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The Anatomy Of A Major Guitar Chord

Updated on July 28, 2012

The guitar chord is the basis for many songs. Many songs are played just by playing a series of chords, and many songs can be played with just three chords. Guitar chords are made by placing your fingers on certain notes, strings, and frets etc. But they just can't be placed anywhere, there is a method to this madness. Chords are made from at least playing three notes together, and are made from a certain formula that once learned you could build any chord from any scale. Now music is a complex and scary thing once you start to learn about it, Unless your aspect in life is to study music and become a music scholar, you would never need to know more than basic music theory to become proficient on the guitar.

For space purposes we will just look at the Major Triad chords, which are the simplest and most popular. The first thing we need to explain is the basic chord diagram. This shows what notes will be fretted, which ones will be open played strings, and maybe which strings wont be played at all. This is an example of a basic chord diagram.


In the above diagram you have a rectangular piece of the guitar board. A Chord diagram can Show any place on the fret board, and will usually just show 4 or 5 frets depending on where the chord is located. But with these chord examples they will all start on the first fret. The fretted notes are the dots and the strings with no dots are played open.

The Major Scale

A major scale, or scale is a series of notes in succession. For Example the C major scale which is the most simplest, and has no sharps or flats: C, D, E, F, G, A, and B, then scale starts all over again with C. To build a major scale you follow the formula :

Whole Step, Whole Step, Half step, Whole Step, Whole Step, Whole Step, Half step

With a whole step being 2 frets, and a Half step being 1 fret

We will stick with the major triads. A triad is just a fancy word that means a chord with just three notes that comes from the major scale. A major triad chord is made from the major scale.

Building A Chord From A Scale

So to build a major triad chord, you take the 1st, 3rd and 5th tone from the scale. The first note of the scale is the root note, and the name of the chord you are building. So if your building a C major Chord You start with the note C (the root note), and go from there. So if the C major scale consists of the notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. The 1st, 3rd and 5th tones of the C major scale are: C, E, and G, Played in any order will produce a C chord. The same goes for a G major chord. You would build a G major chord the same way, starting with a G major scale: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#. So the 1st, 3rd, and 5th tones of the scale are: G, B, and D. These three notes produce the G major chord.

This translates to the guitar by just playing those notes whether by fretting the note, or by open string notes, which allows us to make the most simplest forms of chords, therefore the easiest chords. So with the 1st, 3rd, and 5th tones of the C major scale, and G major scale being: C. E. and G, and G, B, and D respectively. Which means that only these three notes are played, no matter if it is fretted or an open string. It translates to a C major chord and a G Major chord that looks like this:

C Major Guitar Chord
C Major Guitar Chord
G Major Guitar Chord
G Major Guitar Chord

There are some chords in which not all six strings are played like the a A chord Or the D chord. if the open string is not being played then it would have an "X " over it

If you build an A major scale you get the notes:

A, B, C#, D, E F#, G, and A again. To build an A major chord using the 1st, 3rd, and 5th tones of the scale you would get:

A, C#, and E

If you build a D major scale you get the following Notes:

D,E, F#, G, A, B, C#, And D again. With the 1st, 3rd, And 5th tones being:

D, F#, A So the chords would be:

A major Guitar Chord
A major Guitar Chord
D Major Guitar Chord
D Major Guitar Chord

A note, on the diagrams above On the A Chord The low E ( Or Note E) string Has an X over it which means it should not be played. Even though this is one of the three notes in the A chord. This always listed like this, and I think the main idea is that if you are playing an A Chord the first note you should strike is A. The same goes with the D chord While the E string is definitely not played the open A string is part of the three notes that make up the chord, but you should start with the D note because it is a D chord, Therefore both the E, and A (strings and, or Notes) are not played.

If you happen to strike any of these notes on accident it would still work. On the D Chord, The E note should never be played because it would not sound right.

This basically is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to chords. There are many types of chords, and each type has its own formula you must follow. The good news is all the work has been done for you, This was all figured out a long time ago, and if you really want to further your knowledge on chords there is no shortage of information out there. But its always a good idea to know how a chord is built.

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