What Are Guitar Chords?

What is a Chord?

A chord is composed of multiple musical notes played simultaneously and may be performed on either polyphonic instruments (such as guitars) or monophonic (such as soloist piano).

Chord diagrams depict which strings/notes are being played and where each finger is being placed on the fret. Sometimes Xs are included to denote which ones are muted while Os indicate those not played at all.

At first, let’s focus on open chords that are simple for beginners to play based on major scale. Once you master these basic ones, more complex ones involving intervals may come next – let’s first understand their building by studying this chord diagram above.

Barre Chords

Barre chords offer you the opportunity to express yourself and elevate your guitar playing to new heights. While they require greater hand strength and dexterity than open chords, barre chords are definitely worth your time!

Power chords follow the same formula, using one finger to barrette strings 1-5 with barre. This shape can then be moved around the fretboard to form different chords based on where your 1st finger touches 6th string; for instance, an E-shape barre chord shown here may be moved around frets until a note played by your first finger at any fret gives it its new name.

Beginner guitarists frequently make a critical error with bar chords: applying too much pressure when pressing down strings. This can result in muted instead of strongly fretted sounding strings – this requires precision and timing! As Conor McGregor, an esteemed martial arts practitioner says: ‘precision beats power every time.

Open Strings

When string players strike (or bow) a guitar chord, only that portion of string that extends from its nut to bridge vibrates – known as an open string.

A guitar may be played using one, two, three or all four open strings at once depending on the chord being played – for instance G major (3-2-0-0-x-x), C minor (7-2-4-2-3-x) and A minor (9-4-6-5-4-3).

Although open chords may be possible to learn, fretted chords offer greater versatility and sound better overall. Many guitarists like using different tunings (open strings) creatively for various purposes; to help improve singing ability or stand out from the crowd – some performers like Milo Green even choose this method on stage!


Triads are fundamental three-note chords used in tonal music. Composed of the root note, a major third (four semitones away from it), and a perfect fifth (7 semitones from it), these triads form the fundamental building blocks of tonality.

Notes in any scale can serve as the foundation for triads. When the root note resides in the bass region, we refer to it as being in root position; when third or fifth notes also reside there we refer to it as being either first inversion or second inversion, respectively.

With knowledge of basic triad shapes, you’ll soon find that you can quickly construct chords from any starting point on the fretboard using intervals and root-note names. Major and minor triads sound complete and bright while diminished ones have more melancholic undertones; diminished ones provide discordant, unresolved effects due to flattened fifths – each is important as an expressive tool that informs your improvisational approach as well as how songs are structured.