What guitar chords work together

Guitar chords

Chords and chord symbols

To learn more about guitar chords, check out our entire “Theory and Practice” chord series here. We start with the basics and then work systematically through to more complex chords.

The video gives you a good insight into chords:

From power chord to triad

As we know, chords are traditionally made up of thirds. Major and minor thirds are layered on top of each other to become chords. If it stays with a third, one speaks of an interval, if it is two thirds, it has to be a triad, with three thirds it is a four-note, etc. And yet we are living in the end of the 20th century, in a heartless / third-free time .

The simplest chord for guitar and bass is therefore the so-called "power chord", which simply consists of a perfect fifth. So it lacks the third and thus in the classical sense actually the right to be allowed to call itself a chord at all. Strictly speaking, a power chord is an interval (intervals, as I said, consist of two tones, chords at least three). Despite the classical theory of harmony, we refer to the power chord as a chord. It has a 5 attached to the root note as a chord symbol, which simply describes the fifth it consists of.

You can get to the first triads by filling the gap between the root note and the fifth of a power chord with different notes. In addition to the minor and major third, the major second and fourth can also be used here. In addition to the two triads "major" (with a major third) and "minor" (with a minor third), which are already known from classical harmony, you also get two triads without a third.

The triad with the big second is called "Csus2". The abbreviation "sus" generally stands for a chord without a third. The "2" stands for the major second in this chord. The triad with the fourth is therefore logically referred to as "Csus4". The following table shows all the chords and their chord symbols that can be derived from a simple power chord:

Some readers may be surprised at the somewhat unusual derivation of triads from a power chord. He can be assured that I am quite clear about classical harmony theory and its rules (there are neither power chords nor a Csus2 or Csus4 chord). In my opinion, however, you have to add something new to music theory at the latest when numerous publications are already working with new symbols.

A discrepancy between theory on the one hand and practice on the other has already led to many fruitless discussions and ultimately leads to fewer and fewer aspiring musicians dealing with theory. After all, what is the point of music theory when its rules exclude things that have been part of everyday life in the charts for years?

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Diminished and Excessive

Next come the triads that do not have a perfect fifth as a frame interval. You can turn a perfect fifth into an augmented or diminished fifth, i.e. increase or decrease it by a semitone. This leads to the excessive and diminished triads already known from traditional harmony theory, which are provided with the chord symbols "C +" and "C °".

Theoretically, two more triads are conceivable: on the one hand a triad with a major third and a diminished fifth, which one would probably have to call "C b5", and on the other hand a triad with a minor third and an excessive fifth (Cm # 5), which is more likely should be seen as the inversion of a major triad with the root note "as". However, both triads do not (yet?) Occur in practice. So it stays with the Power Chord C5 and the six basic triad types C, Cm, Csus2, Csus4, C + and C °.


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Chords and chord symbols II

In the last episode we got to know the four "classic" triads major (C), minor (cm), diminished (C °) and excessive (C +). Then there was the Power Chord (C5) and the two "modern" triads (Csus4 and Csus2). Today we shall deal with the first four notes and their chord symbols.


From the three to the four notes

Four notes are created by adding a further note to the three notes of a triad at a distance of a major second, a minor or a major third. If you use all the tonal possibilities, you get 12 different four-tone types. In the following table I have arranged them according to the size of their intervals.

I have deliberately used the German tone names "b" (international Bb) and "h" (international B) in this table - for better legibility.

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The chord tree

So that you can visually visualize the facts of the construction of the 12 fundamental four-note chords, I have developed the "chord tree", which I would like to present to the readers for the first time.

Using this chord tree, the individual chord symbols can also be compared with regard to the size of their intervals. Here it becomes clear, for example, that three different tones can be added to the major triad (1-3-5) (6, 7 and maj7) to get three different four-chords. The same situation can be observed with the minor triad (1-b3-5).

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Four notes on the fingerboard

In order to be able to play these 12 four-note chords, it is best to place the root note of the chord you are looking for on the desired note on the low E-string or the A-string and look for the other notes you need from the root note. The only thing to note here is that the three highest notes of the chord are placed on three adjacent strings.

This makes striking with fingers or a pick much easier. However, there can be a string of space between the fundamental and the other notes of a fingering. This string should be dampened slightly or should not be struck when plucking with the fingers due to the distribution between the thumb and fingers.

The following two fretboard diagrams can be of real help in finding the tones you need. The fundamental tone is drawn in bold, the other tones are within reach of the gripping hand on the higher strings.

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The guitar fingerings in practice

Root note on the E side

The easiest way is to put the root of all 12 basic four-note chords on the low E-string and look for the three remaining notes on the middle three strings (D-g-b). The result is handles that most of you either already know well or at least have seen several times.

These are so-called standard fingerings that are part of the daily repertoire of every guitarist. Some of these chords are a little easier to play with barre fingerings, such as B. the 7sus4, 7 and m7 chord. However, for reasons of the consistent system, I have waived this here.

Just try out which fingers are best for doing these grips. It becomes interesting when you use the three high strings (g - b - e´) to put together the required chord tones. This results in handles that you don't see so often on all guitarists. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they are usually a little more difficult to grasp.

Above all, it is more difficult to mute the two strings that lie between the root note and the chord notes with your left hand. Here I use the following technique: the A-string is muted with the finger that grips the root note. To do this, it must be positioned so that it touches the A string at a slight angle without pressing it down too hard.

The D-string is muted in the same way with the finger that has to grip the note on the G-string. Because two damping processes have to be mastered at the same time, one should be careful to be aware of the exact finger positions.

These new moves should be practiced over and over over a period of several weeks. The best way is to memorize the movements of the fingers from chord to chord with the respective chord name. For example, you can see how the major seventh changes to the seventh and further to the sixth, or how the sus4 becomes a major third and then a minor third, etc.

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Root note on the A string

After we have already made acquaintance with the basic chord structure, the basic four-notes with root on the E-string and the semitone relationships between these chords, I would like to know about the fingerings for the basic four-notes with root on the A-string complete. A quick look at the chord tree is sufficient to clarify the basic structure of the chords (see above).

In order to be able to accommodate the 12 basic four-note chords that are listed in this chord tree on the fingerboard, we place the root note of the chord we are looking for on the A string and then look for the other notes that we still need from there. It should be noted that the three highest notes of the chord are placed on three adjacent strings, which on the one hand has sound reasons and on the other hand makes it easier to grasp and strike or pluck.

However, there can be a distance of one string between the fundamental tone and the three other tones. The strings that are not required must of course be muted while playing, which is best done with the fingers of the left hand.

When searching for the chord tones, you can use a fingering diagram on which all possible chord tones are drawn. The root note is drawn in bold, and the other notes are within reach of the gripping hand on the higher strings.

We distinguish between two groups of the basic four-notes with the root on the A-string. In the first group, the chords are on the strings A-D-g-b, with the high e-string sometimes being added as the fifth string.

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In these fingerings, the root note is on the A string, the fifth on the D string and the rest of the chord notes on the other strings. Most of the common four-note sounds such as B. maj7, 7 and m7 should be familiar to the readers, but a little repetition and refreshment at regular intervals is always good. There are alternatives to these fingerings where the third of the chords is on the D string. This group is not quite complete because some chords can only be played with great effort or are simply intangible (example 4).

Nevertheless, some of these grips are sometimes associated with considerable stretching, which is why you should warm up well. I wouldn't practice these fingerings for more than a quarter of an hour at a time; it is more important to incorporate one or two such fingerings into a longer chord progression in order to simulate their use in practice.

In the second group, the guitar fingerings are on the strings A-g-b-e, whereby the D-string is not fingered and therefore has to be muted. There are also a few chords in this group for which fingering is not always easy. If you have difficulty with a single grip, it is best to put it back for a while and practice the others first. If you are familiar with the easier fingerings, you can usually integrate the more difficult ones into the repertoire without major problems.

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Root note on the D string

In order to accommodate the 12 basic four-note chords on the fingerboard, you put the root note of the chord you are looking for on the D-string and then look for the other notes you still need from there. To make the search for the chord tones easy and clear, you can use a fingering diagram on which all possible chord tones are drawn.

The root note is drawn in bold, and the other notes are within reach of the gripping hand on the higher strings.

To complete this subject I would like to present the basic four-note chords with root on the D-string.

Basically, you only have two options when creating chords with a root on the D string, because with gb (h) -e you only have three strings available for the chord tones: on the one hand, you put the chords in the layering of a third 1-3-5-7 (root-third-fifth-seventh), on the other hand with the distribution 1-5-7-3 (root-fifth-seventh-third.

Not all handles are really easy to grip, and some of them sound a little strange out of context. It is mainly those with large extensions that are not easy to grasp, such as B. C7sus4, C7 # 5, C6, Cm6 and C ° 7. The C7b5 also has its pitfalls, as you have to cope with an extension between the 2nd and 3rd finger, which the gripping hand usually does not like.

Those fingerings in which there is a tritone interval between the two highest notes on the b (b) and e strings do not sound so good. The resulting dissonance is intensified by the high position and in practice usually leads to avoiding these grips. These are G7 # 5, G7, and Gm6.

The tritone, on the other hand, is perceived as less disturbing in G7b5 and G ° 7, which is probably due to the fact that the tritone belongs to the characteristic sound image of these two chord types anyway. With all other chords you are free to choose and simply choose the ones that suit you best.

You can find out more about guitar fingerings and fingering charts on the guitar & bass topic page! Would you like to learn to read notes? Then you are at the right place on the guitar & bass topic page guitar notes.

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Chords and chord symbols III

On the basis of the power chord, six triads and twelve four-notes, we were able to develop a solid chord basis in the last two workshops. I will briefly summarize again which chord symbols we can now assign the corresponding fingerings to.

C5: Power Chord (root and fifth)

C: C major triad

Cm: C minor triad

C +: excessive triad

Co: diminished triad

Csus4: Power chord with fourth

Csus2: Power chord with a big second

Cmaj7: Major triad with a major seventh

Cmaj7 # 5:overm. Triad with a major seventh

C7: Major triad with a minor seventh

C7 # 5: overm. Triad with kl. Seventh

C7b5: C7 four-note chord with a fifth

C6: Major triad with a major sixth

Cmmaj7: Minor triad with a major seventh

Cm7: Minor triad with a minor seventh

Cm6: Minor triad with a major sixth

Cm7b5: presumably triad with kl. Seventh

Co7: presumably triad with presumably seventh

C7sus4: Csus4 triad with kl. Seventh

It is best to write down the selected fingerings so that you can play them again and again, ideally learn their name right away, and get used to their sound in the process. The chords presented above provide the basis for approx. 95% of the musical material with which a normal mortal is confronted in his life.

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Extended three and four notes

More chords can be formed by adding more notes to the three and four notes discussed above. These tones are called additional or option tones. A popular explanatory model for additional tones is the extension of the layering of thirds, which is already known from the three and four notes, to the tredezime.

13 Tredezime (6 + octave)
11 Undezime (4 + octave)
9 None (2 + octave)
7 Seventh
5 Fifth
3 third
1 Keynote

In practice, however, it rarely looks like that you have to layer all thirds on top of each other in order to be able to use a “13” in a chord. Usually an additional tone (or more rarely two additional tones) is added to a triad or a four-tone. The following summary of the additional tones contains all 7 additional tones that can be added to three and four tones:

In the left column is the abbreviation for the additional tone as it occurs in the chord symbol. In the middle column is the official name of the relevant interval, even if one would usually speak of a “# 9” (nine of clubs) rather than an “excessive ninth”. In the right column is the tone that results from a fictitious chord with the root "C".

To practice, look for a few examples from songbooks or other notes with chord symbols and break down the chords that occur there into their individual tones. This is especially important so that you can do these thinking exercises from all 12 basic tones. Some of the additional tones presented above correspond to familiar chord tones in terms of their distance from the root note. These overlaps can be seen in the table below.

(Text: Frank Haunschild)


Book tip: From blues and rock to country and funk, the electric guitar manual conveys important basics and playful focuses.

For iPhone users there is also the very helpful Uberchord app, which can help you discover and learn even the most complicated jazz chords. The chord recognition via the microphone can be used to control and the chord trainer to practice. Download from http://bit.ly/uberchord_app.