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Guitar Chords — Are You Doing It All Wrong? 3 Mistakes Guitarists Make

Ninety-five percent of guitarists learn chord shapes without really understanding the language of music the result being a sonic mess of disconnected sounds…

The guitarists in this category usually learn chords by one of the following three ways.

* Learning random chord shapes (often difficult shapes) from a chord book.

* Learning chord shapes from the generic chord diagrams on sheet music songbooks.

* Scouring the Internet looking for that magic lost chord.

Learning chords this way is doomed to fail because the player is simply collecting random information, players learning via these methods will remain confused forever because they do not know what they are doing!

The key to overcoming this musically confusing state of affairs is to understand the inner workings of musical harmony and how to apply these principles to the guitar fretboard.

Let’s begin by taking a look at chord inversions and applying that information to the guitar fingerboard.

String grids and chord inversions:

String grids — by dividing the six strings of the guitar into grids (each grid consisting of three strings) learning harmony is easy.

String grid 1 = 1st, 2nd and 3rd strings

String grid 2 = 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings

String grid 3 = 3rd, 4th and 5th strings

String grid 4 = 4th, 5th and 6th strings

Application: Most commercial guitar work is confined to string grids 1 & 2; however, the complete guitarist should have a good working knowledge of all string grids.

grid 1- lead guitar work (solos and fill in’s)

grid 2 — rhythm guitar work (back up and fill in’s)

Chord inversions: there are three ways to arrange the notes of a standard three note chord (called a triad).

Using the C major triad as an example we would have the following inversions.

Root position: C — E — G

First inversion: E — G — C

Second inversion: G — C — E

Notice how each chord structure contains the same exact notes only in a different sequence.

The root position of a chord means the sequence of notes as it would appear on a keyboard (in alphabetical sequence) e.g., A — B — C — D — E — F — G; keeping in mind that when we building chords we select every second note: C — [d] — E — [f] — G

Once we have our root position chord think of these notes as a vertical structure:

root position (C major)

G

E

C

To create the first inversion of this chord simply take the bottom note of the root position chord and place it on top (just like a soft drink dispensing machine — when you take out the drink at the bottom the other drinks fall down, only in this instance we would place the bottom soft drink back in the machine at the top position).

1st inversion of C major

C

G

E

The second inversion is created in the same exact manner, take the bottom note from the first inversion and place it on top and we now have the following chord.

2nd inversion of C major

E

C

G

If we where to invert the chord again we would arrive back at the root position.

Application: Each chord inversion has a different musical weight and density, as you become familiar with the sound of each chord inversion your musical ear will improve and your ability to match the sounds you are hearing in your head with their exact location on the guitar fingerboard will accelerate.

grid 1: C major 2nd inversion (G-C-E)

-0—

-1—

-0—

-x—

-x—

-x—

grid 1: C major root position (C-E-G)

-3—

-5—

-5—

-x—

-x—

-x—

grid 1: C major root position (E-G-C)

-8—

-8—

-9—

-x—

-x—

-x—

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