Basic Guitar Chord Structure

A basic guitar chord is when three or more notes are played at the same time. The two simplest kinds of chords are 'major' and 'minor'.  You can take any note then add the notes that are a major 3rd and a perfect 5th above to form a major chord.

A major guitar chord then is made up of a root, major 3rd and perfect 5th. In practice, A major would simply be written as A, and C major would be written as C.

Let’s take a moment to study basic guitar structures further:


If you play the open E string 1 then play the note at fret 1, the pitch rises. This rise in pitch is called a 'semitone'.  If you continue this up the string, after 12 semitones you reach the octave E at fret 12.  So, on the guitar, moving your finger along a string by one fret (which is the same as shortening the length of the string by one fret) raises the pitch by a semitone. If you move your finger along by two frets, the pitch is raised by two semitones.  Two semitones are equal to one 'tone'.  In order to name these 12 notes we need to add to the seven letter names A B C D E F G. This is done by using 'sharps' (#) and 'flats' (b). The 12 semitones along your E string 1 are named like this:

E – F – F#(Gb) – G – G#(Ab) – A – A#(Bb) – B – C – C#(Db) –
D – D#(Eb) – E


A sharp raises the pitch of a note by a semitone. A flat lowers the pitch by a semitone. Clearly F sharp for example, is the same note as G flat. When a note has two names like this the notes are said to be enharmonic.


If you play your open E string 1 then play the note half way along the string (at fret 12) the note at fret 12 is another E. Halving the length of the string doubles the frequency.


Because the guitar has six strings, it is possible to play up to six notes at a time rather than just the three notes (triads). When you play major and minor chords on the guitar some of the notes of the chord can be doubled up and though the root (the note that gives the chord its name) is the lowest sounding note, the 3rds and 5ths can be played in any order. The order of the notes is often called the voicing.


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Basic Guitar Chord Structure

Basic Guitar Chord Structure
Guitar Major Scale
Bass Guitar Chords
Learning Easy Guitar Chords

Guitar Major Scale

The most familiar sounding scale in western music is the major scale. Here's how to build a major scale on your guitar.

Starting with open E string 1, play this series of tones and semitones:

Tone(1) Tone(1) Semitone() Tone(1) Tone(1) Tone(1) Semitone()

Whatever note you start on, playing this pattern of tones and semitones will produce a major scale.  Notice how when we start on C there are no sharps or flats. The notes of the scale are often referred to as root (or tonic) 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. This is very important for when you start figuring out chords.
C – D – E F – G – A – B C

Lets Take A Look


Following is a list of the major chords in the area of the 1st and 4th frets, how they’re structured and view of the fingering required for each. There are many more ways to play these same chords as you move up the neck but for now, we’ll keep it simple:


A Major - A, C#, E

E Major – E, G#, B

D Major - D, F#, A

G Major - G, B, D C Major - C, E, G F Major – F, A, C#



B Major – B,F#,D#


 These are ‘open chords’ played on the first 4 frets with the exception of F which is in the bar chord style.

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