Explore beyond the basics with these beautiful guitar chord types. Make your music sound richer and more dynamic, and try something new today.
The First Chords Guitar Beginners Learn
As we learn guitar, we often start with open chords and barre chords. These are the most common chord shapes that we learn as beginners.
Open chords are simply chord shapes that use one or more open strings. Barre chords, on the other hand, are chord shapes that involve fretting multiple strings with one finger. Open chords are generally easier to play, but barre chords can be used to play a wider range of chord shapes.
However, the two shapes I just described are not the types of chords we will be discussing. Instead, what we’ll cover are chord qualities.
The Notes of a Chord
When we talk about chord qualities, we’re referring to the number of notes that make up a chord.
A chord can be made up of 2 notes, 3 notes, or 4 notes. The most common chord quality that we see is the triad.
- Two-note chord: A dyad is a two-note chord. Power chords are the most common type of dyad. It is simply the root note and the fifth.
- Three-note chord: The three-note chords we call triads are the most commonly used type of chord in music. The root note, third, and fifth intervals form a triad.
- Four-note chord: A chord can also be made up of 4 notes called a tetrad. The root note, third, fifth, and seventh intervals make up a chord of this type. These are less common, but we do see them from time to time. The fourth note added to a triad is called the seventh. Seventh chords are the most common type of four-note chord.
Triads: 4 Basic Chord Types
In order to explore other chord types, it’s important to learn about different three-note chords. Learning these chords will provide a foundation for other, more difficult chords and lay the groundwork for playing them.
A triad includes four basic types of chords: major, minor, augmented, and diminished. There are many other chord types out there, but these four will get you started.
- Major chord: A major chord is made up of the root note, the third, and the fifth. Major chords tend to sound bright and cheerful.
- Minor chord: A minor chord is made up of the root note, the flat third, and the fifth. Minor chords tend to sound sad and mellow.
- Diminished chord: A diminished chord is made up of the root note, the flat third, and the flat fifth. Diminished chords usually sound like they’re building up to something, creating a sense of tension and suspense.
- Augmented chord: An augmented chord is made up of the root note, the third, and the sharp fifth. The unusual sound of augmented chords creates a sense of unease in whoever hears it.
|Chord Type||Chord Formula||C Major|
|Major||1 3 5||C E G|
|Minor||1 b3 5||C Eb G|
|Diminished||1 b3 b5||C Eb Gb|
|Augmented||1 3 5#||C E G#|
Major and minor chords are by far the most common chord types that we see. You’ll find them in almost every song that you hear.
Diminished and augmented chords are not used as often, but they do have their place in music. These chords can add color to a song and help to create different moods. The diminished chord is not one to be ignored as it’s an essential part of the family of chords to create a well-rounded chord progression.
Basic Chord Construction
Now that we’ve gone over the four basic chord types, it’s time to talk about how chords are constructed.
Chords are built on intervals. An interval is the distance between two notes. When we talk about chord construction, we’re referring to the specific intervals that make up a chord.
All chords are created from the major scale. The major scale has 7 notes, and each note in the scale is a different interval from the root note.
The root note is the starting point for all chords. The other intervals in the chord are based on the root note. To form the scale, we use the following intervals:
- Whole Step (W): 2 frets
- Half Step (H): 1 fret
A whole step is moving two frets, and a half step is moving one fret. For example, if we’re in the key of C, our root note is C. The intervals would be as follows:
- C, whole step to D, whole step to E, half step to F, whole step to G, whole step to A, whole step to B, half step back to C
- C D E F G A B (C)
To create a major chord, we use the root, third, and fifth intervals. The root note is the starting point for all chord construction. The third is either a major or minor third above the root, and the fifth is a perfect fifth above the root.
For example, a C major chord is made up of the intervals C (the root note), E (the third), and G (the fifth).
|C Major Scale||C||D||E||F||G||A||B|
|Notes in C Maj||C||E||G|
Common Guitar Chord Types – Beyond the Basics!
Let’s start by defining what a “chord type” is. A chord type or quality is a specific combination of intervals that create a certain sound. For example, the major chord type uses the intervals 1 3 5. The minor chord type uses the intervals 1 b3 5.
When we talk about chords, we’re usually referring to triads. Possibly because the triads are the first building block for all other chord variations.
Not only are there triads, but we have several other chord types that can bring variation to your progressions. Discover the best ways to play guitar chords, and learn how they can transform your music.
As stated earlier, a triad is a three note chord. It’s made up of the root, third, and fifth notes of the major scale. All other chords are variations of the triad.
Seventh chords are made up of four notes: the root, third, fifth, and seventh. Here are some seventh chords to explore.
- Major Seventh
- Minor Seventh
- Dominant Seventh
- Diminished Seventh
- Half-Diminished Seventh
- Minor Major Seventh
- Augmented Seventh
- Augmented Major Seventh
Extended chords are made up of five or more notes. They include the root, third, fifth, seventh, and ninth (and beyond). These chords are simply an extended form of seventh chords.
- Dominant Ninth
- Dominant Eleventh
- Dominant Thirteenth
Altered chords are any chord that has been altered from its original form. An altered chord can be made by changing the third, fifth, seventh, or ninth interval.
Some common altered chords are:
- Major Seventh Flat Five
- Minor Seventh Flat Five
- Dominant Seventh Sharp Nine
- Dominant Ninth Sharp Eleven
- Seventh Augmented Fifth
- Seventh Minor Ninth
- Seventh Sharp Ninth
- Seventh Augmented Eleventh
- Seventh Diminished Thirteenth
- Half-Diminished Seventh
Added Note Chord
An added note (or added tone chord) is a triad with an extra “added” note other than the seventh note. It can be an added sixth, fourth or thirteenth. Using added tones can help you better understand chords that you already know.
- Add Nine
- Add Fourth
- Add Sixth
A suspended chord, or “sus chord”, is a type of chord where the third is replaced with either the second or fourth note. The most common suspended chords are the sus2 and sus4.
- Suspended Second or sus2
- Suspended Fourth or sus4
Chord Name, Sound, Notes
Now that we’ve covered some of the most common chord types, let’s talk about how to name them, the sound they make and the notes they’re made up of. Remember: we name chords based on the root note. The chord types you use will depend on what style of music you’re playing.
As any musician knows, the order of chords can have a big impact on the feel of a piece of music. A simple progression of major chords might sound cheerful and upbeat, while a minor chord progression can create a feeling of suspense or melancholy. However, it’s also possible to create more unusual and interesting progressions by playing chords in unexpected orders. By breaking the rules of traditional harmony, musicians can create progressions that are fresh and exciting.
|Chord Type||Chord Formula||C Major||Sound|
|Power Chord||1 5||C G||Beefy, Crunchy|
|Major Chord||1 3 5||C E G||Happy|
|Minor Chord||1 b3 5||C Eb G||Sad/Dark|
|Augmented||1 3 5#||C E G#||Uneasy|
|Diminished||1 b3 b5||C Eb Gb||Tense|
|Sus2||1 2 5||C D G||Bright|
|Sus4||1 4 5||C F G||Suspended|
|Seventh Chord,Maj7||1 3 5 7||C E G B||Calm|
|Min7||1 b3 5 b7||C Eb G Bb||Folk|
|Dominant 7||1 3 5 b7||C E G Bb||Bluesy|
|Add9||1 3 5 9||C E G D||Pop|
|Min Add9||1 b3 5 9||C Eb G D||Calm|
|Add 11||1 3 5 11||C E G F||Magical|
|Min Add 11||1 b3 5 11||C Eb G F||Lonely|
|Maj 6||1 3 5 6||C E G A||Latin|
|Min 6||1 b3 5 6||C Eb G A||Latin|
|Maj 9||1 3 5 7 9||C E G B D||Latin Bossa|
|Min 9||1 b3 5 b7 9||C Eb G Bb D||Latin Bossa|
|Dominant 9||1 3 5 b7 9||C E G Bb D||Blues|
|Maj 11||1 3 5 7 9 11||C E G B D F||Mystic|
|Min 11||1 b3 5 b7 9 11||C Eb G Bb D F||Mystic, Jazzy|
|Dominant 11||1 3 5 b7 9 11||C E G Bb D F||Mystic|
|Maj 13||1 3 5 7 9 11 13||C E G B D F A||Jazzy|
|Min 13||1 b3 5 b7 9 11 13||C Eb G Bb D F A||Jazzy|
|Dominant 13||1 3 5 b7 9 11 13||C E G Bb D F A||Jazzy|
|Half-Diminished, (b13)||1 b3 b5 b7||C Eb Gb Bb||Subdominant|
|#9||1 3 5 b7 #9||C E G Bb D#||Hendrix Chord|
|b9||1 3 5 b7 b9||C E G Bb Db||Unresolved|
|b13, (dominant chord)||1 3 5 b7 9 11 b13||C E G Bb D F Ab||Jazzy|
Just as there are many different types of people in the world, there are also many different types of chords. And just as people can be categorized into groups based on their qualities, so too can chords be grouped according to their characteristics. In reality, there are many different variations of each chord type, and the only way to figure out which ones you like best is to experiment.
Try New Things!
So now that you know the basics of chord construction, what do you do with this information? Start experimenting! There are endless possibilities when it comes to creating harmonic progressions, so don’t be afraid to try new things.
You may find that certain chords sound better together than others, or that a certain progression sounds great in one key but terrible in another. The best way to learn is by doing, so start jamming with your friends and see what interesting progressions you can come up with.