About Learning Guitar Chords – Major and Minor Chords

Last blog we talked about basic chords. We explored four chords and started playing our first songs. Now it’s time to go a bit further. We’re gonna learn new chords, new chord progressions and at the end, we will be making music together.

About Learning Guitar Chords

The thing about learning guitar chords is that the more you learn, the easier it will get to learn the next one. Your fingers will get stronger and your brain will be able to make the connections easier. As a guitar player you never really stop learning guitar chords, because there are hundreds of combinations and positions. Although the process is faster when you get better, it’s still the same process.

One, Three, Five

A chord exists of three or more notes. We discussed that in my previous chord blog. There are seven notes in a scale (eg. C, D, E, F, G, A, B). So if three notes are the minimum if we’re to build a chord, which notes are we talking about? In this blog, I’m talking about the scale and the notes in a scale. The next part will be easier to understand having read that blog.

ONE. One of these notes is the root. The root is the first note of the scale. It’s the most fundamental note of the chord. It’s so important that the chord will even take its name. The root note of a C major chord will be a C. (C, D, E, F, G, A, B)

THREE. This one is called a third. This is the note that will decide if a chord is major or minor. In the example I gave you the third is the E (C, D, E, F, G, A, B). I will explain what makes one third major and another one minor in another blog.

FIVE. The fifth note in our example is the G (C, D, E, F, G, A, B).

When a root, a third and a fifth get played together, we call that combination a triad. This is the most basic form of a chord.

Building Major and Minor Chords

But the chords we learned in our previous blog often had five or even six notes. How’s that possible?

Because there are multiple octaves on a guitar. It’s actually like this: (…C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B..) and it’s perfectly possible to have 2 C’s, 2 E’s and a G in a chord. That’s five notes, so it’s not a triad anymore (a triad only has three notes), so we’re just talking about basic minor and major chords.

If learning guitar chords were to be compared with building a house, major and minor would be like building the first floor. They’re fundamental, and in theory, it’s perfectly possible to make music for the rest of your life with just these chords.

There are many floors to be explored. Jazz musicians like to live in skyscrapers. But if that first floor isn’t there, the whole thing collapses. That’s why it’s important not to rush learning these chords.

New Chords

A major

A majorA major finger


This is a very common chord. The reason I didn’t learn it to you in the previous blog, is because I wanted to focus on the Em – C – G – D chord progression in there. It takes some practice to get the three fingers in position without being in each other’s way.

Don’t use the index finger. The next chord is a great example why it’s a great advantage to not use that finger.

A minor


Coming from the A major, just lift your little finger and place your index finger in position. Notice the change in tone? These chords are not that often played together, but it’s a great way to hear the difference between major and minor.

E major

Remember the E minor? And remember why I advised you not to use that index finger? This is why. Take an E minor chord, place your index finger on the first fret of the G string, and you’re playing an E major chord. Lift that index finger and you’re back to the E minor.

D minor

We talked about the D in the last blog. I personally think the D minor is slightly easier than the D because that one always felt really unnatural to me.

Changing between the D and the D minor is going to be more difficult than it was with the A and E because it’s not just moving one finger. Don’t bother practicing this transition, because it’s very uncommonly played together anyway.

So far we’ve learned the A, Am, C, D, Dm, E, Em, and the G. You’ll notice some chords are missing. Those are called barre chords, and we’ll focus on those down the road. With the eight chords, we’ve learned over the last two blogs a lot of new songs can be played.

Play, Play, Play!

I recorded some backing tracks that focus on the chords we’ve been talking about today. They’re completely free for you to use. I tried to keep the rhythms as simple as possible. All the counts are down, all the &’s are up. Remember to keep your hand moving, even when they’re not touching the strings. More information about strumming can be found here.

Audio 1 will be the backing track without the guitar. In audio 2 I am playing along, so you can hear how it’s supposed to sound. You can play along to whichever one you prefer.

Exercise 1

Chord progression:

C – Am (2x)
G – Am – G – G

The strumming pattern:

Exercise 2

Chord progression:

Em – A (2x)
G – A (2x)

Strumming pattern:

Exercise 3

Chord progression:

E – D – A – E

Strumming pattern

Outro

That’s all for today. The first floor of your house has been built. Don’t underestimate what you can do with these eight chords.

If you need help or have any comments, please leave a message below.

Keep strumming,

Timo

10 thoughts on “About Learning Guitar Chords – Major and Minor Chords

  1. Hi, Timo. Can I use these lessons, on every guitar out there ? Because i’m really green in this matter, I’m eager to learn how to play. Every website shows different chords, I don’t know what to believe…

    PLEASE, i need more of this tutorial and more videos…

    thanks very much as i await your response.

    1. Hello Bibian,

      As long as the guitar has six strings and is tuned properly you can use these lessons on any guitar 🙂

      I understand that it can be very overwhelming. Every instructor has a different method of teaching chords… I personally think you benefit the most from learning these chords first.

      If you’re really new to playing guitar I suggest you go here first: https://getacoustic.com/four-b

      Thank you for visiting our site!

      Timo

  2. Timo you’ve taken what, for many, is a super-complex process and broken it down beautifully. The comprehensive explanations and step-by-step instructions are awesome in and of themselves, but it’s the addition of the audio sequencing to practice by that really takes your acoustic guitar lesson on major and minor chords to the next level. Your passion shines through loud and clear. Keep up the great work…so many of us will learn to play guitar the proper and enjoyable way thanks to you!

  3. Hi Timo,

    I have a guitar that I got as a birthday present, but years ago, and I didn’t use it for a long time. I want to find some time to practice it… I know refrains from just two songs – Smoke on the water and Seven Nation Army. I only know to play them on one string 😀 I would love to learn more songs/melodies, but especially to use all strings.

    I like these exercises you put, it is really clear and easy to understand. I actually want to try it know : )

    I read your ‘about’ section and I see that you have a big passion for this, that is wonderful!

    I wish you luck on your musical journey!

    Do u have any advice for a beginner like me?

    Thanks,

    Susan

    1. That’s a fantastic way to start, Susan! I always advise people to start out with songs they like, because it makes the process a lot more fun.

      If you feel more comfortable playing on one string maybe this lesson can help: https://getacoustic.com/guitar-scales-for-beginners-natural-major-scales/

      My advice is to practice every day. It’s not always easy to find time, but even if it’s just 5 minutes… You’ll see a lot of progress in even a week.

      Good luck 🙂

      Timo

  4. Hi Timo, I’m glad to say that I have completed your basic chords and the progress is amazing. I’m totally a newbie and your way of explaining makes it easier to learn the chords. Before this I had tried several time YouTube videos but I wasn’t able to learn anything. So once again thanks a lot for your time and effort in putting this stuff online. 

  5. I have been a jazz guitar player for about 14 years and over the years and through personal experience, I have realized that the best way to get a student to play new chords is by asking them what songs they like, teaching them these progressions would make the students learning process a lot more fun and then they develop way more interest and when they get to the difficult one, they would be way to exited to give up ;).

    You have just made a very complicated lesson to comprehensive and easy with clear imaging, backing tracks and explanations. Beginner guitarists learning to play major and minor chords are very lucky to have had you outline this for them. I wish I had this 14 years ago, but all the best. 

    This is definitely a top notch lesson and I commend you for it!

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