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Ouija's beginners guide to Chord Theory
Ouija
#1 Posted : 2/8/2008 11:42:13 PM
Ouija


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Ouija’s Beginners guide to chord theory


O.k. I meant to post this a couple of month back when someone was asking questions about Major/Minor/Seventh/Add9 chords and stuff, but just never got round to it. Since the forums been down for a couple of days, I’ve had a bit of time to actually, you know, play my guitars.Lol. Also had time to noodle around with my diagram editor. And since everybody seems to be doing guides on one subject or another, lately, I thought I’d throw something else in the pot. So…………………………………….


O.k First things first. This is not a guide to teach you chords. It’s assumed you already know a few. It’s a guide to explaining how those chords work and why knowing this can help you, not only when playing chords, but when sweeping and tapping too. Most beginners learn and memorize chords as finger shapes. That’s ok, to begin with, but will eventually become a major limitation. So a little musical theory will take you a long way. Don’t worry, It’s not hard, and will only take half an hour to pick up. Where possible, I’ll try to use simple terminology like “1 fret”, “2 frets” instead of “Semitone”, “Tone” (or “half step”, “full step” for the American forumites), so as not to confuse you. So no nitpicking from the more experienced forumites please. I’m also going to use a s.h.i.t load of easy to visualise diagrams (hopefully).

O.k. So lets get started.



How many chords?


The easiest way to tell how long someones been playing guitar is to simply ask how many chord shapes they think there are. New players will always say something like “hundreds”, because they’ve seen chord books filled with impossibly named chords with names like “Esus4” or “D7thDom something or other” and so forth. Pages and pages of them. More experienced players will typically say something like “five” or “only three really”. They are typically referring to the CAGED system. Let me explain……


The C.A.G.E.D system


The CAGED system goes something like this. There are only five chord shapes on the guitar. These five chords shapes, when played open, at the beginning of the neck, are the popular shapes that give you the C, A, G, E and D chords. As seen in the below animation.



Every chord you ever play on a guitar will be one of these five shapes. The reason you may not realize this, is because three things can happen to these five shapes that may disguise this simple truth from you. These are (in the order most people discover them):

1) Barre chords
2) Abbreviation
3) Alteration

Lets go through them one at a time.


1. Barre Chords

The first thing most players learn, after getting bored of playing the five shapes at the beginning of the neck.

It consists of simply playing the chord shapes with the last three fingers of your hand and using the first finger to lay across all of the strings (barring), simulating the function of the guitars nut. In the diagram below, for example, we’ve simply taken the “E” shape, played it with our last three fingers and slid it up to the fourth fret, with the first finger lying all the way across the third fret. This changes the chord from a E major chord, to a G major chord (but is the same E shape).



Now it might seem silly to point this out to people. But there are guitarists out there who don’t make the connection between the barred shapes they’ve memorised from chord books and the open chords they’ve also memorised. Because it’s in a different position, using different fingers they mentally label it as a completely different thing, and fail to see the connection. Needless to say, the other four shapes can be barred and played further up the neck. Though doing so can be quite finger breakingly hard on some of the shapes.

2. Abbreviation

The second reason for not seeing all your chords as just the five CAGED chord shapes is because people tend to abbreviate them. A complaint common amongst electric guitarists to make playing barre, and open chords simpler. Take this simple three finger powerchord for example (a G5 chord because it has no 3rd in it, which well discuss later).




Very popular with rock guitarists. Some people even detune the top string by two frets (drop D) so that they can make this simple chord using only one finger laying across the three top strings (some people are just lazy). In reality, this chord is only the top three notes of the same E shaped barre chord shown earlier. The rest of the notes are shown in grey, like so….



Of course, the other shapes can be abbreviated in much the same manner. Like so..

Abbreviated Barred A shape



Abbreviated Barred D shape



Abbreviated Barred C shape



Hopefully, you get the idea that your just strumming two or three notes out of a larger pattern which, in itself, is just the same five chord shapes being moved up and down the neck.

However. This guide is not intended to teach you about barre chords and how to abbreviate them, which is why I’ve just lightly touched on the subject. The focus of this guide is the next way a chord can be altered in such a way that you don’t realise your using those same five chord shapes in every chord you use. And that is…….


3. Alterations.


As well as barring those five chord shapes and moving them around the neck, either as full barre chords or abbreviated versions of those barre chords, you can also change the shape of those five patterns according to some rules. It’s the purpose of this guide to teach you those rules.

“At last. So get on with it then”

Actually. Before we continue on this lesson in chord theory, it’s actually necessary to understand one last thing about those five chord shapes (barred, abbreviated or otherwise). And that in reality, there are only THREE chord shapes.

“Looks like five to me.”

Nope. You see, the E,A and D shapes are in fact the same shape!

“They don’t look like the same finger shapes when I play them”.

That’s because the odd way that the guitar is tuned alters the shape of those chords (and every sweep and tapping pattern you’ll ever use), and will affect just about everything you ever do on the guitar. Let me introduce you to the …..

Flat Zone


Some of you may of noticed that every string on your guitar is tuned to the note you get five frets up on the string immediately above it. All except the second string (the B string in standard tuning), which is tuned to the note you get four frets up on the string immediately above it. In other words, it’s one note flat (one fret). If all the strings on the guitar were tuned to the fifth fret of the string above, the tuning would be EADGCF, instead of EADGBE . In which case your E,A and D chord shapes would look like this…..



In other words, the SAME chord shape. As well as moving the chord up and down the neck as a barre chord, you’d also be able to move the chord ACROSS the neck without changing the shape. Even if you had a 8,12 or a 24 string guitar. The same holds true for sweep and tapping patterns (the patterns you played on the top four strings would also work on the bottom four strings, which isn’t currently the case).

Because the B string is tuned one note (1 fret) flat, every time a chord shape, tapping pattern or sweeping pattern crosses that string, you have to physically move the notes on that string up one fret in order for it to sound right. Here’s an animation of the E chord moving across the neck to make the A and D chords when the second string is tuned flat (standard). Notice that every time a note crosses over into the FLAT ZONE (B string), the note has to be moved up 1 fret to stop it from sounding flat



And thus, our E,A and D chord shapes get mangled/warped into the three different finger patterns we’ve all come to know.

It’s important to know this before we continue with chord theory and how to alter the five chord shapes to get any chord we want because, once you realise that the E,A and D shapes are the same chord shape, mangled by that flat B string, then any alteration you make to one of those chord shapes can also be made to the other two, since the order of the notes is identical in all three. I’ll be using the E,A and D shapes almost exclusively in this guide. Partly because they are the three most popular shapes. And partly to save me having to do diagrams for all five shapes (the order of notes in the C and G shapes is different).

So at last, we come to it.





Notes, numbers or shapes?



How do you remember your chords?. By the notes that are in them, the numbers of the notes relative to the root note of the respective scale or has finger shapes? Let me hazard a guess that most beginners will probably memorise their chords as finger shapes. There is nothing wrong with this (we all did it), but it will definitely cause problems as you progress as a player if you don’t learn to think of your five chord shapes in some other way.

“So I have to remember what notes are in each chord? That sounds difficult.”

Actually no. Most guitarists (except the exceptionally clever ones) couldn’t tell you what notes are in the chord they just played without having to stop and figure it out. Instead most players remember their chords by numbers.

“Numbers.”

Let me explain. You see, every one of those five chord shapes we’ve talked about above is what is known as a “Triad”. You may be strumming three, four , five or six strings, but all your hearing are three notes (some of them more than once). And those three notes are the same three relative notes in each of the five chord shapes.

The notes your hearing are the 1st (root), 3rd and 5th note of their respective scale. You typically hear the root note twice.
So the A Major chord is made up of the 1st (root), 3rd and 5th note of the A Major scale. And the D Major chord is made up of the 1st (root), 3rd and 5th note of the D Major scale, and so on…..

“Oh C.r.a.p! ….. I have to learn a load of scales now. That’s it, I’m outta here.”

Wait just a second. You don’t need to learn a bucketload of scales. Bear with me.

Here are the E, A and D shapes with the appropriate numbers (Root = 1). Memorise them.



It shouldn’t be hard. Because the E,A and D shapes are essentially the same chord shape that’s been mangled by that flat B string, the order of the three notes is always the same for these three chords (it’s different in the C and G shapes). The order is…

Root / 5th / Root / 3rd.

In the G and C shapes the numbers are…



The order for those two is Root / 3rd / 5th / Root (plus an optional extra Root or 3rd if you decide to strum more than the basic top four notes).

Again. Memorize. There are only five chords and two/three different number patterns to learn. It only takes a couple of minutes and then you’ll never need a chord book again.


So lets start altering those five shapes



Major to Minor
“Fiddling with thirds”




The five shapes we’ve looked at, that make up the five shapes of the CAGED system, are all MAJOR chords (happy). In order to turn them into MINOR chords (sad) we need to alter the location of one of the notes in each of the five shapes.

“Which note”.

Ahhhh! To understand that, you need to know two finger patterns. These are the finger patterns that guitarists use to play the MAJOR scale (Ionian pattern) and the MINOR scale (Aeolian pattern). It’s not important to know where to play the patterns, or even what notes are in them. It’s only important to look and see the differences between the two patterns.

The MAJOR pattern looks like this…..



The MINOR pattern looks like this…..



Note:
I’ve numbered the first nine for you. There are only SEVEN notes in a Major/Minor scale, so notes “8” and “9” are just notes “1” and “2” again, one octave higher. However. When using scales to figure out chords, it’s usefull to keep counting past seven, as I’ve done.

The above examples are A Major and A Minor, since the 1st (root) note starts on A. But that’s not really important to know. The same patterns can be used for any Major/Minor scale by simply moving the 1st note to the appropriate note on the E string (maybe another guide on starter scales is needed, lol).

Has mentioned. It’s only important to look at the differences between the two patterns. Since our chords are all made from the 1st (root), 3rd and 5th notes of these two scales, It’s only important to look at these three notes in each pattern and see if there is any difference. Maybe this will help…..



The root notes are all marked in light green, and the 3rd and 5th are squared to help focus your attention on the three notes we are only interested in. Notice that in both the Major scale AND the minor scale, the 1st (root) and 5th never move. The only one of the three notes we are interested in that appears to be moving is the 3rd. Hard to see, because it jumps to a different string, but the 3rd in the minor scale is only 1 fret lower in pitch than in the Major scale.

“All very clever, but what does that mean?”

It means that in order to turn any Major chord, such as our five CAGED finger shapes, into a Minor chord, all we have to do is move the 3rd one fret backwards like so……



Miraculously turning our E, A and D major chords into E, A and D Minor chords. The same holds true for any barre chords you make from those three shapes.

This what people mean when you hear them talking about “major 3rd’s” and “minor 3rd’s”.

You don’t need to understand all the theory mentioned above, as long as the remember the rule…..


MAJOR TO MINOR = move 3rd one fret back.


And next rule coming up……


The Magnificent Seven
“Anybody seen the 8th”



O.K. How to turn our five CAGED Major shapes into Seventh chords. Before we start, you need to know that there are THREE kinds of seventh chords. These are:

Major 7th
Dominant 7th (usually just called 7th)
Minor 7th


To start with, we need to locate the 8th note in the five chord shapes. Up until now, we’ve been thinking of our five shapes as three notes, the Root, the 3rd and the 5th. If we’ve mentally assigned any number to the Root note, it’s probably just “1st”. That’s for both root notes in the chord. However. A better way of thinking of the two root notes, is to think of the lowest pitched Root note as “1st Note” and the higher pitched Root note as the “8th Note”. As mentioned earlier, there are only seven notes in the scale, so the second Root note could be considered to be the 8th note (or 1st note of the next octave of the scale). Look at the Major/Minor scale patterns again and you’ll see that the second root note (light green) is numbered as “8”.

So our E, A and D chords could also be numbered like this…..



So now we know where the 8th note is, we can substitute it with the 7th note of the scale. To do this look at the Major scale pattern again…..



Notice the location of the 7th note in relation to the 8th note. One fret back.

So to turn our five CAGED shapes into Major 7th chords, we simply slide the 8th note in our chords back one fret. Like So……




Minor 7th


To create a Minor 7th chord we’ll need to slide that 3rd back one fret first (which acts as a toggle, turning a Major chord into a Minor chord, remember), then we’ll need to move the 8th back.

“But by how much. One fret like in the Major 7th.”

No. Look at the Minor scale pattern (Aeolian pattern) again.



In the Minor scale, the 7th note is TWO frets behind the 8th note (if you memorise no other scale patterns, memorise these two). So after we’ve switched the chord from Major to Minor by moving the 3rd back one fret, you need to move the 8th note back TWO frets. Like so…..




Dominant 7th


“What would happen if I move the 8th note back two frets but forgot to turn it into a minor chord by flattening the 3rd”.

Then you’d end up with the last type of seventh chord. The Dominant 7th (or just plain 7th as it’s known). Like So…..



At this point, our chords are no longer “triads” as there are now four different notes in them.

Again. It’s not important to totally understand the theory, as long as you remember the rules:


MAJOR TO MAJOR 7TH = 8th note moved one fret back.
MAJOR TO DOMINANT 7TH = 8th note moved two frets back.
MAJOR TO MINOR 7TH = 8th note move two frets back AND 3rd moved one fret back.




Aaaaaand…. Onto the next…….


Just ADD “9”


Like the name suggests, with ADD9 chords, you simply ADD the 9th note of the scale to the chord. This is quite simple as the 9th note in both the Major and Minor scale is identical. Precisely TWO frets up from the 8th.

As a visual aid to all that we’ve talked about so far (major/minor 3rds, sevenths, ADD9) these diagrams of the E,A,D shapes and the positions of the 7th, 8th and 9th’s should help you visualise it more clearly.

First. The Major shapes……



Next. The Minor shapes (which are just the Major shapes with a flattend 3rd, remember)



So. Hopefully you see that while the 7th note is in different positions in a Major or Minor chord, the 9th is in the same position in either (which makes it easier to remember).

You will also find chords that ADD something other than the 9th note of the scale, such as ADD2 or ADD4, but the same rules apply.

So the simple rule for ADD9 chords is:


MAJOR/MINOR TO ADD9 = Move 8th two frets up.

And next…..

Sus/Diminished/Augmented



Before we move onto chord theory and tapping and sweeping, lets just cover briefly three other names you’ll hear bandied about. These are Augmented, Diminished and SUS chords. They really aren’t that difficult to understand.

Augmented/Diminished

These two pieces of jargon are a fancy way of saying “sharp” and “flat”. If you were to play the 5th note 1 fret sharper than it normally would be, it could be described as being “Augmented”. If you played it one note flatter than where it’s supposed to be in the scale, it would be considered to be “Diminished”. A typical Dim chord would have a flattened 3rd, 5th and 7th note (not unlike a Minor 7th chord, but with the 5th and 7th moved back one more fret). Your typical Augmented chord would have the usual Root, 3rd but a sharpened 5th.

SUS

In all the chord alterations we’ve done so far, there as always been a 3rd note. No matter if it was the Major 3rd, or the Minor 3rd (1 fret back from the major). So all these variations on the initial five chord shapes we started out with are either Major or Minor chords. In a SUS chord, we eliminate the 3rd alltogether, so it’s no longer a Major or Minor chord. We substitute the 3rd with the note written directly after the word “SUS”. So a SUS2 chord would get rid of the 3rd note and play the second note of the scale instead. A SUS4 chord no longer has the 3rd note of the scale, but the 4th note of the scale. Simple. I’ll let you figure out how many frets ahead or behind the 3rd note the 4th and 2nd are (do you want me to diagram everything).

It’s also worth mentioning that you never hear the SUS note more than once in a chord, unlike the 3rd it replaced, which can be heard multiple times in some chords/sweep/tapping patterns.



Aaaaaaaaand next……..





Chord theory and Tapping



Ok. We’ve gone through five different ways of altering those five CAGED chord shapes. Here’s a recap:

MAJOR TO MINOR = move 3rd one fret back.
MAJOR TO MAJOR 7TH = 8th note moved one fret back.
MAJOR TO DOMINANT 7TH = 8th note moved two frets back.
MAJOR TO MINOR 7TH = 8th note move two frets back AND 3rd moved one fret back.
MAJOR/MINOR TO ADD9 = Move 8th two frets up.

So lets see if we can’t apply some of them to some tapping exercises.


Once again, we have to visualize the Major and Minor scales on the guitar neck. But this time, instead of going across the neck, we’ll lay them along the length of one string. Here’s the Major scale laid along the A string (so the notes are the notes of the A Major scale). You can move this pattern across on to the D, G, B or E string to give you the notes of the D, G, B, or E Major scales, or even slide it down the neck to give you the Major scale of any other note (just look what note the 1st and 8th are resting on).



The four notes that typically make up our five “triad” CAGED chord shapes are highlighted in green, the rest in Grey.

And the Minor pattern goes something like this….



So has not to have to keep coming back and looking at these two diagrams, I will put the Major and Minor patterns in all of the examples from now on for quick visual reference. The Major pattern on the D string in shades of blue, the minor pattern on the A string in shades of green.

So lets recap the rules and apply them to a simple tapping exercise.


Major to Minor


As with the five chords shapes we started out with, we can build up a simple tap by using one or both roots (1st and 8th), a 3rd and a 5th. Also, as with the chords in the earlier examples, we can switch between Major and Minor by simply moving the 3rd in the Major scale back 1 fret like so….



Since we are tapping out the pattern on the B string, it’s a B Major to B Minor tap. Slide it all up one fret to tap out a CMajor and CMinor.

There is no need to go into details of why this is so, as all that was covered in the earlier chord section. So onto the next one.


Major to Major 7th


As with the chords we altered earlier, the rule for switching to a Major 7th is to simply move the 8th note back 1 fret. In the following example we are switching to a Rootless Major 7th chord. In other words, we are tapping the three other notes in the chord except the root note itself. Buy hey! That’s what your rhythm guitarist and bassist are there to provide, lol.



Keep looking at the Major (blue) and Minor (green) scales I’ve put on the D & A strings to help you visualize what is going on.

And next…..

Major to Dominant 7th



As mentioned earlier, Dominant 7th’s are usually just called “7th’s”. That certainly what I call them, and how I’ve labeled them in these examples.

Have you forgotten the rule for Dominant 7th’s? It’s simply a case of moving the 8th note back 2 frets, which puts it in the same position as the 7th in the Minor scale (green). But since we HAVEN’T flattened the 3rd, this ISN’T a minor chord.



Nexty….


Major to Minor 7th



Ok. The rule to turn anything into a Minor is to switch from playing the Major 3rd to the Minor 3rd (1fret back). This turns the Major into a Minor. Turning it into a Minor seventh involves moving the 8th note 2 frets back (look at the location of the 7th on the minor scale layed out on the A string). I’ll do this as a two step animation therefore (Major to Minor, then Minor to Minor 7th).



Not too difficult to understand. In fact. I find laying the scales along the length of a string makes it easier to remember the intervals (gaps) in the scales than by using the Major (Ionian) and Minor (Aeolian) scale patterns that we were using in the chords section because it isn’t always as easy to figure out the space between two notes when one of them is on a different string.



That pretty much wraps up chord theory and tapping. Try some variations such as including the 9th note (which is really just the 2nd note of the scale 1 octave higher, remember) to make a ADD9 tap. Or try ditching the 3rd all together and replacing it with the 2nd or 4th note to get SUS2 and SUS4 chord taps.

Remember. Anything you can do with multi-string chords can also be done with mono-string tapping exercises. Experiment.

Moving on…….


Chord Theory and Sweeping




Ok. Lets take our five alterations/manipulations of a chord and apply them to some sweeping exercises. By now, you should know the rules, so I won’t keep repeating them.

We’ll use the following Major pattern as our starting pattern and then make alterations to it according to the rules described so far. The pattern simply takes us through the Root, 3rd and 5th of a chord twice (the second one 1 octave higher than the first).



Look carefully at this pattern and you’ll see that it’s really just the C chord shape moved up the neck until the root note rests on the E note (so all our variations will be E “something”). The other four chord shapes that we started out with at the beginning of this guide can also be used as the basis for a sweep. For instance, the notes in the sweep pattern above could also be played by putting your first finger on the red root note and playing the A chord shape going towards the pickups like so.



Or even this variation, played at the 12 fret, of the G chord shape (look at the shape of the first five notes and you’ll see that the three on top of each other would be the open strings in the G chord shape)…



Or even the E chord shape, played at the 12th fret, playing towards the pickups



It’s a good idea to practice all these sweep patterns. Any alterations you make to one, you should practice making to the others.

So lets apply our five alterations to the C shaped sweep pattern.



Major to Minor


Ok. You know how this goes. Just flatten the 3rd (switching from Major 3rd to Minor 3rd as it’s usually referred)…..



Don’t pluck that last 5th. Instead, after plucking the last 3rd on the E string with the downsweep of your pick, hammer on and then pull off that last 5th note quickly and then rake your pick back up the strings for the upsweep. It’s more economical, as you simply go down and then straight back up with the pick, never picking the same string twice.



Major to Major 7th




This is the one where you move 8th (second root note, remember) back 1 fret like so…..

Roll your finger over the three notes immediately on top of each other or it’ll end up...
4 users thanked Ouija for this useful post.
red1959 on 12/22/2011(UTC), Neon_Knight_ on 5/19/2012(UTC), Shuriuken on 7/28/2013(UTC), Shergolds on 1/20/2015(UTC)
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#2 Posted : 2/9/2008 4:14:13 AM
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GREAT guide Ouija Clap !

...this needs to be stickied !

metalmike550
#4 Posted : 2/25/2008 6:55:41 PM
metalmike550


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awsome guide ouija!! i dont know crap about theory or reading chords. i just play. im going to study this guide alot. thanks again man!!
My gear.....


A guitar or two

An amp

Some chords

Some pedals
Ouija
#5 Posted : 2/25/2008 8:40:47 PM
Ouija


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metalmike550 wrote:
awsome guide ouija!! i dont know crap about theory or reading chords. i just play. im going to study this guide alot. thanks again man!!


Well. If you go away from the guide grasping the simple idea that there are only five chord shapes on a guitar that get barred, abbreviated or have their shape altered according to some simple rules, you'll of progressed past most of the guitarist i've met. Lol. Most of them just mimic/parrot what some guitar TAB tells them to do, without grasping any real fundamentals of music. It's a bit like showing someone, who's illiterate, how to type their name on a keyboard. They memorize it, and on the surface appear literate, but since they don't really understand why those symbols, pressed in that order, spells that word, they can't actually adlib or improvise. I call it 'Parroting', because a parrot gives the illusion of being able to speak English, but doesn't really and can't improvise new phrases.Music is like that.

If you don't know your chord theory, or scales, then more often than not, you have to 'hunt and peck' at notes randomly until you find a sequence that sounds 'right' (thrashing around in the dark until you accidentally hit the right notes, or cheat and use a TAB). Those guitarists that study their chord/scales and theory, and understand the deeper relationships between them, have no such trouble. Once they find the first few notes of a song, they are reasonably sure where all the other notes are gonna be, and why.

My nephew drives me crazy with this. He has a load of AC/DC PowerTab printouts that he's memorized. He can play you a whole load of AC/DC riffs. His mother is very proud and utterly convinced he can play guitar. I hold a different opinion.Snooty

He has absolutely no idea what chords he's playing (or bits of chords in most cases), what notes, what key, what scale, how to transpose something or what other notes he could use instead. Or, unlike Angus Young himself, any idea of how music works. He can't improvise to save his life. He's like a jukebox that can only repeat blindly without understanding. Drives me crazy.

God help him if someone shows him how to drop D his guitar and get a powerchord by simply rubbing is finger up and down the top three strings. His chord technique is the laziest (and bizarrist) i've ever seen.

IMO, the first year of two of guitar playing should be restricted to simply learning the basics. Chords, chord theory, scales, scale theory, picking technique and simple left hand/right hand co-ordination. There's time to learn 'tunes' later on, when you've got enough skill and knowledge to understand what the h.e.l.l you are doing.

Rant over.Silence
eddlaila1
#7 Posted : 3/2/2008 10:11:35 AM
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Clap cool guide ooija, well done....... thanks for sharing with us..... Clap
i dont belong here
Marc_Maiden
#8 Posted : 3/2/2008 1:11:34 PM
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very nice...i got a good hard cold dose of this stuff when i joined a jazz band

if you want to become a better song writer...take a jazz class...just one....and your theory knowledge will take over your brainShifty Shifty Shifty
- Marc
Current Set up:
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i386
#9 Posted : 3/2/2008 7:40:23 PM
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Great post. Thanks for taking the time to do that. I've never seen it explained in those simple terms before.Clap
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akustikgitar
#11 Posted : 11/18/2008 12:04:01 AM
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Thanks alot for your efforts Ouija! Clap I've been working on developing my understanding of music theory, and your guide is an excellent resource.
Ouija
#12 Posted : 11/29/2008 4:01:40 PM
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Addendum:

Here's a couple of diagrams that can be used as a reference of how to use the five CAGED chord shapes as a basis of a sweep. The red notes are the recommended notes of a basic major sweep (1st,3rd,5th repeated twice), the green notes are the other notes of the scale, the blue notes are the three notes of the minor scale that differ from the major.

They all start on a C note, so are a C Major sweep. Needless to say, moving them about the neck to start on other notes will give you a sweep through that notes scale. Also, remember that if there are more than one notes on a string, hammer on or pull off to one of the notes instead of picking twice (more economical).

Remember the rules:

Major = 1st,3rd,5th
Minor = 1st,3rd,5th

Major 7th = 1st,3rd,5th,7th
Minor 7th = 1st,3rd,5th,7th
Dominant 7th = 1st,3rd,5th,7th

ADD9 = Add the 9th note (which is really just the 2nd note) to any of the above.
Sus2 = Replace the 3rd note with the 2nd of the scale (both together in a chord is just an ADD9 chord)
Sus4 = Replace the 3rd note with the 4th note


C Shaped pattern

(Probably the easiest to do)



D Shaped Pattern


(You might want to tap on that final 5th with your plucking hand to look insanely cool)



E Shaped Pattern


(You can start with your index finger and do the long stretch to the 3rd on the same string, or start with your second finger and go for the 3rd on the string immediately below)



A Shaped Pattern

(Again, you've got two choices of third to go for after the root note on the A string)



G Shaped Pattern


2 users thanked Ouija for this useful post.
Neon_Knight_ on 5/19/2012(UTC), Shuriuken on 7/28/2013(UTC)
lucass
#13 Posted : 1/8/2009 6:24:55 PM
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this is amazing !!! , as soon as i finished my exams, i'll learn allthis stuff, i've been looking a lot on the internet for a good simple explanation for guitar chord theory (and scales)

grts
2007 Ibanez s320ol
2005 Ibanez sa120
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thorn4000
#14 Posted : 2/4/2009 6:05:30 AM

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Excellent explanation of chords and scales. Thank you.
bebisatch
#15 Posted : 3/7/2009 6:08:58 PM
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What about jazz?
Ouija
#16 Posted : 3/8/2009 9:49:31 AM
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What about it? The same rules apply to all forms of music. Jazz chords don't work differently to any other types of chords used in other types of music. A lot of Jazz sweeps are no different than 'Metal' sweeps, only with considerably less distortion.
Dr.StrangeNote
#17 Posted : 3/8/2009 11:27:46 AM
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Thanks Oujia for posting this, I have been meaning to go through it but need a few hours of uninterrupted dedication and complete focus. With 3 small kids it's not that easy!! Again, this looks good and I will be utilizing your guide.
bebisatch
#18 Posted : 3/8/2009 1:40:07 PM
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Of course all the theory of CAGED system and the major scales apply to all styles of music but its not enough to make you a jazz player you need to learn the ropes. dont tell me this is a complete info to all music as the title is for Ouija’s "Beginners" guide to chord theory. for beginners. what im trying to say is this system is mostly rock. since you could pullup an indepth info about the basics how about making something indepth to jazz.
Ouija
#19 Posted : 3/8/2009 6:43:46 PM
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No. It REALLY is the basis of all music theory, including jazz. The only difference is that jazz players like to use more exotic chords and sweeps, based around notes other than the root, 3rd and 5th of the Major scale. All western music is based around the Major/Minor scale, including Jazz.

To call the above guide 'rock' oriented is simply not true. I was aiming for a generic theory on chords for no particular music genre. A lot of modern rock these days makes use of chords and sweeps constructed from the harmonic and melodic scales, rather than the Major/Minor scales. As does some Jazz. And all classic rock tends to revolve around pentatonic and blues scales. However. If you know your scales, constructing chords from them becomes quite easy as the same rules outlined above apply to all of them. Chord theory makes very little sense to most people if they don't have a reasonable grasp of scale theory.

And, again, there are no Jazz specific chords, or jazz specific scales. What there is are different ways of applying those generic chords and scales to get Jazz, Rock, Folk, Fusion etc. But the above guide doesn't even touch upon how to apply chord theory to get specific musical styles, that's left up to the imagination of the reader. Frankly, a guide trying to encompass the different ways to manipulate chords for specific flavors of music would require an absolutely colossal amount of time and labour. It took me several hours to do each diagram. Something i only had the time to do because i had a couple of weeks off work sick and, frankly, was bored out of my skull (gave me a reason to stop passing the time by getting sozzled, lol).
akustikgitar
#20 Posted : 3/9/2009 6:17:12 AM
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Ouija, many of us are very appreciative of the time and effort you took to put both the chord AND scale guides together! Clap Clap Clap Thanks!
Kingrazor
#21 Posted : 3/10/2009 1:48:27 AM

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I've studied scales, chords, keys and such, but from the point of view of a bassist. Because of this, my study had a heavy emphasis on the scale and much less on chords. I understand the root-third-fifth rule.

Now I've been curious of about the guitar side of things. But the chords overwhelmed me. I was used to just sticking to the 3 notes and then I see the 5 and 6 note chords of guitar. The one thing that still throws me, even after seeing this guide, is how many variations of the same chord exist.

No, I'm not talking about minors and sevenths and such. What I'm curious about is how CGCEGC is the same as CEGCE? And if they're the same, which one do you use and when? When I look up the C major chord I get like 9 different results and I don't know which one is which!

Also, what about A#, B, C#, D#, F, F# and G#? Where do they fit in?
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Ouija
#22 Posted : 3/10/2009 8:48:25 AM
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If they've got the same notes in, then it's the same chord. There are always different ways of fingering the same chord on a guitar due to the fact the guitar repeats the same notes on different strings. Very different to a piano, for instance, where the note, at that pitch, only exists once. On a piano for instance, the notes always occurs in sequence. 1st,3rd,5th for instance. On a guitar, the notes don't always do that, with the next note immediately after the 1st when strumming down, sometimes being the 5th instead of the third. The E, A and D shapes being a prime example of this (1st,5th,1st,3rd).

Typically, in a chord, the root note (1st) is supposed to be the first note you hear. But this isn't always the case either. With some shapes, you can end up hearing the root note AFTER you've plucked another note first (the 3rd, the 5th, the 7th etc). Such chords are called INVERSIONS. However, they are still considered the same chord, have the same notes in them and belong to the same scale. Your simply 'flavouring' the way your using them.

A C major chord, for instance, contains the notes C,E,G, (1st,3rd,5th). The standard open finger shape for this is this:



The sequence is 1st,3rd,5th,1st,3rd (though only the first three are required). But if you added and then strummed the top open E string first, this would still be a C Major chord, despite the fact the first note your hearing is E instead of C, and despite the fact there are more than one E note in the chord, because all the notes are coming from the C Major scale, not the E Major scale. If you look at the 1st,3rd and 5th of the E Major scale, you'd find the notes are different than those of the C Major scale. In this case E, G#, B (1st,3rd,5th).

So as long as the notes are coming from the root, 3rd and 5th of the C Major scale, it's always a C Major chord, no matter which sequence you hit the notes in, no matter which finger shapes you use to get them, no matter how many times the respective notes occur in the chord (it's possible with some shapes to have a C Major chord that has more E's in it than C's, but it's still classed as a C Major chord, not an E, because the notes are coming from the C Major Scale, not the E Major scale). If that makes any sense to you.

Messing around with the order of the notes, helps give different tonalities to the same chords (Inversions, Slash Chords). Beginners tend to stick to one shape for each chord, because it's simpler to remember. As you get more experienced, being able to play the same chords in multiple ways and shapes helps stop them getting too boring and repetitive. Inverted two note power chords (5th,1st instead of 1st,5th) gets used an awful lot in metal (and Jazz, funnily enough).
Kingrazor
#23 Posted : 3/10/2009 8:21:29 PM

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So it's basically up to the guitarist what notes they want to add and where they want to play them on the neck, as long as it follows the root+3rd+5th rule?
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