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  • Writer's pictureRon Dickson

Learn the function of notes within a chord part 1

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

This topic firmly falls within "should I learn music theory?". Music theory is a vast subject; it is up to individuals to decide how far they wish to go. However, learning small parts that help you develop as a musician and make playing and learning easier is an absolute must.

Beginning learning chords on the guitar is all about learning chord "Shapes", and we learn to associate the names of chords with these shapes. We learn some more, and then barre chords are introduced. Finally, we realise how many different chord shapes we must learn.

It is simpler if we apply a bit of music theory and take our base chords that we first learn and learn the function of each note and modify the chord to suit. Let us take our humble open "E" chord

If we lift our 1st finger, the chord becomes a minor chord. If we lift our 3rd finger, the chord becomes a 7 chord. If we lift both our 1st finger and the 3rd finger, it is an m7 chord. If we put our 4th finger down on the 2nd fret of the 1st string, it is an add 9 chord. Keep it there and lift the 3rd finger, a 9 chord. Lift the 1st finger as well, and it is an m9 chord.

If we do not understand each chord's notes' function, what I described is confusing and information overload. However, if we learn that little bit of music theory associated with chord construction, we know:-

· that lowering the 3rd by one fret makes the chord a minor

· Adding in the b7 changes the chord to a dominant 7th chord

· Adding the 2nd note of the scale without the 7th makes an add9 chord

· Adding the 2nd note of the scale with the 7th makes a 9 chord.

We can alter the basic C, D, A and G open chord shapes accordingly to create the same. Apply these to Barre chord shapes; suddenly, the amount we have to learn is not overwhelming.

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