Chords Theory: The G Chord

With this beginning lesson, you'll learn how to play your first simple chord shapes. Let's go!

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Hello, I'm WyvernOmega, and you may know me from the forums. (Probably the Pit.) I'm just going to go ahead and tell you about chords, then jump right in to it with some shapes. Chords are basically notes that sound good together, that are constructed through "intervals". Now if the wording seems too technical and kind of scares you, then it's okay, it just means notes that are "meant to be together". Now, let's start with your first chord!
E-3-
B-0-
G-0-
D-0-
A-2-
E-3-
That is a G major chord, but if it's a major, then usually we just refer to it as a G. It is the first chord I will teach you. First of all, just finger it, and then strum it, hear what it sounds like. Now, I'm going to get technical.
E---
B---
G---
D---
A-5-
E-3-
That is a G5 chord, but you might know it as a power chord. Finger it, and strum it, and you'll hear that it sounds very similar to the G (major) chord. Why does it sound so similar? You know it's the same pitch (G), but it has different fingerings! I'll tell you. The 3rd fret on the thick E string is a G (1 note up at a time, F, F#, G!) and it is there in both chords. That's the root of the chord, and what helps to give it its name. Now, to construct a power chord, you need the root, G, and what's called the fifth. Take a look at the G on the music.
E---
B---
G---
D---
A---
E-3-
Now, I'm going to add the fifth. Guess where it's going to be!
E---
B---
G---
D---
A-5-
E-3-
Yes, the fifth is the other note in a power chord! It is 7 notes (frets) higher than the G, and the name fifth comes from the fact that in the G major and minor scales (Which I won't go on about in this lesson) it is the fifth note, assuming G is the first. Now, let's figure out which note this is. (G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D!) The fifth of a G is D! So if you have a G, and a D that is above it, then you have a power chord! Find a D on the fret board higher than the G, and then play it! Congratulations, you've constructed a (simple) chord! Now, why does the G power chord sound like the G chord? Well, back to the point. I'm going to rearrange the G chord so you see the connection between the two chords. G Chord:
E---
B---
G-4-
D-5-
A-5-
E-3-
G Power Chord:
E---
B---
G---
D---
A-5-
E-3-
Now, the G is still a G, and the G power chord is still a G power chord. But now they look similar! But, there's only 1 more (unique) note in (this) G chord than the G power chord, and it's called a third. Now, let's look at the notes in the G.
B (Third)
G (Octave)
D (Fifth)
G (Root)
Now, what makes a chord major or minor is the third. If the third is minor, then the chord is minor. If the third is major, then the chord is major. Just like the name of the fifth, the G's major third is the name of the third note in the G major scale. For a minor third, it's the same, but it's the third note in the minor scale. The octave can be ignored right now, it's the same note as the root, only it is 12 notes higher. After 12 notes, the chromatic (every note) scale resets. (G#, A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, and a higher G.) Now, the notes of the G power chord!
G (Octave)(Optional)
D (Fifth)
G (Root)
That's right, you can add the octave to a power chord to make it sound fuller, and the only difference between a G5 and a G is the third. Add a third, and voila, you've constructed a chord. Congratulations. This is the first of a series on lessons, and if you've made it through this, then everything in the next few YEARS of your playing will seem more logical and it will be easier for you to improvise, write, and play cover AND original music. Good luck, and I'll see you in my next lesson.

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    king_guitarnoob
    what the hell does this mean! im beginner and i think that even good players have no clue about this
    redroman
    i was getting it at first but wat the hell is fifth and third???couldn't understand the last part...
    Krieger91
    nice job..i had a very accurate guess of this..mostly out of intuition and just playing..like i knew octaves and that..but it's all clearer now
    illumination
    I can see how people with no musical background and no knowledge of guitar playing would struggle with understanding this. Thinking back to when I started guitaring, I would probably understand the first quarter of this lesson and then I would've lost you. Even now, (played for about 10 months now), I'm struggling to fully understand everything here. I would suggest that you specify which strings to play, just as an example, the "power chord" - are we expected to play 35xxxx or 350000? Furthermore, if you were to put 35xxxx down, what do the 'x's mean? From a beginner's point of view, this stuff would need to be clarified. You could argue that they should learn how to read the tabs before they read this lesson, but you could give a brief outline on what exactly the numbers mean. Don't need to elaborate too much, but since I'm assuming you're targeting beginners with this lesson, you would probably want to add more information.
    senda
    its kinda hard to understand like the chromatic scale stuff but i get it a little i think its not really for beginners.. im a beginer