Firstly, this lesson requires that you're familiar with the
five main barre/movable chord shapes. Visit the first guitar
barre chord lessons to see what you've missed.
After following the course to this point, you should now have built up
a good library of chord shapes and voicings to play around with. This
lesson is about using these chord shapes together, knowing how they
relate to each other on the
guitar's fretboard. This does take some time to grasp, but once you
"get it", your songwriting and improvisation with chords will
dramatically improve. You'll see!
Just take your time, experiment independently with what you learn and,
above all, have fun.
strongly recommend you learn the notes on the
fretboard. You'll see, when we come to it, how important it
is to be
able to identify a particular note on more than one string.
Barre chord root note relationships
Of the five main chord shapes we learned on this
course (E, A, C, G and D)...
The E and G shapes of the same chord share the
same low E string root note
The A and C shapes of the same chord share the
same A string root note
The D shape has it's own bass root note on the
Let's take a look at these relationships more
E and G
You don't have to play the full chord shapes - try cutting
them down for more
Notice how, when we're using the same chord for
both shapes, the E shape ascends from that bass
root note, and the G shape
descends from that same root note on
the low E string. There are higher root notes in these shapes, but
focusing on the lowest root notes as "marker points" at the moment.
Remember - that root note, positioned at a particular fret,
determines the notation of the chord. For example, if it's positioned
8th fret it would be the note C.
Therefore, building either the E or G chord shapes onto that root note
would make the basic chord a
If you're playing the
minor shape, it'll be Cm. If
you're playing the
Major 7th shape, it'll be Cmaj7.
That initial letter always refers to the root note of the chord. That's
partly why root notes are so important!
Since both chord shapes, when positioned at the same root note
fret, offer different voicings of the same chord, it's down to you to
choose which one suits the music you're trying to create.
One shape might accommodate chords the other cannot. We won't go into
the theory behind what makes the voicings different right now - just
hear the difference!
A and C
So again, just like above, same root note and same chord, the A shape
ascends from that root note position and the C shape
descends from it.
and something you may have
We know from learning about the D shape chords,
that they ascend from a D string root note.
However, I've deliberately ignored the
descending shape of the same root note.
The reason? Well, take
a look below and see if you notice anything familiar about the
descending chord shape on the D string, starting with the basic major
It merges with the E shape.
See, that D string root note can
also be seen as a higher root note (an octave higher to be specific) of
the E shape's low E string root note, as indicated with the red dot
above. Now, you may want to use the fuller E shape, or you may just
higher, top section of the shape. This is where your creative
judgment takes over. I can't tell you which one is "right" or "wrong"
to use in your own songwriting - I'm merely showing you the options you
So you can hear how the actual chord being played
is the same with each shape, yet the
different. That's what we're
focusing on here - the ability to know the variations available to you
and picking the one that best suits the music you want to create!
Try a similar exercise to above with different
chords (e.g. Cm, Fmaj7 etc.). Refer back to the chord charts in the
barre chord lessons for ideas.
Getting C-A-G-E-D in
There's a useful visualisation method you can use to
connect the different chord shapes right across the fretboard. It's
often referred to as the CAGED system.
You may notice that the 5 letters refer to
the 5 chord shapes we've learned. Why C-A-G-E-D in that particular
order? Well, apart from the convenient acronymn spelling, what it does
these shapes into sequence on the fretboard. Let's take a look...
That diagram shows the E major chord
the 5 main chord shapes we've learned. Look at the order of the
sequence in which they appear...
First we start with the open E major
chord, which is effectively the E-shape with its low E string root note.
Next we move into the D shape for the same E
Next we find the E major chord in the C shape
position at fret 7 on the A string.
Next we hit the A-shaped E major chord, right
next door to the C shape preceding it.
Finally, we end up at the G shape for the same
E major chord.
Now, while the above particular sequence does not
spell "CAGED" in
that order, if we continued the sequence, we would find ourselves back
at the E shape, at the 12th fret (as the 12th fret is the same note as
the open string we started on, just an octave higher). Then the cycle
continues to the D shape again, but we're getting quite high up the
now, so chord fingerings will get kind of awkward.
Anyway, this is more just for visualising related chord (and even
scale) positions, and we can almost see it like a conveyor belt, which
would follow the sequence...
In this particular example, the sequence happened to start with the "E"
from "CAGED" and continued the sequence from there.
Remember, the letters in CAGED represent the chord shape,
not the chord
type (the chord type was E major in this example).
Take a look at that diagram again. Observe how the sequence of chords
together and overlap each other. We already know
which chord shapes share the exact same root
note, so that creates an instant link to the next chord shape
What this means is, if you know how to identify a particular key (using
your knowledge of where a given chord shape's root notes lie), you can
know which related chord shapes lie nearby. For example, below is how
the CAGED system would span out for the chord of
Bmaj7 (B major 7th):
Each of these major 7th chord shapes are rooted on the
So, try picking your own chord and, using your
knowledge of the
sequence outlined above,
and how certain chord shapes share the same root note, try and identify
where all the related chord shapes would lie. Don't just play it in
sequence, mix it around to really
test your knowledge (e.g. instead of
CAGED, try DACEG!).
deep breath (or a beer)
Make sure you spend time getting to know all the
chord relationships we've
looked at. Be on the lookout for these common relationships between the
shapes. You will have your own ways of seeing these relationships, and
you look for them and play around with them, the more they will sink in.
Remember, you don't have to play the full chord
them down to just 3 or 4 strings can help with
more economical fingering. Knowing the full shapes is, however,
beneficial on the theory
side of things, as you can use them as the scaffolding for smaller
chord shapes and even related scale patterns in the same position.