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Beginner Guitar Chords…Understanding Chord Structure

The most simple beginner guitar chords are the triads. These are three note chords that all the other chords are built on.

Read that last sentence again, I said “all guitar chords” are built from these basic three note chords.

Once you understand these basics you will be able make chords anywhere on the guitar if you know the notes on the Guitar Fretboard.

There are four types of basic chords.

Diminished Chords

Augmented Chords

Chord Inversions

Each of these chords have three notes. They also have three different ways the notes can be arranged, these are called inversions. Let me show you.

Below is a C chord, the notes in a C chord are C E G.

C – E – G = Root Position

E – G – C = 1st Inversion

G – C – E = 2nd Inversion

What we need to do is divide the guitar strings up into 4 three string sets.

This is how we are going learn our beginner guitar chords. One set at a time.

Major Triads Root Position

Root – 3 – 5

6 5 4 Strings 5 4 3 Strings
4 3 2 Strings 3 2 1 Strings

Major Triads 1st Inversion

3 – 5 – Root

6 5 4 Strings 5 4 3 Strings
4 3 2 Strings 3 2 1 Strings

Major Triads 2nd Inversion

5 – Root -3

6 5 4 Strings 5 4 3 Strings
4 3 2 Strings 3 2 1 Strings

You may recognize some of these shapes they are in chords with more notes added. These are the beginner guitar chords building blocks.

Minor Chords Root Position

The minor chords below only differ from the major by one note. The 3rd is flatted.

Root – 3♭ – 5

6 5 4 Strings 5 4 3 Strings
4 3 2 Strings 3 2 1 Strings

Minor Triads 1st Inversion

3♭ – 5 -Root

6 5 4 Strings 5 4 3 Strings
4 3 2 Strings 3 2 1 Strings

Minor Triads 2nd Inversion

5 – Root -3♭

6 5 4 Strings 5 4 3 Strings
4 3 2 Strings 3 2 1 Strings

Diminished Triads Root Position

The diminished chord differs from the minor chord by one note. The 5th is flatted.

These chords don’t get used as much as major or minor but they are important in improving, also there is a diminished triad in every dominant 7th chord starting on the 3rd note.

Root – 3♭ – 5♭

6 5 4 Strings 5 4 3 Strings
4 3 2 Strings 3 2 1 Strings

Diminished Triads 1st Inversion

3♭ – 5♭ – Root

6 5 4 Strings 5 4 3 Strings
4 3 2 Strings 3 2 1 Strings

Diminished Triads 2nd Inversion

5♭ – Root – 3♭

6 5 4 Strings 5 4 3 Strings
4 3 2 Strings 3 2 1 Strings

Augmented Triads Root Position

In the augmented triads below you will see the chord patterns repeated. This is because the augmented triad is actually 3 chords in one.

The C augmented chord is also an E and a G♯ chord. There are other chords which have two or more names you will run across in the future.

Root – 3 – 5♯

6 5 4 Strings 5 4 3 String set
4 3 2 Strings 3 2 1 Strings

Augmented Triads 1st Inversion

3 – 5♯ – Root

6 5 4 Strings 5 4 3 Strings
4 3 2 Strings 3 2 1 Strings

Augmented Triads 2nd Inversion

5♯ – Root – 3

6 5 4 Strings 5 4 3 Strings
4 3 2 Strings 3 2 1 Strings

All of these 3 note beginner guitar chords shapes need to be memorized. It’s not too hard if you pay attention to the root.

In the root position the root is the bass note.

In the 1st inversion the root is highest pitched note.

In the 2nd inversion the root is in the middle of the other two notes.