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Easy Guitar Lessons: Chord Structure

Author: Oguz

A technical familiarity of harmony is not a certain prerequisite to the enjoyment of music, but the amateur musician, and listener alike, should be conscious of harmony as a basic of guitar chord structure.  He should be aware of some basic principles, properties and uses of this element, while learning how to play guitar.

Harmony as an element is more seasoned than rhythm and melody.  It is virtually non-existent in old cultures.  Moreover, it is an element which came into view comparatively late in the music history, and which was developed primarily in western civilization.

Harmony is a musical element  established upon the concurred union of musical tones (as differentiated from the sequential tones of a melody), or the accompaniment of a melody by chords.

A combination of three or more tones played concurrently and perceived as sounding as a whole is called a chord.

C-major scale
A few fundamental principles can help you understand the basics of routine building of chords. The simple one is the major triad, which includes three tones.  You can build a triad by choosing the tonic of a certain major scale and by adding two or more tones above it on alternate degrees of the said scale. For example, if we start with the tone C/do the tonic of the C-major scale, you get the triad do-mi­-sol, 1-3-5, or C-E-G.

The tones of any chord maybe picked out in different order, and they maybe duplicated an octave above or below without changing the essential nature of the chord. This is the reason why so often we see chords such as C/E, (the first inversion of the C major triad using the chord tone E as the bass) or C/G (the second inversion of the C major triad where the tone G is used as the bass).

Constructing chords in thirds (on alternate scale levels as delineated) was the foundation of all conventional harmony from 1700-1900.

In the twentieth century impotant music composers have grown larger the chord vocabulary by extra means of building in order to create more enjoyable and compound  effects.  Although additional means of construction have been introduced, modern pop, rock and jazz music still follow the conventional way of chord construction – by thirds.

Going back to the major chord, you may be  wondering why there are lots of fingering for a given major chord. This is possible since in the 12 frets of the guitar, the notes are repeated in increasing octaves, at their corresponding string.  C, for example, it  is on the first fret at the B string, third fret at the A string, fifth fret at the G string, and on the eighth fret at the E strings.

So conditional upon how the melody of the song is organized, the chord formation can assume any fingering position if the triad is formed and however it is played easily.

Minor Triad
Now that you have a knowledge on the major chord, let us look at its parallel counterpart, the minor chord.  If the third of the major triad is altered by lowering it to one semitone (one fret on the guitar and two frets for each whole tone), the resulting triad will be C-Eflat-G, which is the minor triad.

Take your time with the fret board of your guitar and investigate all the possible fingerings, for the minor chord. You may see that if comparing it with the major chord fingerings, only one string is lowered when forming the minor chord, not until there is a doubling of the minor third (Eflat).

If ever you are wondering why all the examples given here are on the C chord, well, it is now your turn to apply the lesson here.  Chart down the major and minor chord triads for the rest of the notes and … start playing guitar!

P.S.: I suggest you to use a learn guitar software to learn guitar fast and easily. Learning chords is very easy if you use a guitar learning software.

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