C Major

Below, we have a C Major scale written out. In the second line you will notice that the notes have been “stacked” into chords by going up two notes past the bass note to add the middle note, and then going up two notes past the middle note to add the top one. The scale is made up of the notes: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. So for the first chord we get C, E, G. The second chord consists of D, F, A. etc. One important thing to be aware of is that the Roman numerals beneath the chords indicate not only the scale degree but the chord quality as well. Major chords use large Roman numerals, while minor chords use small ones. The diminished chord uses small Roman numerals with a fahrenheit symbol added.

Now most guitarists are more likely to use “open” first position chords for their playing, rather than the three note versions shown in line two. Just in case you are wondering, it does make a small difference if you use a chord with only three notes as opposed to five or six. However, you will notice that most of the time the “voicing” of the chord isn’t nearly as important as having the right chord name. So yes, an eighth fret bar chord sounds a little different from an “open” C Major chord, but the two are theoretically very similar. Which one you use could depend on style, playability, or artistic merit, but in many situations they are inter-changed with little discernment from the average listener. In line three I have written out the chords that are most commonly used on guitar in the key of C Major. Although this post only deals with the key of C, the relationships between the notes and chords would be the same in all the Major keys.