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Lyle Ronglien >> Fretboard Theory >>

Fretboard Theory

Lesson 4 - Chords

Lyle: There is so much to learn about chords. This lesson will be about the 3 “families” of chords: the Major, the Minor, and the Dominant chords.

Lyle: Every chord has a certain combination of tones that distinguishes it from every other chord. The spelling or formula of each chord relates to the intervals of the Major scale. For example, any minor chord always has the root, the b3rd, and the 5th tones of the major scale. So an A minor chord has the notes A, C, and E. Now that you have studied Intervals, Scales, and Triads, the chord formulas will be easier to understand, I'm hoping.

Lyle: You've learned that Triads are the basic form of a chord, made from the root, 3rd, and 5th tones. When you add extra tones to the triads, the resulting chords are called extensions. For example, the Am7 chord (root, b3, 5, b7) is an extension of the Am chord.



Lyle: The terms 9th, 11th, and 13th are the same as the 2nd, 4th, and 6th. Remember, the 8th degree is the octave, so the 2nd is just like the 9th.

Lyle: There is SO much to study about chords so in this lesson you'll be learning about the chord formulas

Lyle: Learning new chords can help you sound more colorfull. For an example, listen to this chord progression made from pretty ordinary chords:

chord progression 1

deb: Lyle on the fret board for the Am7 the 5th string had an "R" in the notation .. what does this mean?

Lyle: That means the root note, of the chord, A.

Lyle: Listen to that chord progression. It's made of basic major, minor, and dominant chords.

Lyle: Now, listen to this TAB file of the exact same progression but this time it's using chord extensions.

chord progression 2

Lyle: Listen and examine the two progressions. Progression 2 has so much more harmony and "color" to it because of the chord extensions.

Lyle: Now you'll examine some of these different chord extensions. There are many different chords and MANY different ways to play them on the guitar. This lesson will show you some of the most used chords and their formulas as well as a couple good ways to play each chord.

Lyle: These will all be C type chords. You can learn where the root notes are for each chord so you can move them to any other key.

Major Chords - Examples using C major

                      Formula          Notes

C5                  1 5                  C G

C                    1 3 5               C E G

C6                  1 3 5 6             C E G A

CMaj7             1 3 5 7             C E G B

CMaj9             1 3 5 7 9          C E G B D

Cadd 9            1 3 5 9             C E G D

C69                 1 3 5 6 9          C E G A D

CMaj7b5          1 3 b5 7           C E Gb B

CMaj7#11        1 3 5 7 #11       C E G B F#

CMaj9b5          1 3 b5 7 9         C E Gb B D
Cmaj13            1 3 5 7 9 13      C E G B D A


Lyle: Look at this file on the virtual fretboard:

key of C

Lyle: The key of C file you're looking at has the tones of the C major scale displayed on the neck. These are based off the two most used positions to play scales and chords, with the root off the 6th and 5th strings.

Lyle: So getting to know these tone or intervals in relation to the root will be very important when learning and memorizing new chord extensions.

Lyle: Now I'm going to display many of the Major chords for you. When you play back the TAB notation, you'll see the tones used to make the chord.

Lyle: C major = 1 3 5 / C E G


Lyle: C6 = 1 3 5 6 / C E G A


Lyle: Cmaj7 = 1 3 5 7 / C E G B


Lyle: Cmaj9 = 1 3 5 7 9 / C E G B D


Lyle: Cadd 9 = 1 3 5 9  / C E G D

C add9

Lyle: C6/9 = 1 3 5 6 9 / C E G A D


Lyle: CMaj7b5 = 1 3 b5 7 / C E Gb B


Lyle: CMaj7#11 = 1 3 5 7 #11 / C E G B F#


Lyle: CMaj9b5 = 1 3 b5 7 9 / C E Gb B D


Lyle: Cmaj13 = 1 3 5 7 9 13 / C E G B D A


Lyle: Remember, there are many ways to play these chords in different places on the neck. There are other chords too.

Lyle: Looking at these chords and their formulas, along with studying the previous lessons on fretboard theory will help you put it all together in the long run.

Lyle: Now the Minor chords....

Minor Chords - Examples using C major 

                     Formula           Notes

Cm                1 b3 5             C Eb G 

Cm6              1 b3 5 6           C Eb G A 

Cm7              1 b3 5 b7         C Eb G Bb 

Cm9              1 b3 5 b7 9      C Eb G Bb D 

Cm11            1 b3 5 b7 9 11  C Eb G Bb F

Cm add9        1 b3 5 9           C Eb G D

Cm69            1 b3 5 6 9         C Eb G A D

Cm/maj 7       1 b3 5 7           C Eb G B

Cm7b5           1 b3 b5 b7       C Eb Gb Bb 

Lyle: Cm = 1 b3 5 / C Eb G


Lyle: Cm6 = 1 b3 5 6 / C Eb G A


Lyle: Cm7 = 1 b3 5 b7 / C Eb G Bb


Lyle: Cm9 = 1 b3 5 b7 9 / C Eb G Bb D


Lyle: Cm11 = 1 b3 5 b7 9 11 / C Eb G Bb F


Lyle: Cm add9 = 1 b3 5 9 / C Eb G D

Cm add9

Lyle: Cm6/9 = 1 b3 5 6 9 / C Eb G A D


Lyle: Cm/maj 7 = 1 b3 5 7 / C Eb G B

Cm maj7

Lyle: Cm7b5 = 1 b3 b5 b7 / C Eb Gb Bb


Lyle: And you only used the minor 7 chord! Lots more than you thought I bet!

Ernie: Should we just try all of the different chord shapes as a fingering exercise or try to work them into songs/ pieces or what exactly should we be doing with them?

Lyle: Good question. You can learn them as you go, and substitute them into your own playing. The main thing is to get you used to working with the formulas and memorizing the formulas for the different chords. You should see that all the minor chords have a minor triad, then extensions after that.

Lyle: It becomes pretty easy to remember a chord formula, it's hard to remember how to play the chord. So if you can locate the tones on the neck you'll be able to reconstruct the chords by yourself in many situations.

Ernie: Good answer! They sound gorgeous but, man, my hand is aching from all of the extensions.

Lyle: Now the dominant chords and then we'll be done for today.

Lyle: These are the raunchy bluesy sounding chords. Majors are rich sounding, Minor chords are soft sound, Dominant chords are bluesy.

Dominant 7th Chords – Ex. using C major 

                  Formula             Notes

C7              1 3 5 b7             C E G Bb 

C9              1 3 5 b7 9          C E G Bb D

C11            1 3 5 b7 9 11      C E G Bb D F

C13            1 3 5 b7 9 13      C E G Bb D A

C7 sus4      1 4 5 b7             C F G Bb 

C7b5           1 3 b5 b7           C E Gb Bb

C7#5           1 3 #5 b7           C E G# Bb 

C7b9           1 3 5 b7 b9        C E G Bb Db 

C7#9           1 3 5 b7 #9        C E G Bb D# 

C7b5b9        1 3 b5 b7 b9      C E Gb Bb Db

C7#5#9        1 3 #5 b7 #9      C E G# Bb D#

C7b5#9        1 3 b5 b7 #9      C E Gb Bb D#

C7#5b9        1 3 #5 b7 b9      C E G# Bb Db 

C13b9          1 3 5 b7 b9 13   C E G Bb Db A

C7 = 1 3 5 b7 / C E G Bb


Lyle: C9 = 1 3 5 b7 9 / C E G Bb D


Lyle: C11 = 1 3 5 b7 9 11 / C E G Bb D F


Lyle: C13 = 1 3 5 b7 9 13 / C E G Bb D A


Lyle: C7 sus4 = 1 4 5 b7 / C F G Bb


Lyle: C7b5 = 1 3 b5 b7 / C E Gb Bb

Lyle: Now you're into the "altered dominants".


Lyle: C7#5 = 1 3 #5 b7 / C E G# Bb


Lyle: C7b9 = 1 3 5 b7 b9 / C E G Bb Db


Lyle: C7#9 = 1 3 5 b7 #9 / C E G Bb D#


Lyle: C7b5b9 = 1 3 b5 b7 b9 / C E Gb Bb Db


Lyle: C7#5#9 = 1 3 #5 b7 #9 / C E G# Bb D#


Lyle: C7b5#9 = 1 3 b5 b7 #9 / C E Gb Bb D#


Lyle: C7#5b9 = 1 3 #5 b7 b9 / C E G# Bb Db


Lyle: C13b9 = 1 3 5 b7 b9 13 / C E G Bb Db A


Lyle: There's a couple other chords that could be related to the Dominant chords:

Lyle: C Diminished = 1 b3 b5 / C Eb Gb


Lyle: C Diminished 7th = 1 b3 b5 bb7 (or 6) / C Eb Gb Bbb (or A)


Lyle: The diminished and augmented chords do not fit in any of the families but they are most like the Dominant chords in the way they are used.

Lyle: C Augmented = 1 3 #5 / C E G#



Diminished Chords – Ex. using C major

                           Formula        Notes

C Diminished        1 b3 b5         C Eb Gb 

C Diminished 7th  1 b3 b5 bb7

                        (or 6) C Eb Gb Bbb (or A)


 Augmented Chords – Ex. using C major 

                           Formula        Notes
C Augmented       1 3 #5           C E G# 

Lyle: That's enough for today. You'll be tested on all of these later.

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