Chord Quality And Substitute Chords

Just as each one of us has a personality, and each food has a flavor, every chord has a quality. The quality of a chord is its personality, it’s flavor, its sound quality. The Quality of a chord is the general overall sound that it makes. In music there are three basic types of chord sounds, or three basic categories. They are:

  • MAJOR,

think of each of these as the three chord sounds as the head of a large family, and every member of this extended family has almost the same or a very similar personality. Each of the three families represents a basic category of chord quality. Play along with the interactive graphic below to firm up your grasp of chord quality.

Chord Vocabulary

One of my favorite things to say to a new guitar student is this: “For you learning the guitar means learning chords.” In this course it means developing a vocabulary of as many chords as possible and an organizational system for using them and understanding them. We will do this by relating them to the concept of chord quality. The diagrams below will introduce you to a variety of chords in each of the three basic families: major, minor, and dominant. Listen to them, memorize them and play with them, experimenting with different types of strums and picking patterns. To get the sound of these new chords firmly in your ear, each chord has an individual play button.

E Major Family

Use the diagrams below to familiarize yourself with different types of chords and chord sounds that are in the E major family. All of the chords in the illustration below do the job of a plain old E major chord. Take a few moments to play each of these E major chords and experime nt with them through picking and strumming, making good sounds while you memorize them.

The example below shows you how to use these various versions of the E major chord, also called voicings, sound to create interesting and sophisticated arrangements.

A Major Family

Below you will be able to play and hear different types of chords and chord sounds that are in the A major family. All of the chords in the illustration below do the job of a plain old A major chord, they are all suitable substitutes. You can use these chords to add interest and new colors to original songs and arrangements that may use a static, or unchanging A major chord for an extended number of bars. As before, take a few moments to play each of these A major chords and experiment with them through picking and strumming, making good sounds while you memorize them.

What Makes E Major And A Major So Important?

You may wonder why did I pick the E major and the A major chords as the starting point needed to gain a greater understanding of chords. I certainly didn’t pick these two chords arbitrarily, the reason that the E chord in the A chord are so important is because of their root notes, or bass notes – the note that name the chords. More specifically, it is the strings on which these root notes that are important to our purpose. The E major chord is called a root 6 chord because its root note appears on string six. Accordingly, the A major chord is called a root 5 chord because its root note appears on string five. In your study of chords in this course you will learn one of the key principles in guitar playing, called root 6 and root 5 thinking. As you study and learn new chords always make a mental note of the name and location of the root note, the bass note. Usually, but not always this is the lowest pitched note in the chord. Study the diagram below to make sure you are completely clear on this principle of root 6 and root 5 chords.


Remember, your purpose here is learning to play and memorize chord forms, the sounds of those chords and also applications of these chords. I strongly suggest that you also take the music theory course here at GUITARU.COM while you are learning your chords. although this is not a course in music theory, there is a need to refer to certain theoretical concepts such as chord spellings, the names of the notes in the chord and chord formulas, how these notes relate to a major scale with the same root note. If any of this is unclear, please study my course in music theory available here.



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