ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Guitar Chords and harmonised scales

Updated on February 1, 2016

Guitar Chords in A

Maybe you have noticed that songs use a similar palette of chords - the reason for this is that there is a related set of chords in each key. If you learn a song in the key of A, for example, any other song in the same key will use much the same chords - and when you understand this, it should make learning songs much easier.

In this article, we'll look at how these chords work together, and they can be classified as root 5 chords, that is, the root note of each chord is found on string 5.

  • Chord 1 = A
  • Chord 2 = Bm
  • Chord 3 = C sharp m
  • Chord 4 = D
  • Chord 5 = E7
  • Chord 6 = F sharp m7
  • Chord 7 = G sharp m7b5

The pattern of chords in a harmonised scale is the same for all the different major keys. The tonic chord ( Chord 1) is followed by two minor chords, then two major chords. When you see a description of the 1, 4, 5 chords (I, IV, V) these are the three major chords in any key.

Chords in A

Chord chart info

In these chord diagrams just play the middle 4 strings, barre chords are shown with the loop symbol. Remember, the root note is on string 5, and this will follow the fret numbers for the A major scale at the bottom.

Also shown: the scale patterns for A major and A pentatonic scales, both of which will work with all these chords.

Barre chords: if you struggle with barre chords, there are alternatives. See my other hub Barre Chords and how to avoid them. The three - note chord form shown for Bm7 is a good substitute for a full barre chord - mute the 4th string. Most of the time this chord form is easier and also sounds better than the full barre chord shape.

Chords in C (Key of C)

Chords in C

Now we have the same root 5 chords, but in the key of C. As C is three frets up the neck from A, all the chords form the same pattern, but three frets higher. There are some slight variations, as you could use either major and minor chords, or chords with added sevenths. It's good to know these variations as they will often sound better.

Playing in other keys

It's much easier to transpose, that is, move to another key on guitar than most other instruments. On piano all the patterns look completely different, but on guitar and bass the patterns remain the same, just up or down the neck.

Here are all the notes on string 5:

  • Open string = A
  • Fret 1 = Bb
  • Fret 2 = B
  • Fret 3 = C
  • Fret 4 = C sharp/ D flat
  • Fret 5 = D
  • Fret 6 = D sharp or E flat
  • Fret 7 = E
  • Fret 8 = F
  • Fret 9 = F sharp or G flat
  • Fret 10 = G
  • Fret 11 = G sharp or A flat
  • Fret 12 = A, but one octave higher than the open string.

So if we wanted to play a song in Bb you could shift all the chord pattern up one fret from A, or down two frets from C.

For D, just move all the chord pattern up two frets from the C pattern. If you start running out of frets high up on the neck you can switch to root 4 chords instead, which I will cover in the final section of this hub.

Transposing benefits

When you play the chords of the harmonised scale in several different keys it will really help to embed the information, even if it seems like hard work at the time. There are some keys you almost never use, so they can have a very low priority. I would recommend learning the following keys, along with the relevant scale pattern:

E, F, G, A, C, D

For Jazz: Eb, Bb.

Any other keys can be covered by using a capo. It's really worth getting used to using a capo to change keys, especially if you are playing with different singers.

Root 4 chords: D major

Root 4 chords

These are essential chords to know, as they sound great in chord/melody arrangements. They are more difficult to play, as the minor 7th shape is a bit tricky.

Root 6 chords are covered in my other hub entitled: Guitar Chords and scales in E.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Jon Green profile imageAUTHOR

      Jon Green 

      3 years ago from Frome, Somerset, UK

      It really helps to integrate scales and chords together, as you will always know how to improvise on any chord sequence. Also, you have all the building blocks for songwriting and composition.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 

      3 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      I wish someone had thought to put diagrams like this together when I was learning. Being able to visualize how the scale fits with the chord progression is a big help.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)