Guitar chords form the backbone of many songs, and are essential elements in writing music. While other methods exist for song writing, most involve using chords and melodies as primary tools.
Chords may seem intimidating to those new to guitar, particularly for beginners. This is due to guitar chord charts having visual similarities with sheet music but corresponding directly with fretboard notes.
Major and Minor Scales
Major and minor chords both use diatonic scales with seven notes that span five whole steps (2 frets apart) and two half steps (1 fret apart). What differentiates major from minor chords is their order.
C major (C, E, G, B and D) and A minor are almost identical – except for one difference: in A minor the third and sixth notes are lower by one semitone than they would be in C major, creating significant variation between chord sounds between these scales.
Most chords consist of three notes – the root note, one major third above it and one perfect fifth above – but some chords only contain one of these intervals; sometimes to simplify fingerings of the chord; it is also often done so as a means of changing more than one note in its basic chord shape.
Open and Power Chords
Open chords sounded clean and clear before adding distortion, but as soon as an electric guitarist cranks up their distortion it quickly changes into a sea of noise and dissonance.
To circumvent this problem, try using power chords instead. A typical power chord consists of the root note and fifth note of a major scale – commonly referred to as G and G5 chords.
These chords, also referred to as dyads, lack the third scale degree that differentiates major and minor chords from one another allowing them to easily traverse the fretboard while serving as bridges between other chords.
To play a G power chord, first fret the root note or 1st scale degree with your index finger and lightly lay your index finger over strings 3, 2 and 1. This will mute any open strings above, keeping them from ringing out and sounding out of tune.
Transposing is a way to change the key of music without changing its chord structure, as sometimes songs have chords written in an inconvenient key for vocalists or guitarists. By shifting its tonality and still using its chords, transposition can provide the ideal solution.
One common reason for transposing a song is when its original key doesn’t match with your singing range; for instance, B flat may be too high. To accommodate your range more easily, this issue can be resolved by shifting down one key in its original key.
Use of a capo is another effective method for transposing songs by changing the pitch of all strings by an equal increment, which is especially helpful when the key of the song matches perfectly with your voice but its chords are too difficult for you. Although using this approach requires greater care as all chords must move by equal increments when using this method of transpositioning, as does transposing using other means (see above).
Chord changes are used to create melodies and provide the basis of rhythm guitar playing. Smooth chord transitions require relaxed fingers, hands, and forearms in order to prevent individual fingers interfering with one another; otherwise they could lift off of strings more easily and cause notes to sound less clearly.
After mastering major and minor triads, guitarists can advance to seventh chords – these chords are formed by stringing together concatenated triads in key and then adding an eighth interval – typically either P5 for minor sevenths, or F for major ones.
To move smoothly through chord progressions, it’s essential to practice each step individually. For beginners, moving from G minor to E minor can be difficult; therefore, practice each change individually before moving onto the next.