Basic Guitar Chords

Grasping the Basics of Chords

The end goal of course in learning guitar is to be able to play songs. Songs are comprised of notes and chords. If you can play notes and chords, you can play any song, in theory. Therefore, mastering the art of playing chords is absolutely mission critical to learning how to play the guitar.

In the previous lesson (How to play guitar chords), we took a look at the basic definition of a chord and we learned how to play the most basic of all chords. In this lesson, we will talk about some of the main differences between the two major different chord types, and we will go into a bit more detail regarding how to play them.

What makes a chord a chord?

As previously discussed, all chords are comprised of three or more single notes sounded or played together. When multiple notes are played at the same time, harmony is created. The resonance and frequency of each note vibrating together creates a unique effect, which can be pleasing to the ears.

A chord is defined by the notes that comprises it and their 'pitches' in relation to one another. Each chord has a root note and a collection of other notes. The root note is almost always the lowest sounding note in the chord in the context of playing the guitar. The other notes and their relative pitches in relation to the root note determine the character or variety of chord.

The C major chord, which we learned how to play in the previous lesson, is comprised of the "C" note, which is the root note of the chord (hence the name of the chord) and the major third note relative to the C note, which happens to be the E note, as well as the fifth note relative to the C note, which happens to be the G note. All major chords, follow this same pattern. All major chords are comprised of a root note, which gives the chord its name, the major third (which is the harmonic major third from the root note) plus the fifth. Major chords are characteristically bright and happy sounding. This bright happy sound is created, in effect, by the major third note and its resonance with the root note..

A C minor chord contains all the same notes as the C major chord, EXCEPT the major third is lowered a half step, making it a minor third. All minor chords follow this same pattern. They are composed of a root note, which determines the name of the chord, a minor third, and a fifth. If you know how to find the major third and the fifth relative to any root note, than you can easily figure out what notes are in every single major and minor chord. All minor chords are characteristically dark or somber sounding. The somber sound is created by the minor third note and the way it resonates with the root note.

Most songs (millions of songs) are written with just a few chords. If you know all the basic guitar chords, (some of these are major chords and some of them are minor) you can literally play millions and millions of songs.

So how does one go about learning these basic chords?

The first thing you need to do is to memorize the chord patterns. That is, you must learn which notes to play when playing each chord. This takes dedicated memorization. You can initially learn the chord patterns using chord charts, as discusssed in the previous and next lessons (example below), or you can use books, or instructional stickers, which tell you exactly which notes to depress right on your guitar.

C major chord

You also need to learn how to depress the notes comfortably and naturally. This takes lots of practice

To learn which notes to depress you can continue reading the next lessons, which will teach you at least some of the basic chords, and/or you can use the Basic Chords Sticker Set, which we have created to make it easier for you to learn the chords. You can check out the Basic Chords For Electric Acoustic Guitar as well as all of our sticker sets here.

Basic Guitar Chords

We highly recommend you checking out this terrific learning tool as it will make your life a lot easier. But if you are on a budget and can't afford it, then feel free to read on and come back to visit these pages every couple of days while you are memorizing these chord patterns.