Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
List of major chord shapes for guitar
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

List of major chord shapes for guitar

This is a list of major chord shapes for the guitar. For information on reading this list, see tablature.

Table of contents
1 The six basic shapes

The six basic shapes

There are six basic sets of fingerings one can use to articulate a major chord on the guitar; two have the root of the chord on the low E string in standard tuning, two have the root on the A string, and there are two convenient voicings of D (one in root position and one in 2nd inversion), both of which place the root on the D string.

E shape

|X---XX|
|---X--|
|-XX---|
 134211

In this shape, the index ("1") finger is used to bar all six strings. This puts the root tone of the chord in the bass, with a high fifth and the root tone again in the high register. (The high root tone is two octaves above the bass.)

Therefore, from low to high, we have: root, fifth, octave (root), third, fifth, and double octave (root).

Played in the first position, this shape yields an F major chord. Played in the open position, the index finger is not used at all; instead, the strings which would be fretted by it are played open, and the result is an E major chord, giving this shape its name.

It is useful to remember this shape with the index bar in place, because, using it, one can play this shape in any position to get a major chord with this voicing in any desired key.

It is worth noting for players in the rock and metal styles that a power chord with its root on the sixth string is played using this shape; the high three notes (and sometimes the first octave) is not voiced.

G shape

|--XXX-|
|------|
|-X----|
|X-----|
 43111

or

|--XXX-|
|------|
|-X----|
|X----X|
 321114

or

|--XXX-|
|------|
|------|
|X-----|
 4x111x

This shape is probably the most difficult of the four for the beginning guitarist, since it requires a bit of stretching. The index finger is used to bar the second, third, and fourth strings. In the first version of this shape, the first string (high E) is not played at all. One nice property of this shape is that, like the C shape, the lowest three notes form a major triad in closed position with no inversion (the same voicing which piano players typically learn first).

The second version of this shape illustrates how to sound all six strings, by adding the root tone in a high register. When played in the open position (with no bar, and the third finger at the third fret), this shape sounds in the key of G, giving this shape its name.

The third version of this shape is this simplest form to finger and the easiest to master. Note that the A and High E strings are muted or not played.

A shape

|-X---X|
|------|
|--XXX-|
  13331

If barring with the ring finger is difficult, the shape may be fingered this way:
|-X---X|
|------|
|--XXX-|
  12341

From low to high, we have root, fifth, octave (root), third, and fifth.

In this shape the sixth (low E) string is not played, though the index finger bar can be extended to it to add a fifth in the bass, if desired.

Players in the rock and metal styles may note that omission of the high third and fifth (and sometimes the octave) result in a power chord with the root on the fifth string. In these styles the low-fifth extension in the bass is also often found added to a power chord voicing.

C shape

|---X-X|
|----X-|
|--X---|
|-X----|
  43121

From low to high, we have root, third, fifth, octave (root), and third.

This shape produces two commonly used open voicings: C major and D major. To produce a C, play the two strings barred with the index finger open, with the pinky in the third position. To produce a C, play neither the fifth or sixth strings, and play the fourth string open, with the index finger in the middle position. These three voicings played in close suggestion, such as Dsus4->D->Dsus2->D, is very commonly found in virtually every genre of guitar music that is related to or has borrowed from folk music.

The open D chord is often played using the following fingering instead:

   O
|------|
|---X-X|
|----X-|
    132

A nice feature of this fingering is that it permits easy fingering of the Dsus2 and Dsus4 chords as well. To play a D with a suspended fourth, fret the sixth string at the third fret with the pinky. To play a D with a suspended second, play the sixth string open.

Two D shapes

concert voicing:

|--X---|
|------|
|x--x--|
|----x-|  
 2x134x

top set (DGBE) voicing:

|--x---|
|------|
|---x-x|
 xx13x4

There are two variations of the movable D chord.

The first is notable both for placing its root on the D string and its third on the Low E and for its muted A and high E strings. This fingering voices in 2nd inversion.

The second is simpler, yet lacking in bass notes. It is notable for its proximity of fingering to top set 7 and maj7 voicings. This voicing is in root position with the third sounding highest.

Once these six shapes are mastered, one can play simple major chord progressions in any key one likes; on the guitar there need be no "difficult" keys. G sharp, B flat, F, E flat -- none of these are any more inherently challenging than the others.

It also useful to learn these shapes as a foundation from which one can learn to play minor chords and seventh chords, just as keyboard players (and music theorists in general) learn major chords first and think of other chords as deviations from the major chord structure.

A major, using A shape, with a fifth in the bass:

e|-----0------
B|-----2------
G|-----2------
D|-----2------
A|-----0------
E|-----0------

B major, using A shape, with a fifth in the bass:
e|-----2------
B|-----4------
G|-----4------
D|-----4------
A|-----2------
E|-----2------

B major, using E shape:
e|-----7------
B|-----7------
G|-----8------
D|-----9------
A|-----9------
E|-----7------

C major, using C shape:
e|-----0------
B|-----1------
G|-----0------
D|-----2------
A|-----3------
E|------------

C major, using A shape:
e|-----3------
B|-----5------
G|-----5------
D|-----5------
A|-----3------
E|------------

C major, using E shape:
e|-----8------
B|-----8------
G|-----9------
D|----10------
A|----10------
E|-----8------

C major, using G shape:
e|------------
B|-----5------
G|-----5------
D|-----5------
A|-----7------
E|-----8------

D major, using C shape:
e|-----2------
B|-----3------
G|-----2------
D|-----0------
A|-----x------
E|-----x------

E major, using E shape:
e|-----0------
B|-----0------
G|-----1------
D|-----2------
A|-----2------
E|-----0------

F major, using E shape:
e|-----1------
B|-----1------
G|-----2------
D|-----3------
A|-----3------
E|-----1------

E major, using D shape one
e|------------
B|-----5------
G|-----4------
D|-----2------
A|------------
E|-----4------

E major, using D shape two

e|-----4------
B|------------
G|-----4------
D|-----2------
A|------------
E|------------

G major, using G shape:
e|-----3------
B|-----0------
G|-----0------
D|-----0------
A|-----2------
E|-----3------

G major, using a modified G shape:
e|-----3------
B|-----3------
G|-----0------
D|-----0------
A|-----2------
E|-----3------

In the above voicing, we have substituted the high third on the fifth string with a high fifth on the same string.

See also: List of minor chord shapes for guitar.