Chord Vocabulary

Building Chord Vocabulary

A ‘chord’ is simply more than one note being played at the same time. Chords are the fundamental building blocks of music and so essential for guitar playing.

In your guitar lessons you’ll learn all the chords you’ll ever need. With each new chord, or set of chords, you’ll learn songs and repertoire that use those chords.

Taking this approach means that you will use the new chords immediately and see them in proper musical context. You’ll practise moving to and from these new shapes, and will be more likely to remember them for future use.

Three-note chords

Three-note chords are the most common types of chord, and form the backbone of most music.

They are usually referred to as ‘triads’ and include the following chord types:

  • Major
  • Minor
  • Sus2
  • Sus4
  • Diminished
  • Augmented

If you are a beginner you will start with major and minor ‘open chords’. These are the chords that are played towards the head of the guitar.

After open chords you will learn ‘bar chords’. Many people struggle with bar chords, without sufficient guidance on left-hand technique. Seemingly small corrections to hand-position can make a world of difference.

Alongside each set of chords, you will also build up a solid repertoire of chord-based songs.

Four-note chords

Four note chords are usually known as ‘sevenths’. There are several different types of seventh chord. As with three-note chords, they can all be played in multiple different positions and with different shapes along the guitar fretboard.

Some of the most common types of seventh chords are:

  • Major 7th
  • Dominant 7th
  • Minor 7th
  • Minor 7b5
  • 7sus4
  • 7sus2
  • Minor-major 7th
  • Altered chords

As with scales and arpeggios, the chords you learn are partly determined by the styles of music that you are most interested in.

As with three-note chords, you will learn new chord-based songs and material every time that you learn a new type of seventh.

Extended Chords

Extended chords are usually found in jazz, latin and more sophisticated styles of pop music.

The extended chord types that you’ll learn are:

  • 9ths
  • 11ths
  • 13ths

Within each of these families of chords are multiple subtypes of chords. For example, the following are all different types of 9th chords:

  • maj9
  • 9
  • m9
  • add9
  • madd9
  • 7#9
  • 7b9

As with triads and sevenths, each time you learn a new extended chord, you will also learn songs or tunes that use them. This helps the chord shapes to ‘stick’ and you will immediately practise using the chords in a real musical situation.

Booking a Guitar Lesson

To book a guitar lesson with Stuart, or to ask a question about taking lessons, send an email using the button below:

Message Stuart

“Chords are the building blocks of music. You don’t need many ┬áto play tunes you love.”

– Stuart Bahn