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Guitar Chord Theory – Knowledge is Power

Elvis Elvis

This is really essential stuff. Guitar chord theory can get very boring if you’re with one of those traditional guitar tutors, but I’ve been trying to devise a way of getting this stuff to sink in without any unnecessary crap.

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Required Knowledge!!
Learn Open Position Chords!
Learn Barre Chord Shapes!
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The aim of this lesson is to learn where all the notes lie on the fretboard of your guitar. Now, this sounds quite a lot to take in, but this is the rhythm guitar section, so because chords are the focus here, we’re only looking at the root notes of the chords so you’ll know exactly where you can play a…D minor, for example, in more than one position.

Why is that necessary, though? If you learn to play chords in more than one position you can use different voicings for different sounds. For example, a deeper sounding D major might sound more “suitable” for your song than a typical high tone D major.

Let’s take a look at some good guitar chord theory…


Guitar Chord Theory – Root Note Positions

Root notes are most often the lowest note in a chord so with F Major/minor, the root note would be, yep, F. Basically, look at the letter in the chord name and that’s also the root note!

Below is a diagram you will really benefit from studying and learning. It shows you all the root note positions for A B C D E F and G notes. We’ll come to sharps and flats inbetween these notes in a bit…

Guitar Chord Theory   Knowledge is Power

The dot inlays on your guitar are positioned, as in the diagram above, at frets 3, 5 ,7, 9 and two dots at fret 12. These dots on your guitar are to help with identifying where notes are situated.

So, the open strings on your guitar start with the fat E followed by A and D – if you’ve learned about Open Position Chords, these open, unfretted strings act as root notes for the E, A and D major/minor chords.

Now, when using Barre Chords, there are four different barre shapes – A, E, D and C – shapes taken from the open chord positions of those same notes.

If you look at the guitar chord theory diagram:

-The blue string is for D shape barre chord root notes.

-The red string is for A and C shape barre chord root notes.

-The yellow string is for E shape barre chord root notes.

So, if we’re trying to find different voicings for the G Major chord (or one of its variations such as Gmaj7, G7, Gadd9 etc.) we can look at that diagram above and pick out all the G’s. Do that now!

What did you pick out? You should have seen 3 G note positions

- One for the E shape barre of G
- One for the A and C shape barres of G
- One for the D shape barre of G

The tab below shows these positions used for the basic G Major chord…

 Guitar Chord Theory   Knowledge is Power

Notice how the A and C shape barres use the same root note position, this applies for all examples – the A and C barre shapes always share the same root note position on the 2nd string!

Just to save you scrolling back up…

Guitar Chord Theory   Knowledge is Power


Guitar Chord Theory – Sharps and Flats

The diagram above shows notes A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Inbetween these notes on the fretboard are sharps (#) and flats (b) as follows:

A, Bb (B flat), B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, Ab

Again, learn that diagram, and along with learning the barre chord shapes, you’ll know exactly where the root note lies for each barre shape chord!

This means more efficient songwriting, accurate improvisation (rather than guess work) and you’ll find yourself opened up to new areas of guitar theory you didn’t know about before.

That’s how I learned the theory side of things – forget the jargon, just “know” it in your own mind for your own playing.


If all this guitar chord theory has been a touch confusing to you, you may need to learn more in the rhythm guitar section.