Introduction to Chords

This section is intended to be a convenient reference source for common chords, rather than a comprehensive work on chord theory. The intention is to provide the novice with a toolbox of useful and effective chords - as well as a basic understanding of how chords are built and how to identify or construct any chord you may need.
The chords in this section are based around the standard tuning for the guitar (EADGBE).

A chord is made up of 3 (or more) different notes played at the same time. The relationship between the notes is very important and determines the sound of the chord and also the 'feel' of the chord.

If, for example, the chord consists of a root note, plus a perfect fifth above the root, as well as the major third of the root it is called a major chord. It doesn't actually matter what the root note is, all such chords are major chords and would have the same feel and tonal characteristics, even though, for example, B# Major and F Major chords sound different.

Technically speaking, any 3 notes form a chord, although some chords sound more musical than others - usually because the notes that make up the chord are more consonant with each other. Therefore, there are some common chords in music that are everywhere in modern music - like major chords, whereas some have unique sounds and are more common in particular musical genres. Dominant 7th chords get more use in Blues or Country than in, say, Heavy Metal.

The most common chords found in guitar music are presented here. You will find a summary of the chord types plus how they are constructed. Please click on the Chord type to see more information about that chord. The Chord Library provides information about the sound and uses of those chords, as well as showing you various open-string and Barre versions of the chord in standard guitar tuning (EADGBE).

What Chord is that?
Chord Notation Guide

The notation used for chords in this section is to follow the standard notation common in a lot of printed sheet music. The fretboard of the guitar is shown vertically, with the nut at the top and the strings running up and down. To assist you in mental orientation the 6th string is shown on the left-hand side and the 1st string on the right-hand side, as if you were looking at an actual guitar in the upright position.

Strings that are not played in the chord are indicated by an 'X' marked at the top of that string. It means that particular string should not be plucked.

Strings that are played open in the chord (the open string chords) are indicated by an 'O' marked at the top of that string. It means that the string should be played, but the string should not be fretted.

The circles indicates the fret that should be used on that string. The numbers in the circles are a fingering guide, indicating which finger should be used on that fret - where '1' is the index finger, '2' is the middle finger, and so on. The Thumb is indicated by 'T'.

Occasionally, variant fingerings or chord shapes are shown. These may have subtle changes in character depending on which notes in the chord are duplicated. The actual notes shown on the string are shown at the base of the chord diagram, for convenience.

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