root notes is crucial, not only if you're planning
on delving deeper into chord
theory, but also if you want to be able to build chords in
Root notes are the notes upon which a chord
is built. It is literally the root of the chord.
The root note is often labelled 1.
This is because it marks the first note in the scale
around which the chord is built.
All the other tones in the
chord are intervals in
relation to this root note.
All my chord diagrams clearly
mark the root note as a red 1!
The root note provides the first building block for a given chord.
Whichever note the root lies on is the note around which the chord is
For example, if the root note is G,
and the chord built on this root note is a major chord, the
If the root note is C#
and the chord built on this root note is a minor chord, the
be C# minor.
If the root note is Eb
(E flat), and the chord built on this root note is a major 7th chord,
the chord will be Ebmaj7.
So that's the first thing to understand about chord root notes - the
root note is what determines
we use in the chord symbol.
If I asked you what the root note of Esus4 (E suspended 4th) is, what
would your answer be?
Whichever letter you see used in a chord is the note you first look for
on the fretboard in order to build the rest of the chord from that
position. That's just one reason why you should learn to be able to
root notes on the fretboard.
Identifying guitar chord root notes on the
So, we know that the root note is represented using the number 1.
If we wanted to play a C major chord, we'd first locate the note C in
various positions across the fretboard. We start with the bottom 3 strings, E, A and D in standard
tuning, because these strings most commonly provide the lowest root note
(or bass root) of
a given chord.
However, if you've learned the notes
on the fretboard, you'll know where the note C occurs on all
Most chord shapes are built upon an E, A or D string root note. We can
call this the "bass note" of our chord. If you're playing with a
bassist, you wouldn't have to actually play the bass root note, but
it's good to know where it is for a visual reference point,
to find your bearings on the fretboard.
Using the C
root note at the 8th fret on the low E string, I could
build a standard barre chord shape on that position...
Now, you'll notice that there are higher chord root notes on
and high E strings. These are also the note C, each one an octave of
Another option for building a C major chord would be on the A string
root note we identified, at the 3rd fret...
Yet another option would be the open C major form, again rooted at the
3rd fret (C)...
by being able to identify bass root notes like this, we have several
positions for building different voicings of the same chord. Not just
major or minor chords either - there are whole host of chord types we
can build on this root note. More on these variations in the chords
Also, don't forget that the open E, A and D strings provide bass root
notes for open chord fingerings. For example, the open E minor chord
uses the open
low E string as its bass root note...
From this root note, you can modify and add to the other tones in the
chord as you wish, but the root note is always the central tonal
reference point for any chord you build.
As mentioned earlier, you don't actually have to play the root note,
knowing where it is gives you that visual reference point for stacking
rest of the chord.
Once you fully understand this root note concept, you're ready to move
on to learning how chord tones (intervals) are stacked in relation to