How chords are built on guitar: Chord Theory For Guitar

Let’s talk about TRIADS and Chord Theory FOR GUITAR.

Because other than for piano, they look quite different on the guitar.

Theoretically the explanation is quite straightforward.

You have a root note, then the third (either major or minor) of that root note stacked on top and the fifth to that same root note.

“AAAH OF COURSE! I fully understand now”…

That’s NOT what you said? Oh… ok.

If you go by the C major scale, the notes in that scale are C, D, E, F, G, A and B and then it starts over again in the next octave.

Now let’s give em numbers.

C = 1, D = 2, E = 3, F = 4, G = 5, A = 6, B = 7.

What I said earlier about the third and the fifth is now plain in sight.

C is the root, E is the THIRD scale degree (major in this case) and G is the fifth scale degree.

The C major chord contains the notes C, E and G.

I mentioned in a previous article that we have half tone steps between E and F, and B and C.

This is universally true. ALWAYS.

That means between C and E are TWO FULL STEPS which makes a MAJOR third of the E in relation to the C.

Full step + Full step = Major third.

The G is always 5 scale steps away from the C.

Let us try another root note.


D is the root, the 3rd scale degree (counting now 1, 2, 3, from the D note) is the F.

The fifth scale degree is the A and it’s 5 scale steps away, as before.

Since we have a full step between D and E and a HALF step between E and F, the interval (tonal distance) between D and F is now a MINOR third.

Full step + Half step = Minor third.

(I KNOW mathematically this doesn’t make sense… 1 + 1 = 3… 1 + 0.5 = 3… so just deal with it)

Let’s look at it on the fretboard:

Can you tell by now which notes belong to the triad starting from E?

I will let you figure this out and put the answer in the comments!

And if you want to become faster with your chord changes: read here


Leave a Reply