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Demystifying Guitar Chords

Presented 3/29/08 at the Kalamazoo Fretboard festival
by Joel Mabus

Here are four handouts (scroll down for links) I referred to at my workshop:

"Naming a chord" explains the various odd names we use in chords, such as suspended, diminished, etc. and the rules for naming (or deciphering) the various 7th chords, such as "CM7b5" and "Cm(M7)". 

"Interval Chart" names most of the common intervals in music with both proper and "jazz/pop" terminology and lists most of the commonly used chords and tells how to build them by giving their intervals. Also an explanation of the words "major" and "minor" when used in seventh chords, i.e.  CM7 vs. Cm7.

"Circle Progressions" shows how the "family" of chords in a given key can be used in composition, going up a 4th around the circle.  Triads and seventh chords are both given in this chart, using the key of C as an example.

"Triads & sevenths etc" is another chart that shows the chords derived from the diatonic scales (alias "do-re-mi").  It shows how we get the basic formula of I=major, II=minor, III=minor, IV=major, V=major, VI=minor, and VII=diminished.  The bottom half of the page goes one step further and adds the seventh for the common jazz chords: I=major 7th, II=minor 7th, III=minor 7th, IV=major 7th, V= 7th, VI=minor 7th, and VII=minor 7th flat 5.
    In this chart the notes that make up the chord in question are larger and in bold font -- the note that is underlined is the root.  If you insert any major scale in place of the generic "do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do"  you can get real chord names. 

Click on the following to see and/or print the pdf file. (you will need to have an Adobe portable document file [pdf] reader installed to see these. Most computers have a pdf reader -- if you don't visit the A            dobe website and download the pdf reader for free.)

Naming a chord -- pdf 

Interval chart -- pdf

Circle Progressions -- pdf

Triads & 7ths shown on diatonic scales -- pdf