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 simply inflict mental anguish upon yourself.  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.

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 sing along with lyrics here! 


Without further delay, here are the notes, the alphabet for music, that most of the world uses. Why not just go up to L? Nobody knows!

A, A# (Bb), B, C, C# (Db), D, D# (Eb), E, F, F# (Gb), G, G# (Fb).

The rest of this is for guitarists. If you want to play piano, go here!


Intro | the beginning of a song, usually instrumental

Verse | changing lyrics tell the story

Chorus | repeated lyrics and beat

Refrain | a verse mirroring a chorus, with the same line at the end of each phrase

Interlude | a rest in the lyrics, but not the music

Bridge | a change in the lyrics and music, a passage to the next part of the song

Elision | a section of song with two overlapping song structures (i.e. lyrics of the chorus over the intro)

Outro (Coda) | the end of a song, usually instrumental


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

Heartwood Guitar | Chord charts (free)

Songsterr | Tabs (free)

Jellynote | Sheet music (free after signing up)


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!

Major Chords with sheet music and tabs.

A Major Triads

B Major Triads

C Major Triads

D Major Triads

E Major Triads

F Major Triads

G Major Triads

Major Chart Chart Guides

A:       002220

B:       x24442

C:       032010

D:       000232

E:       022100

F:       133211

F#:      244322

G:       320001

Movable Chord Shapes

A: 002220

A: 577655

A: xx2225

A: 542225

A: xxx655

A: xxx 9(10)9



Put your chord skills to use!

Minor  Chords

Minor Triads with tabs and sheet music.









Minor Chord Chart Guides

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

Power Chords

Otherwise known as 5 chords. Here are the basics.

A5: 577xxx

B5: x244xx

C5: x355xx

D5: x577xx

E5: x799xx

F5: 133xxx

G5: 355xxx

Nashville G: 3×0033

And here are the treble power chords.

A5: xxx255

B5: xxx477

C5: xxxx13

D5: xxxx35

E5: xxxx57

F5: xxxx68

G5: xxx033


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 | xxx230

Bsus4 & Esus2  799977 | 779977 | xxx452

Csus4 & Fsus2  xx3563 | xxx011 | xxx563

Dsus4 & Fsus2  xx5785 | xxx233 | xxx785

Esus4 & Asus2  022200 | xxx344 | xxx9(10)7

Fsus4 & Bbsus2 113311 | xxx566 | xxx311

Gsus4 & Csus2  355533 | xxx788 | xxx533


Asus2sus4: x00200

Bsus2sus4: x22422

Csus2sus4: x33033

Dsus2sus4: x55755

Esus2sus4: 002202

Fsus2sus4: 113313

Gsus2sus4: 300013


Asus2b5: xx7447

Bsus2b5: x2342x

Csus2b5: x3453x

Dsus2b5: x5675x

Esus2b5: x7897x

Fsus2b5: 123003

Gsus2b5: xx5225


Devil’s Interval

Dominant Flat 5 Chords 

A flat5: 567xxx | x678xx

B flat5: 123xxx | x234xx

C flat5: x345xx | xxx012

D flat5: 456xxx | xxx234

E flat5: 678xxx | xxx456

F flat5: x234xx | xxx567

G flat5: xxx789 | xx568x


Major Flat 5 Chords

AMb5: x0233x

BMb5: x2344x

CMb5: x3455x

DMb5: x5677x

EMb5: x7899x

FMb5: xx3465

GMb5: xx5423

Diminished Chords

Adim: x0121x

Bdim: xxx431

Cdim: xxx542

Ddim: xxx764

Edim: xxx986

Fdim:  xx3101

Gdim: 3453xx


Add9 Chords

Major Add9 Chords. Also notated in the style A9, B9, C9, etc…

Aadd9: xx7657

Badd9: xx9879

Cadd9: x32030

Dadd9: x2142x

Eadd9: 022102

Fadd9: xx3213

Gadd9: xx5435

6 Chords

A6: xx7979 | xx2222 | x02222

B6: x24444 | xx4444

C6: x35555 | xx5555

D6: x57777 | xx7777 

Eb6:x68888 | xx8888

E6: x79999 | xx9999 

F6: xx3535 | xx3231

G6: xx5757 | xx0000

Minor 6 add9 Chords 

Am6add9: xx7577

Bm6add9: xx9799

Cm6add9: x3123x

Dm6add9: x5345x

Em6add9: 022022

Fm6add9: xx3133

Gm6add9: xx5355

6th Flat 5 Chords 

A6b5: xx7879

B6b5: x23444

C6b5: x34555

D6b5: x56777

E6b5: x78999

F6b5: xx3435

G6b5: xx5657


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 | x57778

E7: 020100

F7: 131211 

G7: 320001 

7 Flat 5 Chords

A7b5: xx6778

B7b5: x23245

C7b5: x34356

D7b5: xx0112

E7b5: 010130

F7b5: xx3445

G7b5: xx5667

7 Sus2 Chords

A7sus2: x02000

B7sus2: x24222

C7sus2: x30333

D7sus2: x57555

E7sus2: x79777

F7sus2: xx3543

G7sus2: 303033

7 Sus4 Chords

A7sus4: x00030

B7sus4: x24252

C7sus4: x35363

D7sus4: xx0013

E7sus4: 020200

F7sus4: 111311

G7sus4: 330011

(alternatives ways of playing the same chords)

A7Sus4: 575755

B7Sus4: 797977

C7Sus4: x35363

D7Sus4: x57585

E7Sus4: 020200

F7Sus4: 131311

G7Sus4: 363633


Major 7 Chords


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


9 Chords

Dominant  9 Chords

A9: x4545x

B9: x2122x

C9: x32333

D9: x54555

E9: x76777

F9: x87888 

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

Dominant 9 Sus4 Chords

A9sus4: 555787

B9sus4: x22225

C9sus4: x33336  

D9sus4: x55558  

E9sus4: 000202

F9sus4: 111343

G9sus4: 333565

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

Dominant 11 Chords

A11: 000000

B11: 222222

C11: 333333

D11: 555555

E11: 777777

F11: 888888

G11: 3x321x

Major 11 Chords

AM11: 5467xx

BM11: x21300

CM11: x32001

DM11: x54223

EM11: x76445

FM11: x87966

GM11: 320012

Major Sharp 11 Chords

AM#11: 546444

BM#11: 768666

CM#11: x32002

DM#11: x54654

EM#11: x76876

FM#11: 102000

GM#11: 320022

Minor 11 Chords

Am11: 5x553x

Bm11: 220220

Cm11: 8x886x

Dm11: xx3533

Em11: 000002

Fm11: xx6866

Gm11: 313311

13 Chords

A13: xx5775

B13: x97897

C13: 655555

D13: 030202

E13: 020120

F13: 101333

G13: 100000

Major 13 Chords

AM13: x02122

BM13: 768696

CM13: x32455

DM13: x54677

EM13: 021122

FM13: 102030

GM13: 324555

Minor 13 Chords

Am13: 575575

Bm13: 797797

Cm13: x35345

Dm13: x57567

Em13: 020020

Fm13: 131131

Gm13: 353353

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:  x5456x

G7/#9:  3233xx



Chords good for reggae.

Major inversions.

A: xxx655 

B: xxx442

C: xxx553

D: xxx775

E: xxx997

F: xxx211

G: xxx787 

Minor inversions.

Am: xxx555 

Bm: xxx432

Cm: xxx543

Dm: xxx765

Em: xxx987

Fm: xxx111

Gm: xxx333

7th Inversions

A7: xx2223

B7: xx4445

C7: xx5556

D7: xx7778

E7: xx0100

F7: xx1211

G7: xx3433



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. Remember your band will have to follow suit so you are all in tune with each other.

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


The Croz Tuning: 


Remember: you can create any tuning by tuning to the notes of the chord.

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.


Modes & Scales

A Aeolian Mode

B Locrian Mode

Em Pentatonic Scale

F Lydian Modes



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. 


Sources: Acoustic Guitar, Berklee, Complete Song Guide, Conifer GuitarHeartwood GuitarJguitar , Jamplay , Jellynote , Gootar , Songsterr