Ideas and Advice for Real Songwriters (formerly http://healthsavy.com

Basics – The Five Guitar Chord Shapes.

I’m going back to basics for the guitar playing songwriters amongst you. The more experienced guitar players won’t find much new in these articles, but for those of you who have been playing for a little while and know a few chord shapes, this should help to bring together the different shapes you’re using, help you draw connections between them, and show you how you can begin to create and understand some new chord shapes.


There are essentially five chord shapes on the guitar:- C A G E and D (easy to remember, they spell the word ‘CAGED‘). This week we’re going to look at C.

The basic open C shape is one of the first we learn as guitarists. Like all chord shapes, this can be turned into a movable shape as the diagram below shows:-

This gives you another movable chord shape – with your fourth finger in the fifth fret it becomes a D major chord, at the seventh fret, E major.

There are also lots of changes you can make to this to create different chords. For example, by barring with your first finger and removing your second finger you can get this shape:

This is a major seventh chord.

How do I know? Well, in the major scale the seventh note is always a semitone (one fret) down from the octave. I know that the note the second finger usually plays is the octave (eg. it’s another D in a D chord) so I need the fret below to make the chord a major seventh.

Similarly, I know the sixth note in a major scale is two frets up from the fifth. The fifth note in this case is played by the first finger, so I can create a sxith chord by playing this shape (though I need to rearrange my fingers to do so)

Wether you’re up on the theory or not, creating new chord shapes (or at least, chord shapes that are new to you) can be a great way to add some new flavours to your songwriting. Here are a couple more C-based chord shapes. Let me know if you find any others that sound good!

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