The basic major chords C, A, G, E and D

The following basic chords have already been described on tons of websites. But only if you understand the chords you will be able to easily modify a chord or change the chord type. You will soon be be able to construct any imaginable chord by yourself without having to memorize countless chords.

A major chord contains only 3 different tones: Root (1), major third (3) and fifth (5).

These tones can be randomly arranged on the guitars fretboard and some tones may occur more than ones. In most cases the lowest sounding tone shound (but not always have to) be the Root (except when you are playing with a bass player).

The following 5 major chords are the fundament for everything that is going to come. They fall into two categories:

  • the first two chords (C and G major) start in the base form (1 3 5). Then some tones are repeated.
  • in the second group of chords(E, A and D major) the root (1) is followed by the 5th. Then again the root (an octave higher) and finally the 3rd.

It's much more important to know the intervals of a chord than the names of the tones (you know them? great! That's also helpful).

C major and G major: root - third - fifth ...

1 3 5 ...

ⓘ Switch to interval view and compare the structure of the two chords.

In both chords the lowest three tones are already forming a complete major triad with the root (1) followed by a major third (3) and a fifth (5). Then some tones ring again on the higher strings.

A repeated tone can be skipped - e.g. the 3rd after the lowest root: the G major chord will even sound better wth des A string dampened instead of playing the B.

Another variation: move the second (higher) root by two frets up to the 9th. Now you've got an add9 chord that often sounds great instead of a plain major chord. You can see some examples for the use of those variations in these chord progressions. Sometimes they are even easier to play!

The chord symbol of a major chord consists of only the root note as a capital letter. A "C" chord e.g. means a C major chord.

E major, A major, D major: root - fifth - root - third ...

1 5 1 3 ...

The other group starts with root and fifth, followed (like in the first group) by the root, major third, etc... - depending on over how many strings the chord goes.

Especially in rock music you'll often just play the lowest two tones, root (1) and fifth (5) and leave out the rest. Those chords are called "power chords".

A power chord can be written as e.g.E5, G5 or A5 etc.