The most common G chord guitar patterns are probably familiar to you, if you've spent even a minimal amount of time with the guitar.
The open G major chords are essential beginner topics and not at all difficult. In this lesson, we'll cover those introductory open G chords; two of them. However, we'll also cover other forms of the G chord that are even simpler to play and critical for learning the theory and chord construction related to the G chord and the fretboard. Specifically, we'll look at dyads, triads and common major and minor forms of the G chord, covering it incrementally.
This is what we'd call an interval based approach to learning the G chord. Instead of going after the full form of the chord first, we take it one step at a time, building our knowledge of the chord around intervalic relationships. When dealing with a fretted instrument, like the guitar, this approach is far more intuitive and helpful.
Specifically, we'll utilize the following learning tools:
While it's true that chart memorization is involved, we're leaning heavily on theory and chord construction, which means we'll gather a more comprehensive understanding of the G chord. We'll start with two (well known) open G major voicings, then drop back into dyads, building up our G chords from that point.
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The G Major Chord Guitar Diagram
The open G major chord has a full form and a more minimalist form that omits many of the notes found in the "original" version. We prefer the minimal G chord, which (we think) sounds better and is easier to play. In an effort to be thorough, we're going to start you out with diagrams, tabs and audio for both: The original version first, then the "cheat" version.
In both chords you'll want to lead with your middle finger, grabbing the root G note on the third fret, then dropping your ring finger to pick up the higher intervals on the first and second strings.
Here are the diagrams for both voicings:
The common, open G major chord diagram. (View Larger Image)
Common open G major chord guitar tab. (View Larger Image)
Minimized version of the open G chord. (View Larger Image)
Minimized version of the open G chord in guitar tab form. (View Larger Image)
Take some time to get familiar with both of these shapes. Generally speaking, the second shape (the minimal form) is going to be more applicable and better in a real world musical environment. Our advice is to learn both, but don't spend too much time on them before jumping into the next section (dyads). Once we cover dyadic and triadic G chords, the more complex voicings (including the open chords above) will feel more intuitive and will be easier to learn.
Dyadic G Chords (two notes)
The term "dyad" is used in music theory to indicate two unison notes that might imply a chord. While there are plenty music theorists who believe you must have three notes to form a chord, we're using dyadic intervals with a root G to establish the beginning of all the more complex G chord voicings. In that regard, you might call them "intervalic G chords."
It's our opinion that, when it comes to the guitar, the more liberal stance of allowing two-note chords is perfectly acceptable.
When pairing usable intervals, regardless of the root note, you should start with these four combinations:
- Root + perfect fifth
- Root + major third
- Root + minor third
- Root + octave
All the more complex G chord guitar voicings will begin with one of these interval groupings. In the original open G chord diagram, for example, we have the low root G paired with a major third (B), which alone forms the base of a G major triad:
Root G and major third pairing. (View Larger Image)
Additionally, dyads can serve as a more subtle and nuanced version of a complex chord.
Let's say you have a full form G major chord, like the open voicing in the following tab. In that situation you can supplement (or even replace) it with a simple interval pairing like the two G notes at the end of the measure, the low root G and its own octave at the fifth fret.
The dyadic version of the G chord. (View Larger Image)
In this section we'll go over three different dyadic G chords covering an octave, major third and perfect fifth.
G CHORD DYAD #1 (octave)
Dyadic octave with a root G on the third fret. (View Larger Image)
G dyad guitar tab with root on the third fret. (View Larger Image)
G CHORD DYAD #2 (major third)
Dyadic G chord on third fret and a major third interval (B). (View Larger Image)
Major third dyad in the key of G, in guitar tab form. (View Larger Image)
G CHORD DYAD #3 (perfect fifth)
Dyad with a root G on the third fret and a perfect fifth interval (D). (View Larger Image)
Guitar tab version of a perfect fifth dyad in the key of G (View Larger Image)
Note that "dyad" can refer to any two notes that are simultaneously audible. However, the more academic definition refers to common interval pairings, particularly those that we mentioned earlier (octaves, minor third, major third and perfect fifth).
Most Common Power Chord in the Key of G
The difference between dyads and power chords is subtle. Further, because of their structural simplicity and movability, power chords are rarely taught within the context of a particular key. However, we're going to cover them within the confines of the key of G for a couple of reasons:
- It provides context for understanding power chord theory
- It's helpful to identify commonly used notes based on fretboard position
When you need to play a power chord with a root G, it needs to happen quickly. Thus, it's extremely helpful to learn not just the shape of the power chord, but the location of it based on the root note. Keep this in mind as you work on memorizing the pattern of the G power chord. Make sure you're taking note of the fretboard position as well, namely the third and 10th frets.
This approach also gives you a simple way to expand on the theory established after covering dyads by adding a single interval to existing dyadic shapes.
G POWER CHORD #1 (fifth + octave)
G power chord diagram with a fifth (D) and octave at the second fret position. (View Larger Image)
Power chord in the key of G in guitar tab form. (View Larger Image)
Power chord in the key of G positioned at the 10th fret. (View Larger Image)
Power chord in the key of G positioned at the 10th fret in guitar tab form. (View Larger Image)
Triadic G Chords (root, third and fifth)
With a knowledge of three-note power chords under our belts, we can conveniently segue into triads, which are also three-note chords, but with a bit more structure. Triadic chords are formally defined by having the following three components:
- Major or minor third
- Perfect fifth
This grouping might also be referred to as "stacked thirds," since each note is the third of the note that precedes it. Triads are the base concept of chord construction and fretboard connectivity. Every chord that is more complex builds on the concept of the triadic relationship, like sevenths, ninths and other more complex chord extensions (more on extensions later).
Learning triads with a G root also provides a lot of different alternatives to the single G chord shape we learned initially. They're also quite simple from a technical standpoint, being made up of only three notes.
In this section we'll cover the four most common triadic G chords, all in a major key.
Note: You can make any major triad a minor triad by simply dropping the major third interval one semitone (one fret down). We'll talk more about this process and minor chords in the next section.
G MAJOR TRIAD #1
G major triad with its root note at the 10th fret position. (View Larger Image)
G major triad in guitar tab form with the G root at the 10th fret position. (View Larger Image)
G MAJOR TRIAD #2
G major triad at the fifth fret position. (View Larger Image)
G major triad (guitar tab) at the fifth fret position. (View Larger Image)
G minor Chord Guitar Diagrams
Despite covering minor chords indirectly, via the triads discussion, it's beneficial to give some individual attention to the theory of minor chords, while also covering some of the more common G minor chord voicings. If we keep the formal triadic note grouping, a minor triad (minor third instead of major third) gives us the following three notes:
G, B♭ and D
If you were to ignore the root G, you could write this out as a generic series of scale degrees:
1, ♭3, 5
In music theory, this is called the first, flatted third and fifth scale degree. Based on this numeric formula, you can create a minor chord by simply "flatting" the major third interval of any major chord. To make the chord major again, you would simply bump that flatted third back up one semitone (one fret).
Keep this theoretical functionality in mind as you go through the following G minor chord diagrams and tab sheets. We'll just do two.
G MINOR CHORD #1
G minor chord with the root note positioned at the fifth fret. (View Larger Image)
G minor chord in guitar tab form with root G positioned at the fifth fret. (View Larger Image)
G MINOR CHORD #2 (Barred Form)
Barred version of the G minor chord at the third fret position. (View Larger Image)
G minor barre chord in guitar tab form at the third fret position. (View Larger Image)
G7 Chord Guitar Diagrams
Now that we understand the triadic relationship in the context of the key of G, we'll have a much easier time conceptualizing the process involved with creating extended G chords. For our example, we'll use the G7 chord, which can be thought of as a G major triad with a minor seventh interval thrown on top of the pile.
Every G7 chord will have the following components, with the exception of the perfect fifth since it's a less crucial, often omitted, tone.
- Root (G)
- Major Third (B)
- Perfect Fifth (D)
- Minor Seventh (F)
Note: The G7 chord has a minor seventh interval, while the Gmaj7 has a major seventh interval above the root, meaning the "maj" refers to the type of extension, not the type of third.
Based on our intervals chart, a minor seventh is 10 semitones above the root. If our root is G, than our minor seventh interval falls on F.
G7 CHORD #1 (third fret form)
G7 chord at the fifth fret position. (View Larger Image)
G7 chord in guitar tab form at the fifth fret position. (View Larger Image)
G7 CHORD #2 (eighth fret form)
Upper register G7 chord at the 10th fret position (note that the perfect fifth interval has been omitted). (View Larger Image)
G7 chord in guitar tab form at the 10th fret position. (View Larger Image)
Handling More Complex G Chords
While we've discussed a lot of theory involved with these G chords, they remain some of the simplest and most highly usable voicings in existence. As a guitarist, you can draw from them for nearly any musical style. Other extensions, suspended chords and more complex voicings, have been left out because they're often more style-specific and niche-dependent. Moreover, if you want or need to study those more complex G chords, knowing these simpler voicings - and the theory behind them - will make that process a lot easier and more intuitive. If you can understand how chords are constructed, you can add all the intervals and extensions you want.
We'd recommend memorizing the patterns, but, more importantly, memorizing the theory that explains how we got to and from each pattern.
Do you have questions about G chords, the diagrams we've presented or the theory discussed?
Feel free to drop questions, thoughts or even corrections in the comments section below. Usually Bobby answers comments directly, and we prefer them over email so future readers can benefit from our conversations.
Moreover, if you have some additional insight or cool ideas about how to learn, master and apply the G chord, we'd love to hear about it and possibly even include it in this content.