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Guitar Lesson - Chords in A

Updated on February 12, 2022
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These articles build on years of teaching guitar and music theory in college.

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". if you don't know a chord, play the nearest equivalent you do know, you could substitute a plain A chord.

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)

It's really a good idea to think of a musical example, so you can visualise the sound of a chord progression - the second part of Strawberry Fields Forever, or Something by The Beatles would be appropriate here.

Reading Chord Grids

The 6 vertical lines are the strings, horizontallines are the frets. 0 = Open string.

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. That's because it is a very guitar-friendly key, and most of the chords and scale patterns you need are found in the middle of the guitar fretboard, about halfway up the neck. Also, each of the 3 major chords has a handy open string bass note available.


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