Music Theory


Do what makes you happy! If you don’t enjoy something, don’t do it! Embrace this if you want to play a song you love, write your own songs, or inflict mental anguish upon yourself or your children.  The first few major chords are like the alphabet… if you want to play music, unfortunately, you have to force yourself into figuring them out first.

This for guitarists. If you want to play piano, go here

If you’re looking for some singing tips, drink warm water, because that’s the one of the few universally agreed upon words of wisdom, and go here!


The Official Guide to Reading Chords in Space


Greetings earthlings, below are the major Tom chords. These chord guides are all in Standard tuning read from left to right. The number corresponds to the fret. The 0 means the string is not fretted. The x means to mute the string by lightly pressing down on it, so it doesn’t make noise. 


Major  Chords

Remember to read the chords from left to right, top string to bottom string, EADGBE!

A:       002220

B:       x24442

C:       032010

D:       000232

E:       022100

F:       133211

F#:      244322

G:       320001

Nashville style G:   3×0033


Put your chord skills to use!

Here are three of my favorite websites for figuring out how to play songs. Ultimate guitar  might be the most popular, but it’s inaccurate.

Heartwood Guitar. | Chord charts

Songsterr. | Tabs

Jellynote. | Sheet music

Minor  Chords

Am:  577555 (this chord shape is moveable)

Am:  002210

Bm:  x24432

Cm:  x35543

Dm:  xxx231

Em:  022000

Fm:  133111

Gm:  310001

Nashville G minor:     3×0330



A minor  577555 ||| xxx555

B minor  x24432 ||| xxx432

C minor  x35543 ||| xxx543

D minor  x57765 ||| xxx765

E minor  x79987 ||| xxx987

F minor  133111 ||| xxx111

F# minor 244222 ||| xxx222

G minor  366333 ||| xxx333


Movable Suspended Chords

(in standard)

One the right of the | is another way of playing the chord.


Asus2 002200 | 022200

Bsus2 224422 | 244422

Csus2 335533 | 355533

Dsus2 557755 | x00230

Esus2 779977 | 799977

Fsus2 xxx011 | xx3563

Gsus2 xxx233 | xx5785


Asus4 & Dsus2  577755 | 557755

Bsus4 & Esus2  799977 | 779977

Csus4 & Fsus2  xx3563 | xxx011

Dsus4 & Fsus2  xx5785 | xxx233

Esus4 & Asus2  022200 | xxx344

Fsus4 & Bbsus2 113311 | xxx566

Gsus4 & Csus2  355533 | xxx788


4 Chords

Movable 7th Sus4 Chords

A7Sus4: 575755

B7Sus4: 797977

C7Sus4: x35363

D7Sus4: x57585

E7Sus4: 020200 

F7Sus4: 131311

G7Sus4: 363633 


6 Chords

The A chord shows the movable chord shapes. For an example of a sharp chord. C#6:x46666 | xx6666


A6: xx7979 | xx2222 | x02222

B6: x24444 | xx4444

C6: x35555 | xx5555

D6: x57777 | xx7777 

Eb6:x68888 | xx8888

E6: x79999 | xx9999 

F6: xx3535 | xx(10)(10)(10)(10)

G6: xx5757 | xx0000


Minor 6 Chords

Am6: 577575 | 5×4555 |xx7978

Bm6: 799797

Cm6: 8x788x

Dm6: x5343x

Em6: 022020

Fm6: 130111

Gm6: 310030


7 Chords

Dominant 7 Chords


A7: x02020 | 575655 | xx7989

B7: x24242 | 797877 | x21202

C7: x35353 | x3231x

D7: xx0212

E7: 020100

F7: 131211 

G7: 320001 

Major 7 Chords

For the Abmaj7, all of them are the movable shapes.

Abmaj7: xx6888 ||| xxx113 ||| xx6543 


Amaj7: x02120 ||| xx7654 ||| xxx224 ||| xx7999

Bmaj7: x13231 ||| 7988xx

Cmaj7: x35453 ||| x32000

Dmaj7: xx0222 ||| x57675

Emaj7: xx2444 ||| 021100

Fmaj7: xx3555 ||| 103210

Gmaj7: xx5777 ||| 320002


Minor 7 Chords



Am7: x02010 ||| x3x213 ||| xx5555

Bm7: x24232 ||| x20202 ||| xx7777

Cm7: xx1313 ||| xx8888

Dm7: xx0211 ||| x53535

Em7: xx0987 ||| 020000

Fm7: 131111 ||| xx1111

Gm7: xx3333 ||| xx3333


Moveable 9 Chords

A9: x4545x

B9: x2122x

C9: x32333

D9: x54555

E9: x76777

F9: x87888 

G9: x(10)9(10)(10)x


Major 9

AM9: xx7454 

BM9: xx9676     

CM9: xx(10)787  

DM9: xx0220

EM9: 099800

FM9: xx3010

GM9: xx5232


Minor 9

Am9: 575557

Bm9: 797779

Cm9: x3133x

Dm9: x5355x

Em9: x7577x

Fm9: x8688x 

Gm9: 353335


Movable 13 Chords


A13: xx5675

B13: xx7897

C13: 000313

D13: 030202

E13: 000000 

F13: x6776x

G13: xx3455



James Brown Chords

Here’s one of the movable James Brown chords. 

B7/9: x21222

C7/9: x32333 

D7/9: x54555

E7/9: x76777 

F7/9: x87888 


Jimi Hendrix Chords

One of the movable Hendrix chords.

A7/#9:  5455xx

B7/#9:  7677xx

C7/#9:  8788xx

D7/#9: (10)9(10)(10)xx | x5456x

G7/#9:  3233xx



Major inversions. The A demonstrates three of the different movable shapes. 

A: xxx655 | A: xxx9(10)9 | A: xxx220

B: xxx442

C: xxx553

D: xxx775

E: xxx997

F: xxx211

G: xxx433 | G: xxx787 | G:  xxx(12)(12)(10)




Am: xxx210 | Am: xxx555 | Am: xxx9(10)8

Bm: xxx432

Cm: xxx543

Dm: xxx765

Em: xxx987

Fm: xxx111

Gm: xxx333



Open Tunings


Alternative tuning are like visiting a foreign country, they open up a whole new world of exploration. Nearly all slide guitarists play in open tunings. 

Here is standard tuning (Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears) for comparison. On the left is your top string.


Standard   ~  EADGBE

Step Down  ~  D#G#C#F#A#D#

Dropped D  ~  DADGBE

Celtic (Dsus4) ~ DADGAD  

How to Create Any Chordal Tuning

For some reason, standard tuning is an 11 chord. Unless you play 11 chords all the time, which you don’t, it makes more sense to tune to a chord you use all the time.

You can create any tuning by tuning to the notes of the chord. If you play power chords most of the time, tune to a fifth chord by repeating the two notes in the chord. For example, the C5 chord is just notes C & G, so to tune to that tuning, tune all of your strings to C or G. If you want to tune to Csus4, you use the notes in that chord, so you would use the notes C,F, and G, tuning your strings to those notes. If the string tension gets too high, tune to a lower note, so you don’t snap a string. One tip is to change the frequency of your tuner from around 440 to around 430. This prevent breaks and will lower the sound of your guitar as a whole, giving it more bass.

The Major Chord Open Tunings 


Open A:    EAEAC#E

Open B:    BF#BF#BD#

Open C:    CGCGCE

Open D:    DADF#AD

Open E:    EBEG#BE 

Open F:    FACFCF 

Open G:    DGDGBD 

In open E, just strum for an E major. All of these work the same way. Bar your fingers across all the strings you will be playing a major chord. For example, in Open D, if you fret all the strings at the first fret it will be a D# major chord. In open D5(DADADD)the open strum will be a D5 chord, and the first fret barred, will be a D#5, second fret barred will be a E5, etc. Remember that between E & F and B & C, no sharps or flats exist. Likewise, if you capo the first fret of open E, you will be playing an F chord. 

The Minor Chord Open Tunings

A minor: EACCAE

B minor: F#BDDBF#

C minor: EbCGGCEb

D minor: DADFAD

E minor: EBGGBE

F minor: FAbCCAbF

G minor: GBbDDBbG


The Tallest Man on Earth, Sonic YouthJack White, and Curtis Mayfield are examples of artists who use alternative tunings.


Power chord (fifths) open tunings:








Sus2 open tunings:


Bsus2: F#BC#F#BF#



Esus2: EF#BF#BE



Sus4 open tunings:


Bsus4: EBF#F#BE




Fsus4: FBbCCBbF



To play, Troubles Will Be Gone, in open G, click here

To play The Gardener in open D, click here

To play the King of Spain, in open C, click here.

To play 1904, in inverse drop d, click here.

To learn Seven Nation Army, in open A, click here.



Key Signature Examples


The Legendary Key of C

Key of C (A minor)

Cmaj ❘ Dmin ❘ Emin ❘ Fmaj ❘ Gmaj ❘ Amin ❘ Bdim

Key of C ❘ 7 Chords

Cmaj7 ❘ Dmin7 ❘ Emin7 ❘ Fmaj7 ❘ G7 ❘ Amin7 ❘ Bmin7 flat 5

Key of C# (Bb minor)

C#maj ❘ D#min ❘ E#min ❘ F#maj ❘ G#maj ❘ A#min ❘ B#dim

Key of C# ❘ 7 Chords

C#maj7 ❘ D#min7 ❘ E#min7 ❘ F#maj7 ❘ G#7 ❘ A#min7 ❘ B#min7 flat 5

The Decadent Key of D

Key of D (B minor)

Dmaj ❘ Emin ❘ F#min ❘ Gmaj ❘ Amaj ❘ Bmin ❘ C#dim

Key of D ❘ 7 Chords

Dmaj7 ❘ Emin7 ❘ F#min7 ❘ Gmaj7 ❘ A7 ❘ Bmin 7 ❘ C#min7 flat 5

Key of Eb (C minor)

Ebmaj ❘ Fmin ❘ Gmin ❘ Abmaj ❘ Bbmaj ❘ Cmin ❘ Ddim

Key of Eb ❘ 7 Chords

Ebmaj7 ❘ Fmin7 ❘ Gmin7 ❘ Abmaj7 ❘ Bbmaj7 ❘ Cmin7 ❘ Dm7b5

The Almighty Key of A

Key of A (F# minor)

Amaj ❘ Bmin ❘ C#min ❘ Dmaj ❘ Emaj ❘ F#min ❘ G#dim

Key of A ❘ 7 Chords

Amaj7 ❘ Bmin7 ❘ C#min7 ❘ Dmaj7 ❘ Emaj 7 ❘ F#min7 ❘ G#dim7

Key of Ab (F minor)

Abmaj ❘ Bbmin ❘ Cmin ❘ Dbmaj ❘ Ebmaj ❘ Fmin ❘ Gdim

To review all of music theory click here.

Diatonic Formula


Imaj IImin IIImin IVmaj V VImin VIImin (b5)

Or with seventh chords

Imaj7 IImin7 IIImin7 IVmaj7 V7 VImin7 VIImin7 (b5)

This can be used for any key.

Amaj7= Imaj7

Bmin7= IImin7



E7= V7

F#min7= VImin7

G#min7 (b5)= VIImin7 (b5)

These chords also fall under the categories Tonic,

Dominant and Subdominant.

Tonic chords provide a restful feeling.

The Tonic chords are Imaj, IIImin and VImin

Dominant chords provide a powerful feeling,

and like to resolve to the tonic chords.

The Dominant chords are V and VIImin(b5)

Sub-dominant chords provide a powerful feeling

as well but feel less of a need to resolve to the tonic.

The Subdominant (cadence) chords are IImin and IVmaj 

Below are three examples of key signatures, for the rest, you can get them by applying the diatonic formula.





Imaj  ❘   IImin  ❘   IIImin   ❘     IVmaj    ❘    V    ❘     VImin   ❘    VIImin (b5)




Imin  ❘   IIdim  ❘     III      ❘     IVmin    ❘   Vmin    ❘    VI      ❘      VII


Melodic Minor


Imin  ❘    IImin  ❘      III    ❘       IV      ❘     V    ❘      VImin    ❘   VIImin


Harmonic Minor


Imin   ❘   IImino  ❘    III+   ❘    IVmin    ❘     V     ❘      VI    ❘    VIImino 



Progressions are meant to be played in songs.

Play along with the I-IV-V-IV in a challenging soukous song by clicking here.



C Ionian:  C D E F G A B C

D Dorian:  D E F G A B C D

E Phrygian:  E F G A B C D E

F Lydian:  F G A B C D E F

G Mixolydian:    G A B C D E F G

A Aeolian: A B C D E F G A

B Locrian:  B C D E F G A B 


W=whole step 

H=half step


Locrian Scale Intervals:  H W W H W W W

Aeolian Scale Intervals: W H W W H W W 

Mixolydian Scale Intervals: W W H W W H W 

Lydian Scale Intervals:  W W W H W W H 

Phrygian Scale Intervals:  H W W W H W W 

Dorian Scale Intervals: W H W W W H W 

Ionian Scale Intervals:  W W H W W W H 


EF and BC are half steps.

The scales were originally modes etched in stone tablets around Ancient Greece. 

 The major modes are Ionian, Lydian and Mixolydian. C Ionian is the C major scale. The Lydian mode has a # 4th scale note. Mixolydian mode has a flatted 7th.

 The minor modes are called Aeolian, Dorian and Phrygian. Aeolian is the same as natural minor, flat 3rd, 6th and 7th. Dorian is the same as Aeolian except with flats on just the 3rd and 7th.