Before we get into the chord progressions and learning different chords let’s cover the basics. To begin our chord guitar lesson we will start off learning intervals. The distance between any two notes is an interval.
Here is a list of intervals starting on the C note. Some notes are labeled enharmonic which means that they are the same and can just be called two different names.
When you play two or more notes together (for instance for any happy birthday custom song) you’re playing a chord. Basic triads refers to chords consisting of 3 notes played together. The root of the chord is the note from which the chord is constructed.
The distance between the root note and the other notes determines the chord type. The most popular triad types are major, minor, diminished, and augmented. All chord types can be identified by the intervals used to create the chord.
Let’s use the C major triad as an example. The C major triad is built starting with a C note (the root) then adding a major 3 on that (E note) and finally a perfect 5th on that (G note). All major triads will have a root, major 3rd, and a P5 (perfect 5th) like this..
Minor triads always have the root note: a minor 3rd and a perfect 5th. An easy trick to learn minor triads is to take a major triad and flatten the 3rd.
Diminished triads contain a root, minor 3rd, and a diminished 5th. If you take a major chord and flat the 3 and the 5 then you get a diminished triad. Remember the intervals at the beginning of this page. A diminished 5th is the same as an aug4. Here are a couple examples…
All augmented triads have a root, major 3rd, and an augmented 5th. If you take a major chord and sharp the 5th you have an augmented chord.
An inversion is simply the order you play the notes of a chord. For example if you play the C chord normally you would play C as the bottom note, but to play an inversion you would play the 3rd or the 5th as the bottom note.
So to play the first inversion of the C major chord you would play the E note as the bottom note then G then C. In order you play E,G,C
To play the second inversion of the C major chord just start the chord with the G note. In order you would play G,C,E.
So this works for any chord you play. As long as you change the low note to other notes in the chord then you’re playing an inversion of that chord.
Three note chords will have 2 inversions and four note chords will have 3 inversions and so on.
Try this with all kinds of chords. To play the inversions of the G major chord you first must know the notes of the G major chord. G,B,D. To play the first inversion you start the chord with B and play B,D, then G. To play the second inversion you would start with D and play D,G,B.
Sharps and Flats In Each Key
Keys with sharps:
G – (1 sharp) F#
D – (2 sharps) F#,C#
A – (3 sharps) F#,C#,G#
E – (4 sharps) F#,C#,G#,D#
B – (5 sharps) F#,C#,G#,D#,A#
F# – (6 sharps) F#,C#,G#,D#,A#,E#
C# – (7 sharps) F#,C#,G#,D#,A#,E#,B#
Keys with Flats:
F – (1 flat) Bb
Bb – (2 flats) Bb,Eb
Eb – (3 flats) Bb,Eb,Ab
Ab – (4 flats) Bb,Eb,Ab,Db
Db – (5 flats) Bb,Eb,Ab,Db,Gb
Gb – (6 flats) Bb,Eb,Ab,Db,Gb,Cb
Cb – (7 flats) Bb,Eb,Ab,Db,Gb,Cb,Fb
C has no sharps or flats.
This is a circle of fifths guitar lesson in a nutshell.
Chords will be easier to make if you know the sharps and flats in each key.
How To Build A Guitar Chord
When building a chord an easy way to do this is to compare it to the major chord. By now you should know how to build a major chord: the root, 3rd, and 5th.
There are certain notes you will have to sharp or flat to make a new chord for example the augmented chord. Earlier I showed you that if you take a C major chord and want it to be a C augmented chord all you do is sharp the 5th.
So all you have to do is memorize these sharps and flats and they apply to every chord. Let’s get started.
Minor Chords Cmaj
This is an easy one. When making a minor chord all you do is flat the 3rd. We will use C major as all of our examples. If you take C major, remember to make a chord you compare it to the major, which is C,E,G and flat the 3rd you get C,Eb,G which is a minor. Pretty easy huh?
Diminished Chords Cdim
Start with your C major. To make a diminished chord you flat the 3rd and the 5th. So a C diminished chord would be this C,Eb,Gb.
Augmented Chords Caug
When making an augmented chord just sharp the 5th. So it’s C,E,G#. When I say sharp or flat something you’re only sharpening or flatting that note a half step (one fret).
Next we will make chord extensions. I’ll explain as we go through them.
Dominant Sevenths C7
When you make a seventh all you do is add the seventh note on top of your chord. To make a dominant seventh you flat the 7th. So from our C major chord we would have C,E,G,Bb.
Major Sevenths CM7
To make a major seventh all you do is add the seventh. There is no sharpening or flatting involved. So from C major we have C,E,G,B.
Minor Sevenths Cm7
A minor seventh flats the 3rd and the 7th. So it would be C,Eb,G,Bb.
Pretty easy here just add the sixth note above the root. C,E,G,A.
Add a ninth or a second (they are the same note). C,E,G,B,D.
You guessed it, add an 11th or a 4th (again the same note). C,E,G,B,D,F.
Extensions can go on and on, but I know you get the point. There are thousands of different chords, but if you keep these formulas in mind you can make any chord you want.