What notes make a guitar chord
Well I guess all guitar players need to know what notes make a guitar chord, but, it can be quite confusing to learn considering all of the different locations of notes. This is where a little music theory comes into play. Once you understand the anatomy of guitar chords and how they are made then your chord vocabulary will grow tremendously. And, once you start learning how everything fits together (and what doesn’t fit) you will greatly improve your understanding of song and chord structure and your overall understanding of music….which ultimately will make you a better musician.
A major guitar chord is made up of three notes, the combination of just these three notes played at the same time makes a chord. Seems easy enough, right? These three notes are commonly referred to as the “triad”. If you are familiar with how the major scale works then this concept will be much easier to understand. The triad for the major chords is the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes in the scale (remember the scale for whichever root note (or chord) is played the same just starting in different locations on the neck, so the pattern is always the same).
Using the chart below you can see the triad for each of the 7 major chords. The 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scales are highlighted. The combination of these notes are the anatomy of the respective chord. For example, first on the list is the A major scale. The highlighted notes of A, C#, and E make up the A major chord.
Minor chords are a common variation of the major chords that can add a distinct sound to your progression. You can recognize minor chords by their darker tone compared to their major counterparts. To make a minor guitar chord you use the the same notes of the major chord (as seen above) except flatten the 3rd note. Using A major as an example from the chart above we have the A, C#, E notes as the 1st, 3rd, and 5th; to make an A minor we simply flatten the 3rd making it A, C, E as illustrated below:
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To help you understand the theory of what notes make a guitar chord please watch this video:
7th chords are another common variation to the major and minor chords that can add a distinct flavor to your chords and are very handy to have in your chord arsenal. First of all you should know there are different types of 7th chords and when you’re trying to understand what notes make a guitar chord you will want to understand their make-up. There are major 7th chords, dominant 7th chords, and minor 7th chords. To give a general overview of what a seventh chord is, it is adding the 7th note in the scale to the chord. Refer to the table below.
Major 7th Chords
To make a major 7th chord we start with the major chord (triad) and add the 7th note to the mix. So, instead of only using the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale we also add the 7th note. 1,3,5,7
Using a C major as an example, the scale is C D E F G A B. The major triad would be C E G (1,3,5), now for the 7th we add the B note. So a C Major 7th chord is C E G B (1,3,5,7) and is usually noted as Cmaj7.
Just to get used to it let’s look at an Amaj7. The ‘A’ scale is A B C# D E F# G#. The major triad is A C# E, the major 7th is A C# E G#. And looks like
Dominant 7th Chords
A dominant 7th chord involves the same concept of the major seventh except that the new 7th note is flattened. So the scale would look like 1, 3, 5, 7b . Looking at the ‘C’ chord above we would make the C7 by making C, E, G, Bb.
And again looking at an A for another example would be A, C#, E, G.
The dominant 7th chords are denoted simply with a ‘7’ after the chord. For example A7 or C7, etc.
Minor 7th Chords
Ok, so we know that a minor chord is made by a flat 3rd note and a 7th chord is made by adding the 7th note. A minor 7th chord is made by combining a minor chord and the dominant 7th. Therefore we have 1, 3b, 5, 7b. Now looking at our familiar ‘A’ chord, to make an Amin7. We have
So remember there are many ways you can make the same chords up and down the neck. For now, you have a lot to think about with the beginner guitar chords and what notes make up those guitar chords. Once you have a good understanding of these basics you can move on to more advanced chords and techniques. Remember, this page is just an overview of the most common chords you will use and by no means is this an all inclusive list….there is much more to learn.