How to Learn Guitar Chords Unwell

Writing songs on guitar requires practice and time. There are various approaches to this artform; learning chord progressions and creating melodies from them being one such method; or composers may prefer creating melodies first and then crafting chord progressions around them.

Basic guitar chords consist of triads – major and minor, dominant sevenths. When tuned with standard tuning, these intervals of triads may also include quartal or quintal harmony elements to complete their sound.


Triads are essential elements of western music and understanding them is an invaluable skill on the fretboard. Triads consist of three notes–root, third and fifth–and can be used either to construct entire chords or form the basis for smaller ones.

Different triads have different qualities which are determined by the intervals between their roots and third and fifth notes. Major triads tend to sound happy while minor ones can sound sad while diminished and augmented ones add a mysterious quality.

As often presumed, the quality of a triad isn’t determined by its chord symbol alone, nor by doublings or open spacing – thanks to the principle of octave equivalence. Example 13-11 illustrates this point well – although constructed on similar white notes as C major triad, its sound still differs dramatically due to different intervals between its white notes.


Sus4 chords are an unconventional major or minor chord type in which the third note of a scale is substituted with its fourth tone instead, creating dissonance that doesn’t always resolve down to its third note like in regular major or minor chords.

Because of this, they don’t sound quite as stable or “defined” as major or minor chords do; instead they tend to sound less solid than the V (5) chord on which they’re built, creating an open sounding texture.

These chords can be played using any of the barre shapes I’ve shown you thus far, but oftentimes are played differently on the fretboard. For example, moving Dsus4 up two frets to E position will give an E sus4 chord; adding minor 7ths will further expand their soundscape; use them to add tension or experiment with more adventurous voicings!


Intervals are pairs of notes with similar frequency distance. Intervals can either be simple or compound, with any interval shorter than an octave being considered simple and any larger one compound. Simple intervals may also be inverted to create new intervals of similar size but with different qualities; for instance a perfect fifth from F to C could become inverted and thus become a minor sixth interval.

Note quality dictates its place within a scale; for instance, C to E natural is considered a minor third but not considered major as it falls outside the key of D major scale.

Interval numbers refer to the total count of staff positions or note names included within an interval, while its quality defines its kind. There are five kinds of interval qualities: major, minor, augmented, diminished and half-diminished which are represented with symbols like + for aug or aug and deg for diminished and domin for dominant.


Scales are essential when learning the fretboard. Scales consist of repeated intervals arranged in a predictable sequence known as its pattern – its tonic degree being defined as its first degree – while various musical traditions employ various scale variations and interval patterns in their music. Furthermore, scales may also be divided up based on number of pitches as well as shape.

Most scales are octave-repeating, meaning their pattern of notes repeats at each octave and makes them easy to remember.

Some musical traditions, including those found in Ceylon, eastern Siberia and California use two or three pitch levels within one scale – known as simple scales – for musical expression.

Other musical traditions utilize more complex scales, including the major pentatonic scale often employed in folk music. This scale often produces joyful sounds and can be used to create interesting chord progressions with tension-inducing results – adding tension and excitement to guitar chords!