension (or dissonance) and making the chord sound harmonically richer.

As a general guideline, chords with too many notes should be avoided as they can be too heavy on the ears and difficult to hold down on guitar. If using extensions, make sure they are played in their appropriate places so the chords resolve smoothly.

The three most frequently utilized chord extensions are ninths, elevenths and thirteenths. Ninths and elevenths tend to be used more often than thirteenths depending on your genre of music – generally 9s/13ths are used when more rich harmonic color is desired; for example a G7b5(b9) works great as an intro chord for C9 chord progression while G13#9 can provide resolution in V chord progressions.