How to Play Guitar Chords

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Guitar chords are typically discussed within the context of standard tuning; however, various open tunings allow fundamental chords to be formed by fretting multiple strings at once with just one finger.

Guitarists may perform chords either all at once or arpeggiated, the latter method employing chord shapes that move up and down the fretboard with each strum, as employed by Johnny Marr of the Smiths.

Major Triads

Triad chords consist of three notes–a root, third and fifth. Triads may be either major, minor, diminished or augmented depending on the quality of intervals between their notes and those found between each fifth note and its counterpart on top note.

Major triads are among the first chords new guitarists learn. Their shapes repeat themselves all along the fretboard in all standard tunings.

To play a major triad, begin at the root note of your scale and count up three half steps until you reach the third note, and two and a half steps more until you reach the fifth. Write these notes onto a staff. Practice playing these triads until you can tell the difference between chords by just hearing them; this applies equally well with other types of triads.

Minor Triads

Guitarists who wish to provide harmony for melodies may play chords all-at-once or as arpeggios. Johnny Marr of The Smiths was known for playing chords as arpeggios; guitarists using perfect intervals systematically build chords by concatenating thirds, fourths, and fifths in various orders – this results in tertian major-minor harmony with seventh intervals as well as quartal and quintal harmony – providing harmony across an entire melody line.

The basic guitar chord shapes remain consistent across regular tunings such as major-thirds or all-fourths tuning, yet can be diagonally shifted across strings to facilitate easier learning of chords and advanced improvisation. Guitarists may double chord notes to increase volume or change their order (for instance by switching triad to dominant seventh). Such changes respect harmonic conventions.

Dominant Triads

Utilizing dominant chords to add tension to your music can add drama. Consisting of three notes taken from any given scale plus an added seventh note from that same scale, dominant chords offer an effective means of adding suspense.

Major-minor seventh intervals resonate strongly with tonic chords and create considerable tension if used as dominant functions, making their use key for musical success. Understanding how these chords should be implemented into your composition is paramount for successful musicianship.

If you are playing dominant 7th chords, it is advisable to experiment with various voicings and combinations on the fretboard. This will enable you to understand how these chords move around on their respective scales as well as understanding how they relate with one another harmonically. Likewise, exploring their harmonic maps may enable you to make charts for yourself more easily.

Major Sevenths

Tetrad chords comprised of stacking major thirds are the basis for much jazz harmony and are typically represented by Cmaj7, Emaj7 and Dmaj7 chords.

Guitarists can add additional notes to these basic shapes by adding extra notes, such as adding a ninth (9), eleventh (11) or thirteenth (13) note – creating the Maj7add13 chord, Maj7add11 chord or Maj7add9 chord accordingly.

Drop 3 voicings, also known as drop-3 chords, are formed when the third highest note in an R-3-5-7 close position chord is dropped an octave for an easier chord to play across all fretboard positions diagonally without repeating same shape over and over again. Drop 3 chords can help develop fingerpicking and rhythm playing skills; often used by popular musicians such as Johnny Marr.

Minor Sevenths

Once you’ve mastered basic major and minor chords, 7th chords offer another way to enhance your playing and add variety and tension to any song. They provide an effective means of adding tension and excitement that won’t break the bank!

One of the most striking elements of guitar chords is their repeating shapes on the fretboard. Certain chords retain their same form wherever a string is plucked; others can be altered diagonally for ease or difficulty of playback.

Construction chords with perfect intervals is particularly evident, and guitarists who use such chords frequently are known as arpeggiators (such as Johnny Marr of The Smiths). Additionally, practicing finger picking through arpeggiation is also beneficial.