Guitar Lesson - Chords in A

Chords and Theory

Chord naming - when you see a chord like A6, it means "an A chord, but with the sixth note in the major scale of A added".

The first chord is an A chord, but with a half -barre (flatten your first finger). Taking the top note (A) down one fret gives you A maj7, then A7, then A6.The numbers in chord names refer to intervals - the distance from the starting note, using the notes of the major scale.

So A to A is 8, A to G sharp is 7, A to F sharp is 6, etc. This rule works for all chords.

This pattern could be moved up the fretboard - for instance if all the chords were moved up 3 frets we'd be in the key of C, and the chords would then be C, Cmaj7, C7, C6.

Next the same idea is transferred to a root 5 shape - now it's the middle note (A) that's moving.

Then we have some common chords in this key (complete list is on the left hand column)

Chords in A


We can improvise in the key of A with the scale shown ( both in tab and as a fretboard map) It's also referred to as F sharp minor pentatonic, it's the same notes either way.

Then I've put in the flat 5 or blues notes, which works well for country/blues/rockabilly material. In practice, you can mix these two scales up any way you want.

Guitar tab - each string (of 6) is represented by a line, string 6 is at the bottom (low E) The numbers tell you the fret to play in, it's as simple as that. My other hub Guitar tab has more info.

Harmonised scale in A

If you look at the key signature for the key of A, the number of flats or sharps which is the first thing to appear on written, notated music - you'll notice there are 3 sharps.

On piano this would probably mean it's going to be a little difficult to play, but on guitar it doesn't make much difference - due to the fact that you can just move patterns up and down the neck to play in different keys.

In this key,

  • The I, IV and V chords are A, D, E (often E7)
  • The ii iii and vi chords are minor ( Bm, C♯m and F♯m)


All this material will work well together in terms of songwriting. A is a favourite key for The Beatles, country, country rock songs.

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Comments 4 comments

JFL profile image

JFL 7 years ago

Jon, I really enjoy your posts! This is another great one. I've been playing since 1980 and I still learn something new from each of your posts. Thanks!

Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 7 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Thanks JFL- you're welcome. Also if there is something you'd like covered, let me know.

Rebecca E. profile image

Rebecca E. 7 years ago from Canada

Another great post on guitars, thanks.

Jon Green profile image

Jon Green 7 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK Author

Thanks Rebecca. All the best with your playing - treat yourself to a nice guitar.

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