Learn Guitar Chords, Scales and Musical Theory – Then Play the Songs You Love

Learning guitar chords is one of the key components to mastering songwriting. Understanding chord theory will allow you to fully appreciate how songs are composed and compose themselves.

This lesson will focus on the most basic chord structure: the triad. Triads consist of three notes separated by an interval, which we will explore further later on.

1. A Major Chord

Master chords, scales and musical theory to play your favorite songs!

Let’s begin by exploring a straightforward major chord shape that doesn’t require intricate fingerwork or too much strength – an approachable choice that works well on an acoustic guitar.

Addition of notes to chords can add distinct flavors, known as extensions. While these extensions may not be essential to popular music’s chord progressions, they can make them more dynamic.

So if we added the G note to our A major chord we would now have an Amaj7 chord. By adding a minor third we could form Am9 chord. Furthermore, by including an Augmented fifth this makes the chord Cmaj7.

2. C Major Chord

Beginner guitarists typically start off learning the C major chord as one of their first open string shapes, as it provides a solid yet chunky sounding shape ideal for rhythm playing and offering vibrant full sound. By muted the sixth string with your edge of ring finger it gives this chord even more body and clarity.

As with any tonal chord, the major sixthth can be embellished to alter its character and purpose in music. One popular variation involves adding a seventh to create either a dominant (C 7th chord) or major sixth (C six chord).

Move the chord up the fretboard by sliding it two or three frets to create the C sus 2 chord and a C sus 4 chord for added flair to this basic shape.

3. D Major Chord

D major chords can create an uplifting, joyful sound in songs, making them the ideal chord to use as tonic chords or dominant chords to build tension or lead into other keys or chords. They may even be extended further with sixths, sevenths or ninths for greater depth and character in your songs.

You’ll find the D major chord in many popular musical genres, from rock and country to pop music. To play an open D major chord, place your index finger (1st finger) on the 3rd string at 2nd fret before placing middle and ring fingers (second and third respectively) at 1st string 2nd fret and 5th string 12th fret to form a barre chord called D major barre chord – these different shapes will help expand your repertoire of guitar chords!

4. E Major Chord

E major chords can be used across genres to create unique atmospheres, such as Neil Young’s “Old Man”, which features its trademark dissonant tone produced by two E and F notes played a half step apart on adjacent strings. Elton John used its warm sonority in “Tiny Dancer,” adding emotional depth while Guns N’ Roses highlighted it hard rock context with “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

For a bluesier sound, invert the E Major chord by switching its interval between G and B from minor third to major third. Or use E major scale arpeggios for that same “alternating between minor and major thirds” sound.

5. G Major Chord

G is often one of the first chords newcomers learn, although it may not always be straightforward due to having to stretch across all six strings to fret them all at once.

Curving your fingers will prevent their fleshy portions from blocking other strings and leading to buzzing or buzzing-type noises; though this issue may arise from time-to-time with practice.

Once you master the shape of the G chord, try transitioning between it and other chords in a progression for an altered sound and feel in your songs. This technique is commonly found in Doo-Wop songs but may also apply across genres.