Manual The Rough Guide to Guitar

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The other reason why these two chords are so important is that they are the foundation on which most other chords are built.

When we play a minor 7 chord, or a Major 7 chord, or a minor 9 chord, we basically take the Major or minor triad and add notes to it. Even when we alter notes within the triad, for chords such as the diminished chord, we can still think of using the Major or minor triad as the starting point, and then alter notes to get the desired chord. In a very basic way, all chords can be identified by the notes or altered notes of the Major scale. With the Major triad the one we just looked at , we have the chord tones 1, 3 and 5.

This means that if you take the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the Major scale, for any given root note, you have your Major chord. This would be very easy to demonstrate on a piano, because the notes are set out in a very predictable and orderly way. Instead, what we do is change around the order of notes Rule 1 , double up on notes Rule 2 and play different octaves of certain notes Rule 3.

The E Major scale contains the following notes:. If we look at the notes in the chord from the 6th string to the 1st string , we have the following:. As you can see, there is no logical order to the way that the 1, 3 and 5 are organised. We can basically double up on any notes that we want, and play each of the notes in any octave. Just like with all chords, both of these are built, by referring to notes of the Major scale, albeit with alterations 5, b5 etc.


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Also, before I said that the major and minor triads form the basis for just about every chord. This is no exception. The Augmented chord is just a Major triad with a raised 5th. The diminished chord is just a minor triad with a flattened 5th. Remember, triads are 3-note chords, made up of the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the Major scale, or an alteration of those notes.

All you need to remember with triads are the four mentioned above. Of course, the Major and minor triads are the most important and most common. You can think of the the diminished triad as a variation of the minor triad and the augmented triad as a variation of the Major triad. Chord labels are often abbreviated, or represented using symbols. The following chart includes the chords that we have covered so far, as well as different ways that the chords can be referred to. Underneath each chord label in grey is an example of how each chord label looks with C as the root note.

We produce chords by stacking notes of the Major scale in 3rds 1, 3, 5. So far, we have only looked at triads 3-note chords. These are chords that have four notes and have some variation of the following chord tones:. Because this chord contains an unaltered set of stacked 3rds using the Major scale, you can think of this 7th chord as being a kind of reference point for all other 7th chords. The minor 7 chord is another very important chord, because it is the most common 4-note minor chord.

So it makes sense that the minor 7 chord has a flat 3 in it. But it might not be so obvious as to why the minor 7 chord has a flat 7 instead of just a regular 7. This is something that we could explore further, but at the end of the day, the best thing to do is just remember it as a rule:. The dominant 7 chord is usually just abbreviated to 7, for example, we usually say A7 instead of A dominant 7.

These are the three most common and important 7th chords. As I just mentioned, there are eight 7th chords that are possible and practical. The most common three are:. The eight chords above are what I would call standard 7th chords. They make up all of the practical, usable variations of 1, 3, 5, 7.

Some are much more common than others, but if you learn the above chords by memory, you will have gone a long way to understanding and decoding the often confusing world of chord labels. Remember, this lesson is focused on theoretical side of chords.

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Earlier, we talked about how as guitarists, we often double up on notes, change octaves around, and change the order of notes. Omitting notes from the chord. This is done sometimes out of taste, and sometimes out of necessity. There are some chords that contain 7 notes, though, so the fact that you can only play six notes means that you would need to omit at least one note when playing such a chord. By leaving notes out of a chord, it does not necessarily mean that the chord becomes something else. Often, because of the context of the chord, our ears compensate for any missing notes.

Days, hours, years? We know that the speaker is talking about minutes. The same thing happens with chords. We can often leave certain notes out of a chords, without sacrificing the the meaning of the chord itself. In fact, all of the chords covered so far in this lesson have been covered already in the lessons leading up to this one. To understand complex chord labels, you need the understand the building blocks that get us there. We build chords by taking the Major scale and stacking notes in thirds. Our most basic chords are the Major triads:. If we add another 3rd onto our basic Major triad, we get a basic 7th chord which is known as the Major 7 chord.

That stuff is important, and you can read more about it here , but this lesson is really about the individual properties of each chord. I want you to be able to come across any chord label, and be able to figure out which notes should be included. And that comes down to numbers and labels. Each chord label is really just a way of indicating which chord tones numbers should be included. These numbers are all references to notes the Major scale or alterations of notes the Major scale.

Once you become familiar with the numbers that are included in the different labels Major, minor, augmented etc. Come across a C7b9 11? This is really where this lesson is headed — to be able to give you the rules and principles that will allow you to figure out any chord that you come across.

The other 2 percent of the time — usually for weird and wacky chords — I enjoy sitting down and trying to come up with a cool way of playing something new. Because the 2 and the 9 are basically the same note. Earlier, I said that the Major scale contains 7 notes. This is true, but what happens when we play the Major scale over 2 octaves?

We get the following:. So why have different labels that refer to different octaves of the same note? Good question. The simple answer is that this is one of those annoying grey areas.


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You can change the octave of notes when constructing a chord rule 3 , but the octave referred to in the labels themselves can imply different things. If you want to be a chord label expert, you just need to remember how specific labels are treated.

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The 2nd note of the Major scale is the same as the 9th note one octave apart. We covered suspended chords in a previous lesson. Basically, the word suspended means that the 3rd is taken out and replaced by another note either the 2nd or the 4th. However, we can also add the 2nd note of the scale to the triad, without omitting the 3. Remember how I just said that different octaves in the chord label sometimes imply different things about the chord G6 is different to G13?

Well here is an example of how different octaves basically refer to the exact same chord. Technically, on a piano for example , you might use a specific octave 2 vs 9 depending what the chord label was add 2 vs add 9 , but on the guitar, we change octaves rule 3 and double up on notes rule 2 so often, that add 2 and add 9 are basically treated the same. Also, consider this — since we can leave notes out of chords rule 4 , often when guitarists come across add 2 or add 9 chords, we leave out the 3 trying to include both the 2 and the 3 can create difficult fingerings , so in practice, add 2 or add 9 chords should look like this:.

I could keep pointing out these little inconsistencies and confusing idiosyncrasies for the rest of this lesson. The 9 of the chord can be altered. When we take a 9 chord 1 — 3 — 5 — b7 — 9 , and lower the 9 by one semitone, we get the b9 chord:. The last 9 chord that we are going to look at is the minor 9 chord. This is simply a minor 7 chord, with an added For example the Major 7 b9 chord.

This is a chord that would theoretically contain the following notes:. Of course, this is a big, sweeping generalisation, as beauty is in the ear of the beholder. But this lesson is designed to teach you about the chords that you are likely to come across and use. Remember that suspended chords mean that the 3rd is replaced by the 2nd or 4th. Therefore, the suspended 4 chord contains the following:. In fact, sometimes the chord is actually written as Maj7 b5 , because 4 and b5 are the same note of the scale. However, it is most often written as Major 7 For example, G6, or Db6.

It contains the following chord tones:.

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So there you have it. We have covered all of the different ingredients that can be used to construct chords.

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Of course, there are many other combinations of the above notes, that are theoretically possible. This is mainly because because with very obscure chords, they are often labeled very specifically and prescriptively, so as to communicate exactly what should be in the chord. Instead we effectively spell out everything that is included in the chord. This is definitely what I would call an obscure chord. To figure out the notes inside the chord, all we really need to do is take the E minor Major 7 chord 1, b3, 5, 7 and then add the b9 and You get the idea.

Become familiar with the triads and 7th chords chords that have been covered in this lesson. Then become familiar with the extension chords 2s, 4s and 6s. Even though we have pretty much covered everything, there are a few extra kind of obscure chords that I want to include, just because they get used enough to make them worth being included. They are the honourable mentions in the long list of chords covered in this lesson.

This is a great chord that often works in place of a Major 7 chord. It contains the following notes:. The 9 Sus 4 chord is essentially a 9th chord 1, 3, 5, b7, 9 , with a suspended 4, which means that we take away the 3, and replace it with the 4. It becomes:. By the way, I realise that these descriptions are pretty vague, to the point of being worthless.

Of course, the best thing to do is play the chords yourself and come up with your own way of describing them. Hal Leonard Corporation. Acoustic Guitar Playing: Grade 2. Acoustic Guitar Playing. Guitar Basics. James Longworth. The Little Black Songbook. Acoustic Guitar Playing: Grade 1. Your review has been submitted successfully. Not registered? Forgotten password Please enter your email address below and we'll send you a link to reset your password. Not you? Forgotten password? Forgotten password Use the form below to recover your username and password.

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