Learn to Play Guitar Chords With a Smile

Learn to play guitar chords with confidence by focusing on major and minor triads. Understanding musical theory will allow you to understand how songs create different moods and emotions.

Chord diagrams use circles and Xs to show which strings should be strung while others remain barred (muted). Below is an example of a D major chord with two C’s and three E’s:

Major Triads

At first, we will look at major triads. These chords are considered stable because their tonality does not contain too much tension.

Triads are created by stacking the roots, major third, and perfect fifth of any given major scale together in any order. Triads may be created using any group of strings but always retain the same structure; therefore they can be moved up and down the fretboard so long as they remain on one group of strings.

To construct a major triad, begin at the root of the scale (in this example C). From there count up 4 1/2 steps for major third and 7 half steps for perfect fifth until you reach major closed chord. Alternately you could drop middle note up an octave for minor closed chord and use other major triad shapes to produce augmented and diminished versions as well.

Minor Triads

Minor triads contain three notes, like major triads. Like major triads, minor triads may either be major or diminished in scale degree; their difference lies solely between root and third note intervals – in a minor triad, this interval tends to be flatter (lower), giving these chords their darker/sadder sound.

As an effective way of learning minor triads, try replacing full chords in songs you already know with minor triads instead – this will allow you to practice fingerings and gain an understanding of where these chords sit on the fretboard.

As with major triad shapes, minor triad shapes come in many variations that you can find on a fretboard. Their basic forms repeat themselves up and down the fretboard similar to major triad shapes – below is a diagram and tab showing three basic minor triad forms repeated along a fretboard.

Major Sevens

If a guitarist wants to add depth and sophistication to their chords, adding major sevenths is a simple and effective way to do just that. Not only is adding major sevenths easy; adding dissonance (unlike with interval dissonance) doesn’t need resolution either!

Simply, 7th chords consist of two components: the underlying triad and its major seventh augmentation. You can see this symmetry in the diagram above:

Building chords correctly requires being able to recognize note intervals accurately. To do this, referring to a complete note interval table may help – its first row has C, E and G which make up a major triad; add B as major seventh and you have created your chord! So for instance a C major seventh is C-E-G-B.

Minor Sevens

Minor seventh chords are composed of three-note triads in which the third has been flattened, creating dissonance between its fourth and fifth or second and root notes that creates tension within the chord itself and gives its sound an air of tension. Sometimes this dissonance is used intentionally as part of its appeal – this technique is known as suspended chords; an example being Csus4.

The minor seven can add tension and excitement to a progression, or serve as an effective replacement for dominant sevenths in jazz arrangements – as evidenced by songs like Long Train Running by Doobie Brothers or Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Whithers for instance.

To recognize a minor seventh chord, you’ll first need to know how to construct triads. One method for doing so is the CAGED system which displays all open minor seventh chords on the fretboard; an interval table can also help by listing 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th columns/scale degrees of any given key as an easy way of finding them.