Let's Make Some Chords. Part I

It's my first lesson on Ultimate Guitar and it's about one of the most basic things you need to know on guitar...and that's chords. It starts out on a beginner level but gradually approaches to more complex stuff and theory and probably that's the main reason for why I've divided it into parts.

Ultimate Guitar
Hi! My name is Akash Aryan and this is the first part of my lesson entitled as "Let's Make Some Chords". It's about the most important element of harmony...and that's chords. You'll find everything you need to know about chords; their formation; their applications; their types...and also how they make it better altogether! This lesson will replace any need for chord books and instead, after going through it, you'll be able to frame tens of thousands of combinations! The initial part essentially covers all the basic stuff...and the lesson gradually progresses to some more stuff in the subsequent part(s). So...let's start off...! {The first thing you need to keep in mind is that this part is 'highly recommended' for the beginners who've 'just' known the guitar and are curious and passionate about everything that comes next. They'll find some of the most basic concepts of chords that'll definitely help them in the process of learning guitar. Also, it's kind of a pre-requisite for those who will check out the subsequent part(s) as that one(s) will include 'a lot of' references from this one.} {The second thing is that this lesson can get a bit of confusing although I have made every effort to keep it simple and lucid. That applies especially to the beginners. However, you'll get to know it the further you go and seriously speaking, by the end of it; no confusing element will last. So...keep reading even if you get a bit off it.} Probably the very first thing that one does after getting a guitar is to memorise the names of all the six strings (which unfortunately are changeable at will). For a standard tuned guitar; the names of the strings are E A D G B E in order from the sixth string to the first string. A very popular and handy way to memorise the names (alphabets, more precisely) is the following sentence... "(E)lephants (A)nd (D)ogs (G)et (B)iology (E)xams." So...after you've learnt that; you're most likely to hear the word 'chord'. And this chord thing will keep pleasing (or haunting) you till you're playing your guitar. A very simple way of defining a chord is that it is a combination of some notes. When you're asked to play a particular chord on the guitar; what that means is that you have to play the constituent notes of that particular chord on different strings, all simultaneously. And that's the 'extreme basis' of harmony! Further, let's have a more deeper insight into chords and the way they're formed... You all would be familiar with the seven sounds of the Western Music. In case, you aren't; look below... Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti (Do) You'd notice that the sound in the braces is again the sound that was the foremost. It is actually that these sounds keep repeating and that means the last will be followed by the second and third and so on...! These are the 'only' sounds that make up every kind of music you hear. Isn't that incredible! (just as Carbon forms all those thousands of compounds) Now what we're gonna do next is that we'll assign a number to each of the above sounds that'll look like this... 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (1) Recall the process of repetition used above. The same'll apply here with the first number. It'll be followed by the second and the third and so on. Keeping that set for the final use, we'll now move to the notes. There are twelve basic notes in the Western Music (and obviously on the guitar too...). They are... C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B (C) The repetition continues with the notes too. These twelve basic notes are distributed all over the guitar fretboard from the first fret to the twenty second (or twenty fourth) fret. It's highly recommended for absolute beginners to get a fretboard chart that displays all the notes on it 'in standard tuning'. Keeping that aside, we're gonna go back to the number pattern we defined above (i.e., 1 2 3 4 5 6 7). This is the interval pattern for a major scale. What a major scale is that it's the primary of all scales that helps us derive all the chords and all those other scales. Historically, it's called as the Ionian Scale and it was the result of medieval musicians' experimentation with the pentatonic scale. Now, we can put any of the twelve notes we have at the position of (1) on the pattern we have and that note will define the 'key' of the scale. And that was the only thing we needed to know as we have learnt the name of the scale and it's interval pattern. For reference; I have given the notes of the major scale in all the twelve keys.This is absolutely important for the beginners if they have to learn to frame chords rather than just memorise their fingerings...
key of C   --- C D E F G A B
key of C#  --- C# D# F F# G# A# C
key of D   --- D E F# G A B C#
key of D#  --- D# F G G# A# C D
key of E   --- E F# G# A B C# D#
key of F   --- F G A A# C D E
key of F#  --- F# G# A# B C# D# F
key of G   --- G A B C D E F#
key of G#  --- G# A# C C# D# F G
key of A   --- A B C# D E F# G#
key of A#  --- A# C D D# F G A
key of B   --- B C# D# E F# G# A#
So...those are the notes of the major scale in each key. Remember that each of those notes is called an interval. The note that comes in at the number (1) {recall that we assigned seven numbers} is called the root note or the characteristic note of the scale. For instance, in the key of C; C is the root note; D is the second interval and A is the sixth interval. There are seven intervals in each key (that's why we assigned exactly seven numbers). A very important thing to note while framing a chord on the guitar is that any note(s) can be doubled - regardless of octave or count. For example any combination of the notes C,E and G, at any fret, form a C major chord. Additionally, a chord 'must' contain three or more notes to be called as a chord. Now, we have everything set up and as a matter of fact, we can now approach the ultimate aim of the lesson that you'd've been longing for. So "Let's Make Some Chords" !! (I) Power Chords! Power Chords are the most common rock guitar sound. In this type of chord, we play the intervals root and five together. It is represented in chord symbols by a note name (root) followed by the number '5'. An important characteristic property of these chords is that they don't sound either way - neither happy nor sad. They can be created several different ways depending on which numbers are doubled. Also, the root note that comes after the seventh interval can be added to it's sound though it's not necessary; but I recommend it as if you have at least three notes, then only you can call it a chord... These chords are used more often in rock 'cause of their heavy sound. They are almost exclusively played on the electric guitars with distortion on and that makes the most out of them. They are sometimes played with palm muting. So they, on the whole are a must know and master for the ones who like rock and want to play rock guitar. A good example of power chords is in the song "Basket Case" by the punk rock band Green Day. You can start off by learning that...
1   5  (1)
C   G   C
1  5  (1)
G  D   G 
1  5  (1)
B  F#  B
*the intervals in the braces are optional! So...I think that was enough for this installment of the lesson. You might think that you got almost no chords known by the end of it but let me tell you...you'll get lots of stuff in the second installment if you go by it carefully. Since, it's raining cats and dogs over here; I have to get off the scene. It's very cold and my fingers are already half numb. So...keep waiting and practicing till I come up with the second part...! Also, I won't show any fingerings for any chords since you're supposed to "finger it out yourself" ! And that's the ultimate objective of this lesson. So...have fun; love your guitar! Have a nice time ahead! Thank You!! {If there's still you didn't get by the end of the lesson; you can ask it in the comments section below. I'll be happy to clarify!}

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Nice article dude. I hv been playing for almost a year but I'm still a noob about theories... So in ur green day example, it says C5, does it mean u hv to play the root and the fifth interval?
    @Bellion - first of all, thanks for your appreciation! And yes, when you're to play a C5 chord , you have to play the root and the fifth interval. Technically that's a power chord . Also, you can add the octave to that chord if you want but it's just
    nice one dude,,inface this is the thing one must know before playing guitar.... well i have a question regarding chords progression see major chords progression formula is WWHWWWH+MmmMMm(you must b knowing that) my question is what formula we apply in case of minor chords progression plz give your answer in same way mentioned above thanx in advance...
    my question is what formula we apply in case of minor chords progression?
    ak.ashish1990 what you mentioned is the major scale formula not a chord progression formula. I repeat it's a major scale formula . Let me clarify that all the chords and progressions are created from scales and they don't have any formula of their own. And all the chords (that account for progression) in any key are derived from the tonic scale. All the major chords are derived from the major scale and the minor chords are derived from the minor scale which itself is derived from the major scale. Meanwhile, the formula for a minor scale is... W H W W H W W By the way, I'm signing up for a new account (Username - AkashAryan ) and I won't be using this one. Check out the series of lessons soon on that profile! Thanks...
    I recently started using open tuning and that's when I needed a better understanding of how to use chords. I never knew quite knew how to understand how to make my own chords until "You" wrote it out and explained it thoroughly. "Thank You" P.S for those of you reading this If you have a teacher that you are having a hard time understanding "Get a new teacher" or keep looking until you find one that Clicks with you