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Specialized Lessons
Guitar
Common Chords in Common Keys




The best way to practice chords is in the context of a key. This will cover the most playing situations in the least amount of time and will give you a numerical understanding of a key, enabling you to transpose songs.

A chord is built upon each of the seven notes of a key. This yields three major chords (1,
4, and 5), three minor chords (2m, 3m, and 6m) and one diminished chord (7°). The 57 is used as a substitution for the 7°. A systematic approach for practicing all chord changes in any key
is as follows:

Practice each change from one chord to the other until smooth.

 

Below are the chords in the five most common keys for the guitar. The diagrams view the neck "standing up". Numbers indicate left-hand fingering. X's indicate which strings are not included in the chord.


Key of C

The key of C has no sharps or flats. G7 is the substitution for B°. Most chords are easy to
finger. The exception is the F-chord in which the first finger must flatten to play the first two strings. The G-chord is also slightly difficult in that it uses the fourth finger. (This fingering is necessary for a smooth transition from G to C and vice-versa.)


Key of G

The key of G has one sharp, F# (D7 is the substitution for F#°), and has four chords in
common with the key of C (C, G, Am, & Em). Of the new chords to learn (D, D7, & Bm) Bm is the most difficult. Here is the best way to first create the fingering. Play an A-minor chord using fingers 2, 3 & 4. Then move it up the neck two frets. The first finger then flattens (or "bars") across the first five strings and is responsible for the notes on strings 1 & 5. (Keep working with fingers 2, 3, & 4 to create that "Am" shape.)

 

Key of D

The key of D has two sharps, F# & C# (A7 is the substitution for C#°), and has four chords in
common with the key of G (G, D, Em, & Bm). Observe the new fingerings for G and Em. Of the new chords to learn (A, A7, & F#m) F#m is the most difficult. Here is the best way to first create the fingering. Play an E-minor chord using fingers 3 & 4. Then move it up the neck two frets. The first finger then flattens (or "bars") across all six strings and is responsible for the notes on strings 1, 2, 3, & 6. (Keep working with fingers 3, & 4 to create that "Em" shape.) Also, there are other ways to finger the A-chord. One way to do it is to reverse fingers 1 & 2. Or you may finger strings 2 & 3 with finger 2 (if it's large enough) and then finger string 4 with finger 1.

 

Key of A

The key of A has three sharps, F#, C#, and G# (E7 is the substitution for G#°), and has four
chords in common with the key of D (D, A, Bm, & F#m). New chords to learn are E, E7, & C#m. (C#m is simply Bm moved up two frets.)

 

 

Key of E

The key of E has three sharps, F#, C#, G#, and D#. (B7 is the substitution for D#°) and has
four chords in common with the key of A (A, E, F#m, & C#m). New chords to learn are B, B7, & G#m. (G#m is simply F#m moved up two frets.) Here is a strategy for learning the B-chord. Finger an A-chord by flattening your third finger across strings 2, 3, &4. Move up two frets and play the fifth string with your first finger. (The first string is muted.)