The secret to understanding the guitar fretboard start with ten open position chords!
Study these ten open position chords carefully, they are the starting point and foundation for mapping out the guitar fretboard and understanding music.
As you look at the intervals of these chords you will discover that they are repeated, this is the answer to the question: “How can a chord played over six strings be called a triad?”
Below you’ll find video lessons for each and every one of them.
The open position E and Em chords
The open position E chord is played using all strings. The intervals, from low to high, are root, 5th, root, 3rd, 5th and root.
There is only one difference between major and minor and that difference is the third. This means that you move the 3rd of the chord down one fret to create the minor chord.
The open position Em chord has the intervals: root, 5th, root, m3rd, 5th, and root.
The video guitar lessons demonstrate how to fret these chords in several different ways.
The open position A and Am chords
The open position A chord is played using string 5 to 1. The intervals are root, 5th, root, 3rd and 5th.
The open position Am chord has these intervals: root, 5th, root, m3rd and 5th.
The A chord is surprisingly difficult to fret. As the video demonstrates, there are different options available for the fretting hand. Aim to find what works best for you.
The open position D and Dm chords
The open position D chord is played using string 4 to 1. The intervals, from low to high, are root, 5th, root and 3rd.
For the open position Dm chord we have root, 5th, root, and m3rd.
Being the smallest of shapes, the D shape only repeats one interval, the root. Compare the two videos and see how the change between minor and major happens on string one.
The open position G and Gm chords
The open position G chord is played using all strings, the intervals, from low to high are root, 3rd, 5th, root, 3rd, and root.
If you fret the 2nd strings fret 3 you get: root, 3rd, 5th, root, 5th, and root. Both variations are G chords but they do sound slightly different.
In contrast to previous shapes, the G and Gm chord use different strings. The open position Gm chord is played using strings 6, 4, 3 and 2. The intervals, from low to high, are root, 5th, m3rd and 5th.
As you can see we don’t play string 5 and 1, this is because it would be too difficult to fret. It also wouldn’t sound very good either.
Mute string 5 with the flesh of your middle finger and the top string with the flesh of your little finger. This way you can strum over all 6 strings.
The open position C and Cm chords
The open position C chord is played using string 5 to 1, the intervals are root, 3rd, 5th, root, and 3rd.
If you add the 3rd fret on the first string you get root, 3rd, 5th, root, and 5th. Both variations are C chords since it is the intervals that determine the chord.
The open position Cm chord is played using string 5 to 2, the intervals, from low to high are root, m3rd, 5th, and root.
The Cm chord is tricky to fret, if you can’t do it now, don’t worry. It is not important as an open position chord since hardly any songs use it. Well, ‘Creepin In’ by Norah Jones does, but that’s about it!
If chord progressions are the foundation to explain musical movement, then open position chords are the foundation to mapping this language out on the guitar fretboard.
The next step is to turn these into barre chord shapes, this will map out the entire fretboard. When you’ve got them down you’ll build all scales and arpeggios on top.
Therefore, understanding these first ten open position chords is essential. Understanding the guitar fretboard literally starts here.