10 Chord Shapes All Guitar Players Need to Know

10 Chord Shapes All Guitar Players Need to Know

As you start to dig deeper into playing the guitar and learning or writing songs, the idea of having a huge library of chords in your head seems like a very useful skill, right?

If you’re wondering about how to start approaching this and you’re concerned that it might be something that takes many years to master, don’t worry. In this lesson you’re going to learn 10 essential guitar chord shapes that you can carry with you and apply to many purposes.

The idea of learning certain chords as shapes really helps speed up the learning process because instead of learning 50 chords, you might learn 5 shapes and realise you can play 50 chords with just 5 different shapes.

This makes visualising chord progressions and changes on the guitar much faster.

Power Chords

Power chords are the essential chords for rock guitar. You won’t have to look very hard to find these used in all your favourite rock songs.

A power chord is made up of just three notes. The chord takes on the identity of it’s root note (The lowest note in the chord), meaning if you place a power chord on the 5th fret of the Low E string, you’re playing an A Power Chord, also known as an A5 chord.

Power Chords

You can also use this shape rooted on the A string:

Power Chords

And the D string:

Power Chords

6 String Major Barre Chords

Barre chords are a type of chord that involves barring across all 6 strings with a single finger and they are a style of chord that many guitar players always dread learning.

They don’t have to be as difficult as you first think.

A 6 string major barre chord is essentially an Emaj chord. It you play an Emaj chord with your second, third and fourth fingers, you’ll find that your first finger will be free. By moving this to a higher register on the guitar, your first finger is free to rest across all 6 strings in place of the open string.

Like power chords, these chords (and all further chords in this lesson) take on the identity of the root note.

6 String Major Barre Chords

6 String Minor Barre Chords

There is one note in the 6 string major barre chord that differentiates it from a 6 string minor barre chord, this is a note known as the major third. It is the note that your middle finger is playing on the G.

To turn your major chord into a minor, you need to flatten this note. This means just to drop it the distance of one fret. In this case, you’re technically already playing the right note as part of your first finger barre, so all you have to do it remove the middle finger.

This chord form resembles that of an Emin chord.

6 String Minor Barre Chords

5 String Major Barre Chords

Major barre chords can also be rooted off the A string, except this time the chord takes the form of an Amaj chord. This is a tricky shape so check out the breakdown of this on the Blackstar Youtube channel to learn a shortcut.

5 String Major Barre Chords

5 String Minor Barre Chords

As with the 6 string version, you can make the 5 string version into a minor chord simply by dropping one note, the major third. This time it’s located on the B string, so your barre chord now takes on the form that is similar to a regular Amin chord.

5 String Minor Barre Chords

6 String Dominant 7 Chords

Dominant 7 chords are a great chord type to use in place of your major chords to give a progression a bluesy overtone. This 6 string chord is just a regular major chord with the little finger removed. This note is an octave of the root note, so you can afford to lose it to allow the b7 note to be added to the chord.

6 String Dominant 7 Chords

5 String Dominant 7 Chords

Similar to the 6 string version, this is just an Amaj chord type with the middle note dropped to make it a b7.

5 String Dominant 7 Chords

6 String Minor 7 Chords

Dominant 7 chords all contain a major third, while this doesn’t mean they are strictly major chords, they can function as so. If you flatten that major third, you can turn them into minor 7 chords. This 6 string version is the same as the dom7 with the middle finger note on the G removed.

6 String Minor 7 Chords

5 String Minor 7 Chords

You can also apply this principle to a 5 string version by flattening the major third.

5 String Minor 7 Chords

7#9 Chords (The Hendrix Chord)

This final chord is a fun one for rock and blues playing, it’s called a 7#9 chord, otherwise known as the Hendrix chord.

While the 7 in the name would indicate it’s a dominant 7, it’s like a restacked dominant 7 because you’re playing the root on the A string, the major third on the D and the b7 on the G. This does not have the 5th note from the maj scale that the full dom7 has. The note on the B string is the #9 note.

This is great for funky bluesy rhythms.

7#9 Chords (The Hendrix Chord)
About The Author

Leigh Fuge is a professional guitar player from Swansea in South Wales that has written and created content for many high-profile guitar brands and publications such as PMT, RSL Rockschool, Trinity College London, Guitar.com and more.

He works with mgrmusic.com to provide high quality guitar content for guitar players of all abilities from around the country. To date, mgrmusic.com has successfully generated over 32,000 student enquiries for their network of music teachers around the country. Find a local teacher in your area today.

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