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Major key harmony


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T
he chords in a major key
A visual relationship

The guitar is a very visual instrument. We learn to play chords and scales as shapes and patterns. So you can also use this visual aspect to learn how the chords in a major key relate to each other. Just like you can learn a fingering for a major scale, and then move it up and down the neck to change keys.

Chords in relationship the I chord on the 6th string

As an example, lets use the key of A. You are going to learn how all of the chords in the key relate to a basic A major barre chord with the root on the 6th string.

Below are the chords in the key of A.

I
IIm
IIIm
IV
V
VIm
VIIo
A
Bm
C#m
D
E
F#m
G#o

Here is a basic A major scale fingering. What you are going to be playing are barre chords with the root on the 6th and 5th strings, so I have highlighted those notes in red. We are using barre chords since that are moveable. So once you learn how to play the chords in the key of A major, you could just move everything up 2 frets and play in the key of B major.

|------|------|--7---|--1---|------|--2---|------|------|-1st
|------|------|------|--5---|------|--6---|------|------|
|------|------|--2---|------|--3---|--4---|------|------|
|------|------|--6---|------|--7---|--1---|------|------|
|------|------|--3---|--4---|------|--5---|------|------|
|------|------|------|--1---|------|--2---|------|------|-6th
          |             |             |             |
         3rd fret      5th fret      7th fret      9th fret

Now play the corresponding barre chord starting on each of the 5 notes.

|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|-1st
|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|
|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|
|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|
|------|------|-IIIm-|--IV--|------|--V---|------|------|
|------|------|------|--I---|------|--IIm-|------|------|-6th
          |             |             |             |
         3rd fret      5th fret      7th fret      9th fret

 

Barre chords built from the first 5 notes of an A major scale

I
IIm
IIIm
VI
V
barre chord
barre chord
barre chord barre chord barre chord

 

Those 5 chords are the easiest to visualize in relationship to the basic major scale. But in addition to these 5, we want to learn where all of the possibilities are within 4 frets of that A chord on the 6th string. A major scale consists of half steps (1 fret) and whole steps (2 frets), and those half step fall between the 3rd and 4th degrees of the scale, and the 7th and 8th (or 7 going back to 1). So with this knowledge you can find where the other possibilities are in relationship to the 5 that we already have.

barre chord The IIm chord is 2 frets lower than the IIIm chord on the 5th string. So you can also play the Bm chord with the root on the 5th string at the 2nd fret.

barre chord The IIIm chord is 2 frets higher than the IIm chord on the 6th string.

barre chord The VIm chord is 2 frets higher than the V chord on the 5th string.

barre chord The VIIo chord would be 1 fret lower than the I chord on the 6th string. Basic 3 note diminished chords are not very common on guitar, but here is one that you could use.

barre chord The VIm chord is 2 frets lower than the VIIo chord on the 6th string.


This now gives you all of the chord functions in relationship the I chord with the root on the 6th string.

|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|-1st
|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|
|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|
|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|------|
|-IIm--|------|-IIIm-|--IV--|------|--V---|------|-VIm--|
|-VIm--|------|-VIIo-|--I---|------|--IIm-|------|-IIIm-|-6th
          |             |             |             |
         3rd fret      5th fret      7th fret      9th fret

 

Barre chords in the key of A

I
IIm
IIIm
IV
V
VIm
VIIo
barre chord
barre chord

barre chord

barre chord barre chord barre chord barre chord
  barre chord barre chord     barre chord  

 

Here are a few of common chord progressions to test out your new found knowledge on. Try and think generically about the chords. Meaning don't think about a chord as C#m or Bm, think about it as IIIm and IIm.

 

I IV V I

I VIm IIm V I

IIIm VIm IIm V I


Page 2, Basic chords and functions in all of the major keys

Page 4, A visual relationship of the chords in a major key, I chord on the 5th string


Major key harmony jump zone
How the chords function in the key
Basic chords and functions in all of the major keys
A visual relationship of the chords in a major key, I chord on the 6th string
A visual relationship of the chords in a major key, I chord on the 5th string
Other possible chords within the key

 



Free Download - 17 Essential Strum Patterns PDF








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