Chord Theory
Written for Animeguitartabs
By: Matt Houghton (Satan's brother in law)

This FAQ will deal with the chords, and how to construct them! This FAQ may confuse you if you don't have previous knowledge in the major scale and its construction! So I will say this now, in order to understand this you should know the major scale in every key, or at least how to find it in any key.

Seventh chords
Other chord forumlas
Omitting notes from chords
Chord Inversions
Common Chord Voicings
Tips and Suggestions

When dealing with chords we usually deal with triads.

A triad is a 3 note chord. But not just ANY 3 notes! Triads are built on the premise of stacking thirds within a scale, you will often see them noted as 1-3-5, when dealing with chord construction. This formula simply means you take 1st, 3rd, and 5th note from the major scale, and you've got your (major) triad!

Follow this example:

I want to build a C major scale, so I take the 1-3-5 from that scale:


C E G. Those are the notes in a C major triad (chord).

Now moving on...there are 4 different types or qualities of triads. Most of you are probably familiar with major and minor chords, these are two of them. The other two are diminished and augmented. These can all be expressed based on the 1-3-5 notation, but with slight alternations.

Major- 1-3-5
Minor- 1-b3-5
Augmented- 1-3-#5
Diminished- 1-b3-b5

Now you may be smacking your head on the desk saying,"What are these b's and #'s!!". Well, a "b" (flat) means you LOWER the note by a half step (one fret). While the "#" (sharp) means you RAISE the note by a half step (one fret).

Working again in C major here are the triads (with notes this time instead of numbers).


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Seventh Chords

Now that you understand triads you are on your way to understanding all chord names!

But first lets talk once more about "stacking thirds". This theme is imperative to understand how other types of chords are built. If we once again look at the C major scale:


C to E is a third, as E to G is a third. This is the process of stacking thirds. Now what if we stacked another third on top of the G? We would come up with these notes:


Obviously you know the first 3 notes (C E G) are the notes in a C major chord, but what is the B? The B is the 7th!

The 7th chord is built by using this formula: 1-3-5-7
As you can see we simply took the basic triad and added the 7 onto it.

The 7th in the example is a "major 7th", there are other types of 7th chords as well!

Major 7th- 1-3-5-7
Minor 7th- 1-b3-5-b7
Dominant 7th -1-3-5-b7
Augmented 7th- 1-3-#5-7
Half-Diminished 7th- 1-b3-b5-b7
Diminished 7th- 1-b3-b5-bb7

Anytime you are given these forumlas remember you apply them to the major scale of the chord you're trying to build. So, for instance, lets say I want to find the notes in a Cm7 chord.


Simple, right?

7th chords are hip, and very prominent in blues and jazz.

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Other chords

In this section I will simply state state the formulas for most other chords (the most common). I state their names, and then the common notation given to them. If they dont have a name aside from the notation, only the notation is present, enjoy!

Major: 1-3-5
Minor(m): 1-b3-5
Augmented(aug or +): 1-3-#5
Diminished( or dim): 1-b3-b5
Suspended 4th(sus or sus4): 1-4-5
Suspended 2nd(sus2): 1-2-5
Major7th(maj7): 1-3-5-7
Minor7th(m7): 1-b3-5-b7
Augmented7th(aug7): 1-3-#5-b7
Dominant7th(7): 1-3-5-b7
Diminished7th(7): 1-b3-b5-bb7
Half Dimished 7th(m7b5): 1-b3-b5-b7
Major Add9(add9): 1-3-5-9
Minor Add9(madd9): 1-b3-5-9
9th (9): 1-3-5-b7-9
Minor 9th(m9): 1-b3-5-b7
Major 9th(maj9): 1-3-5-7-9
Seven Flat 9(7b9): 1-3-5-b7-b9
Seven Sharp 9(7#9): 1-3-5-7-#9
Major 7th Sharp Eleventh(maj7#11): 1-3-5-7-#11
Flat 13(b13): 1-3-5-b7-9-11-b13
Thirteen(13): 1-3-5-b7-9-11-13
Eleventh(11): 1-3-5-b7-9-11
Minor Eleventh(m11): 1-b3-5-b7-9-11

When looking at these you may realize these patterns, and through realizing them you can find out new chords that aren't listed at your own will.

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Omitting notes from chords

Since the guitar only has six strings we can only play 6 notes at a time, and sometimes even that is too many! Here are some things to take into consideration when working with larger chord voicings (9,11,13).
Experiment with these, and try to remember the forumlas. Remember, if you think it sounds good then it does :)

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An inversion is most easily described as playing a chord with a chord-tone other than root in the bass. They're often called "slash" chords on guitar, because they are notated as the chord name with a / then the note that is in the bass.

There are three types primary types of inversions:

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Common Chord Voicings

Below I will give you some common moveable chord voicings. Moveable means you retain the same pattern, but move it up or down frets to get a new chord.

I think moveable chord voicings are much more effecient than open chord voicings, which differ quite frequently. Barre Chords

Barre chords are the most commonly used form moveable chord shape. There are 2 basic types, the "E" shape and the "A" shape, they gain these names because they are built off the open A chord and the open E chord. In a barre chord you "bar" the all the same frets on the given strings, then you add your fingers to the otherside of the barre to finish the chord.

"A' shaped barre chords

In each chord shape I will label the note values within that chord.
R= root
3= third
5= fifth
7= 7th

I will also put a seperate diagram noting which fingers should be used in order to construct the chord most easily.
1= i
2= m
3= r
4= p