By Jason Wilford
One of the first steps to understanding how to build chords is to know how to play at least a one- octave major scale on the guitar. This is going to be your reference point for everything, so make sure you know how to play this well, both ascending and descending.
Here is the C major scale:
The next thing we have to do is assign each of the notes a number. There are 7 notes in the scale, with the 8th note being the first note repeated an octave higher. We will number the notes starting on C, all the way up to the next octave. Keep in mind that 8 is technically the same as 1.
Now we can get into some chord building! Right now we will just focus on Triads, which are 3- note chords.
The basics are simple. We construct a chord by using a note, skipping one, using one, skipping one, using one. The formula for this is 1 –3 –5. Using the formula, we get a C major chord. In the exam- ple below, the notes are played up and down separately to create a triad arpeggio. We can also play the same notes together to create the C major chord, which is on the right. This idea can be extended to the next octave to create a full C major chord on the guitar by adding in the next C and E notes.
Since the major scale has 7 notes, we can actually build seven different chords. To build a chord starting on D, for example, we would now have to consider D to be number 1. Using the 1 3 5 formula, we get D F A. In- cluded below are all seven chords you can build with the C major scale. For the rest of the examples, only notation is going to be used.