What is a guitar chord?
Multiple notes played at the same time on a guitar.
A chord on a guitar isn't necessarily different than a chord on a piano, or any other instrument. So the term "guitar chord" should be understood as multiple notes played at the same time on a guitar.
Guitar chords are simply a musical chord played on a guitar.
So we need to answer the question: What is a chord?
In music, a chord is simply multiple notes played at the same time. On the guitar, this means that your fingers are pressing or "fretting" multiple notes at the same time, and strumming them in unison.
On the guitar you have basic open chords, power chords, triads, and other kinds of more complex chords. Most people who are starting to learn guitar focus on basic open chords, and then move to triads which are chords with three notes.
While there's some music theory involved in understanding triads, you can think of them as three different consonant notes played in unison.
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How many notes are in a guitar chord?
Typically a chord is defined as three or more notes played in unison, while two notes played in unison are called intervals.
There's a lot more music theory involved, but you don't really need to know that unless you want to dig in. For now, just remember that a guitar chord is three or more notes played in unison.
Also keep in mind that the notes in chords are based on scales, which - again - is a topic you can take on later.
Chord Diagrams and Tabs
All guitar chords can be illustrated by diagrams, like the following:
Here are the elements in the above diagram:
- Blue dots: Notes pressed on the fretboard
- Gray numbers above diagram: Fret numbers
- Yellow number on blue dot: Suggested finger to play the note (optional)
- Blue X: Signifies a muted note: String that should not be played
- Hollow blue circle: Signifies an open note that should be played
Note that the horizontal lines represent the guitar strings, while the vertical squares represent frets. Chord diagrams can differ depending on who created them, but they'll generally follow a structure similar to this one.
You might also see chord diagrams displayed vertically, instead of side to side. We typically show our chord diagrams side to side, just because that's how you would be looking at it on a guitar fretboard from the top down.
Try it out: Chord Diagram Generator
Chords displayed in guitar tab format will have the fret numbers all in the same column, like this:
More chord resources
Here are some additional chord resources we've published that might be helpful to you, if you want to continue learning:
In conclusion, a guitar chord is simply a grouping of multiple notes, played at the same time, on a guitar. Check out some of the other resources we've linked to, or just use our search function to learn more about guitars chords and how to get going.
If you have questions, you can leave them in the comments section below. Bobby answers those himself and you might also have other readers chime in.
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