Chords are the foundation of playing music on the guitar. Understanding the various types of chords and how they are constructed is paramount! Also, knowing how they fit together is crucial for any aspiring guitar player. But have you ever wondered, how many guitar chords are there?
Using the 12-note chromatic scale, it seems there are, 2341 playable guitar chord combinations available. We have come to this number by way of the many different note combinations. These are either one or even up to ten notes. Some of which are hard to play, but are still possible chords!
In this article, we will explore the basics of guitar chords. We will look with more detail into the question of how many chords exist. From basic open chords to complex variations! We will shed light on the seemingly endless possibilities of combinations on the guitar.
The Number of Guitar Chords
Guitar chords are one of the most essential elements of playing the instrument. Whether you’re a beginner or a very advanced player! Understanding the various chords is crucial to expanding your musical repertoire. But just how many chords are there on the guitar?
One way to approach this question is to look at the number of different combinations. The first is based on the 12-note chromatic scale. By counting the number of possible combinations of notes, we can determine the chords.
For example, when we have 3 note combinations, there are 220 possible chords. This number increases as we add more notes. Ultimately reaching a peak of 924 possible chord combinations with 6 notes. But it doesn’t end there!
In total, there are 4017 possible chord combinations on the guitar. But only approximately, 2341 of them are actually considered playable chords. Now, that is a lot!
Understanding the Fundamentals of Guitar Chords
Unpacking the mysteries of guitar chords requires a deep dive into the fundamentals. The foundation of every chord is the combination of notes played together on the fretboard. This is a linear array of frets, each representing a different note.
Understanding the different guitar chord types, including major, minor, augmented, and diminished, is important! They are differentiated by the specific arrangement of notes they comprise. The secret sauce of guitar playing lies in understanding chord progressions.
The sequences of chords are played in a specific order to form a complete piece of music. Mastering these fundamental concepts is crucial for creating beautiful music on the guitar.
Further reading: How to change guitar chords faster.
Major scale chords are some of the most commonly used types in guitar playing. They are characterized by their bright and happy sound. They are used in a variety of music genres including pop, rock, and classical.
A major chord is formed by playing the root note. Then followed by a major third interval. And finally a perfect fifth interval. This creates a harmonious blend of notes that evoke a positive and joyful mood. An example of a popular song that uses major chords is Happy Birthday.
Minor chords, in contrast, have a sad or contemplative feel. They are formed by playing the root note, followed by a minor third interval. And then a perfect fifth interval. The minor third interval gives the chord its distinct sound.
This makes it a staple in genres such as blues, jazz, and classical. A popular song that features minor chords includes Yesterday by The Beatles. Minor chords have the ability to arouse a variety of emotions when used in various progressions and arrangements. They become a diverse and significant part of playing the guitar because of this.
Augmented chords are characterized by their sharp and tension-filled sound. They are created by playing the root note, followed by an augmented third interval. Then the perfect fifth interval. This unique combination of notes creates a sense of tension and instability.
It makes augmented chords well-suited for use in genres such as rock, jazz, and fusion.
They are less commonly used compared to major and minor chords. But they add a new dimension to your musical landscape when used effectively. A great song example that uses augmented chords is Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix.
The powerful and spooky tone of diminished chords is well known. The root note, a minor third interval, and a reduced fifth are played in order to create them. This combination of notes creates a feeling of instability and suspense. It makes them ideal for use in genres such as jazz, classical, and film scores.
They are less frequently employed when compared to major or minor chords. But when used imaginatively, they give music a distinctive character. Musicians are able to construct rich and diverse melodic soundscapes. All by fusing reduced chords with many other types.
Seventh chords add an extra layer of complexity to guitar playing! They have a distinct and harmonious sound. They are created by playing the root note, followed by a third, a fifth, and finally a seventh interval. Seventh chords are commonly used in genres such as blues, jazz, and R&B.
They can evoke a range of emotions depending on their progression and arrangement. A great song that takes advantage of this arrangement is All of Me by Louis Armstrong. Whether played as dominant or diminished seventh chords. They are a fundamental part of guitar playing that offer endless creative possibilities.
Finger Placement and Positioning
It’s important to know about the different chords types. But it also helps to understand some of the finger positions. Chords can be played in many different ways. Here are the more common ways to play chords.
Barre and Open Chords
Barre chords are a type that uses one finger to press down multiple strings on the guitar fretboard. Some barre chords do require more fingers, but the term refers to one. Open chords, on the other hand, are played with the strings not pressed down on the frets. Or at least some notes are open within the collection.
Characteristics and Differences
Barre chords have a fuller, richer sound. They can be played in any key by moving the chord shape up or down the fretboard. Open chords, while simpler to play, are limited to the key they are in. But they often have a more straightforward and strum-friendly sound.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The advantage of barre chords is their versatility. They can be played in any key. While open chords are easier to play and can create a more relaxed sound. However, barre chords can be difficult for beginners to learn. They require more finger strength and dexterity. While open notes are limited to certain keys.
Power chords consist of only the root note and the fifth interval, played on adjacent strings. They are easy to grasp and are a great place to start with chords.
Characteristics of Power Chords
Power chords are commonly used in rock, punk, and heavy metal music. They are known for their aggressive, driving sound. They may be quickly moved up and down the fretboard to change keys. You will find that they are frequently played in rapid, rhythmic strumming patterns.
How They Differ from Traditional Combinations
Power chords lack a third interval, making them neither major nor minor. Unlike traditional chords. This simplicity gives power chords their strong, straightforward sound. It makes them ideal for use in fast-paced, energetic music.
Examples of Popular Songs
There are many songs that use power chords. A few great examples would be Smells Like Teen Spirits by Nirvana. But also Enter Sandman by Metallica. Most bands use them! It would be easy to find them in your favorites too.
How Many Guitar Chords Should You Learn?
As a beginner guitarist, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. As you have seen, there are thousands of chords to choose from! It’s important to set realistic goals and determine how many you should learn.
To begin with, it’s a good idea to start with the most commonly used chords. They will give you the versatility to play a wide range of songs and styles. Anything from folk and pop to rock and blues. The most common chords include:
- C Major.
- G Major.
- D Major.
- E Major.
As you progress and gain confidence in the basics, you can start expanding. Learning more advanced arrangements, such as seventh or altered chords. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the number of chords you should learn is not set in stone. This will vary depending on your individual musical interests.
Some guitar players may only focus on learning a few. And instead, put more effort into perfecting their technique and phrasing. Others may strive to learn as many chords as possible. Ultimately, the number of chords you should learn is up to you. It depends heavily on your musical goals and aspirations.
We only touched on a few of the 2341 playable chords. As you can see, there are a lot of variations and combinations. Chords can be played in many ways and are very powerful. It’s not necessary to learn them all, but find the ones that work for your style.
Then, write the best music you can, as there are more than enough chords to work with! If you’re just getting started, check out these 11 easy guitar chords for beginners. They are an excellent place to start when working on music theory!