Guitar Beginner Guitar Lessons-How to read Chord Charts (Part 4)
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Beginner Guitar Lessons-How to read Chord Charts (Part 4)


Diagrams of guitar chords are an essential tool for all guitar players, from beginner to advanced. They are a simple way to visualize exactly how to finger chords on the guitar fretboard.

Diagrams of guitar chords can be used as a tool to learn new chords, chord progressions, and the rhythm parts of songs. Groups of chord diagrams can be conveniently presented in the form of a chord chart.

The ability to understand and use chord diagrams does not require the ability to read musical notation. This greatly simplifies the process of learning to play the guitar, and is a big reason why the guitar is such a popular instrument.

In the spirit of the Guitar Player’s Toolbox focus on providing only practical , “how to” tools, the following info is provided below:

• Types of Guitar Chord Diagrams and How to Read Them
• Tips for Using and Finding Chord Diagrams
• Additional Resources for Chord Diagrams and Charts

NOTE: If you already know how to read and use diagrams of guitar chords , you may want to jump straight to Guitar Chord Charts

Types of Guitar Chord Diagrams and How to Read Them

A chord diagram visually illustrates how to form a chord, and can provide additional musical information. Diagrams of guitar chords come in various flavors. The most common type is a simple “chord box” (see Figure 1 below) that shows the fretboard in a vertical orientation, with the six strings running up and down. The low E (thickest) string is on the left, and the high E (thinnest) string is on the right. The horizontal lines are the frets. The thick solid line at the top of the box represents the nut of the guitar (end of the fretboard).

Figure 1. A basic chord diagram example

Another common way of showing diagrams of guitar chords is to have the strings run horizontally, usually with the low E (thickest) string on the bottom and the high E (thinnest) string on the top. The same B5 chord is shown in Figure 1 on the left.

These example diagrams of guitar chords show the use of some standard symbols that illustrate exactly how to finger a particular chord.

• The circles (or dots) show which strings to finger at which fret
• The numbers on the circle / dots indicates which finger to use on that string (1= index finger to 4 = little finger).
• A “O” symbol at the top of the box means the string is played open
• An “X” symbol at the top of the box means that the string is NOT played
• (Sometimes, the musical notes corresponding to each fretted string are also shown).

The next example below ( Figure 2) shows a Barre chord diagram, in this case a Bm7. These example illustrates another important point about reading chord diagrams.

Figure 2. Example of a Barre chord diagram

Do you see the arc shaped thing on top of the box, just above the 4 dots on the 1st fret? This arc shape indicates a Barre chord formation, with one finger laid across the fretboard to form multiple notes.

Note: Guitar chords can also be illustrated in the form of guitar tabulature. Guitar tabs are another essential tool to help learn chords, and more importantly to learn to play the rhythm parts of songs. Click here for more info about Guitar Tabulature and how to read it.


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maswey said...

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Nick Andrew said...

Woh! Man It's such a long blog but some how I went through it. I just
wanna know that from were you got all these information. I really
admire your hard work. Thanks for sharing all these.

Nick Andrew

john leow said...

Hi nick,
thanks for dropping by my blog.
Some of these info came from articles I came across online, while the rest were handwritten.

Anyway, nice site( you have., I think its very cool!