In this column, my goal is to cover beginning concepts and lessons for guitarists, but also to introduce new concepts for intermediate and professional guitarists, as well as introduce some concepts that we can all use some review on. Let’s start with what all guitarists need to be concerned with: Chords.
Chords are built in 3rds. When we start with a major scale, we can pick any note in that scale as the root, play the root note, 3rd note, and 5th note together, and we have a basic chord, called a triad.
On guitar, there are 5 different fingerings for triads. The vast majority of usable chords are built from the basic 5 fingerings. This method of generating the 5 fingerings is called the CAGED method. This is because the chord fingerings (as well as the scales that accompany them) are built around the open chords C, A, G, E, and D.
There are usually played with fingers 1, 2, & 3, with the exception of the C chord, which often appears without the note on the 6th string. These chord voicings should be memorized, along with using fingers 2, 3, & 4. This alternate use of fingers 2, 3, & 4 will be necessary to morph these open string chords into Barre chords:
The Db chord (which is the C voicing) uses all four fingers, with the 1st finger covering strings 1-3. The 1st finger alternately could extend to string 6, but this is usually unnecessary. Also, the 4th finger could alternately cover string 6 and mute string 5 on occasion.
The Bb chord (the A voicing) makes use of a 3rd finger bar across strings 2-4. String 1 is muted by the 3rd finger bending up and out of the way of the string slightly. The 1st finger can cover string 5, string 6, or both.
The Ab chord (G voicing) is like the open G chord, except the root note on string 1 is muted, as the same note also appears on string 6 and string 3. The 1st finger mutes string 1, much the same as the 3rd finger in the A voicing.
The F chord (E voicing) utilizes the 1st finger barring across all 6 strings to cover the notes on strings 6, 2, and 1.
The Eb chord (D voicing) is rarely used in it’s major triad barred form, as there is a difficult stretch between the 1st finger on strings 4 and 5, and the 2nd finger on string 3. Learn to play this voicing anyway, as it is very useful when some notes are altered to create minor triads and extended chords, such as 7ths, 9ths, etc. String 6 should be muted by slightly extending the 1st finger.
We’ll cover altering these barre chords to make other chord qualities and their related scales in a later lesson.