easy guitar chords system


This FREE information is for those who might feel a bit stranded, and left wondering, where do I begin?

If you’re looking for the basic “scoop” about guitar chords, with no perplexing theoretical concepts to bog you down, this is your last stop.

I want this to be the quickest, easiest and most “oh, I get it!” introduction to guitar chords you’ll ever find.

Why this guitar chords system?

The concepts and ideas here are treated like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle; you’ll see how all the pieces snap together to build the big picture. That picture is all you need to start playing.

I like to use illustrations, photos, even cartoons to communicate ideas and concepts in a visual way. You will not have to slog through mounds of text here.

What’s offered here?

The goal is to provide the basic information you need, in a logical sequence, in an easy-to-understand, fun format.

Essentials include: which chords to know (and why); how to read your fretboard; how chords work in teams to make musical keys; and—especially—how only 9 chord positions automatically let you play over 100 major, minor and 7th chords, for every note of the musical alphabet, and for any of the musical keys.

Other topics and goodies are offered in the links, including: the anatomy of a guitar, which guitar to buy, guitar charts, popular songs (with lyrics and chords), etc.

I haven’t seen any system like this. I hope you find it helpful.

Ready to get started?


Learn guitar with these 9 chords

Actually, they are 9 chord positions; not chords (you’ll see why). And they don’t even have names. I’ll name them after their open-chord ‘parents’ in E, A, and D. But their names are entirely arbitrary. (Tom, Dick, Harriet…whatever!)

These 9 chord positions can be played anywhere on the fretboard. That’s because they contain no ‘open’ strings (strings you don’t press down on with a finger). This makes ‘closed’ chords self-contained.

They are free to be moved from one fret to another. With only these 9 positions, you can play more than 100 new chords. They take effort to learn, but they’re worth it. (More about their benefits later.)

All 9 positions generate new chords just by being moved on the fretboard. For example, the E Position, is an F chord on the 1st fret ; an F# chord on the 2nd fret; a G chord on the 3rd fret…and so on. Each position morphs itself.

This illustrates the point I made earlier: THE 9 POSITIONS ARE NOT CHORDS!

Each position is potentially many chords, depending on where it lands on the fretboard. So, our 9 positions must never be confused with chords.

Chords are not only identified by what note they represent (A, B, C, D, E, F, G), they are also identified by what group they belong to (major, minor, 7th, etc.).

Abbreviations and symbols are used like avatars to identify chords. You need to be aware of these in order to follow chord charts and song books.

Major, minor, and seventh chords really deserve special mention. They are the ‘work horses’ behind most of the music we all listen to. If music were a dinner, then major, minor, and seventh chords would be the meat and potatoes, while other chord groups, (aug, dim, etc.), would be the seasoning, enhancing the flavor. That’s not to say some chords are ‘better’ than others. Each chord has its place.

Fretboard Logic

Each of the 7 “natural” notes of the musical alphabet (A-G) has its own fret on the fretboard. The notes are arranged lengthwise along the neck, alphabetically, A to G, then they start over again, A to G, A to G…etc.

Some notes are spaced apart by an “empty” fret, while others are right beside each other.

Here’s the logic: Each note is spaced one fret apart except for B-C and E-F. I repeat: only B-C and E-F are right next to each other on the fretboard. All the other notes are spaced one fret apart. Ok? Remember that, and you can find any note on the fretboard.

Let me “fill” you in!

This strange term “empty” frets needs explaining. If none of the natural notes (A to G) reside in them …what notes do fill these empty frets? They’re called sharps (#) and flats (b). ***Mark! the “b” symbol should always be bold/italic)

What does “sharp” and “flat” mean?

A drunk karaoke singer—I guarantee—is singing either flat or sharp! “Flat” meaning lower than the note; “sharp” meaning higher than the note. Another example is the Doppler effect: we’re all aware that a train horn sounds high pitched as it approaches us, but after it passes by, the horn’s pitch suddenly drops and sounds lower.

These examples of “sharp” and “flat” relate to our notorious empty frets. Look at the empty fret between notes A and B. Both notes have a legitimate claim to this fret; they share it equally. So who owns it?

What to name this mysterious fret?

The fact that this empty fret is between A and B, means that it is one fret higher up the fretboard than the A. That, of course, makes it a higher note than A—so it is A sharp (A#). Naturally, the same reasoning applies to B, except the empty fret is one fret lower down the fretboard from B. And that makes the empty fret a lower note than B—so the empty fret is B flat (Bb).

“Bye bye emptiness!”

Hello sharps and flats! Each so-called empty fret contains a note that is either sharp(#) or flat(¥). But how do we know what to call this note: “#” or “¥”? In music theory it hinges on what key you are in. But for our humble purposes, it doesn’t matter.

A simple exercise

  1. Start by naming the 6th open string (that’s the thickest one) and then move up your fretboard, fret by fret, naming each note. You can name the empty frets “sharp” since each note is getting higher as you go up the fretboard.
  2. Once you have reached the 12th fret, start over again at the 5th open string and repeat your fretful journey up the fretboard, naming each fret until you reach the 12th fret. Continue on to the next string, and so on.

Proof you named them correctly

Once you arrive at the 12th fret of the string that you are working on, the note on that fret should be identical to the note of your open string—except one octave higher. Example: the note on the 12th fret of your E string, should also be E, except one octave higher.

(Here’s why it’s important to locate the notes on your fretboard.)

What is a root?

As you know, the 9 positions can make over 100 chords. But how will you know the names of all these chords? Easy.

There is a ‘note’ in each of the nine positions, the root, that identifies exactly what chord you are playing!

The root is a permanent fixture in all of the 9 positions. Its location never changes. It resides under one of your four chording fingers, on a specific string on the fretboard. Of course, the root ‘note’ in a position can be any note, depending on where the position is played on the fretboard. Whatever note a root lands on, that is the note of the chord you are playing!

Example: if the root of a 7th position lands on a C note, then you are playing a C7 chord. If the root in a minor position lands on a D# note, then you are playing a D#m chord. This is very useful!

I must show you my nifty trick. I use it all the time. It works for all songs created in a “major” 3-chord progression—that’s a lot of songs! By repeating 3 chords, songwriters have created huge hits, including classics like: Twist and Shout, Brown Eyed Girl, Gloria, Louie Louie, Mr. Tambourine Man, Satisfaction, Wild Thing, Lay Down Sally, Houndog, and zillions of contemporary hit songs.

The trick is to find the elusive 3-chord progression in such songs. Well, I discovered that a 3-chord progression can be visualized as a simple shape on your fretboard. This shape instantly reveals the song’s key, which reveals the song’s chords! The shape looks like this: ¥. I call it the “L-shape”. It is a powerful tool you can use to quickly identify the elusive key and the chords, to thousands of songs. It’s really easy. And no music theory required!

Suppose you want to learn a song in your playlist, but don’t know what key it’s in. Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Listen for the key

This is the fun part. Listen to the song carefully and you will notice there is one note that is the dominant. It’s the note that all the other notes (or chords) seem to return to, or revolve around. It’s there…just listen for it. Technically, that note is called the tonic. But we’ll call it the root because it acts like a root note in the 9 chord positions

Step 2: Look at L-shape

Once you hear this note, use your ear to locate it on your fretboard. Now just place the L with its root directly over the note on your fretboard. Voila! The L-shape instantly reveals the chords in your song—and the key! It’s so easy to find the chords in a 3-chord progression, it’s ridiculous!

Find the chords to this song:

Step 1: Sing this song to yourself and listen carefully for the note that all the other notes return to. (Make sure nobody is listening or they may think you’re a bit nuts.)
Find it? Yup, it’s in the first word, ‘Twinkle’, and in the last word ‘are’. They’re the same note; that’s the root—the key to the song!

Step 2: Now use your ear to find this note on your fretboard. (Avoid the G string.) Let’s say this note turns out to be A. (Making A the key to the song.)

Lay the short end of the L over the A note on the fretboard….There! The L reveals the other two chords—they are D and E!

Now that we know that our “Twinkle, Twinkle” song is in the key of A, all we need is a position to start off the 3-chord progression.
Let’s pick the E position. Remember how to turn the E position into an A chord!

  1. Locate E position’s root note (it’s on the 1st string).
  2. Find A (the song’s key) on 1st string. (It’s on the 5th fret).
  3. Place E position on 5th fret. There’s your A chord!

So far, we’ve focused on the L-shape, and how it reveals the root to a 3-chord progression song and its chords. Well, we have 3 more patterns to help us! No matter which chord position you choose (E, A, or D) for a song’s root (the key), there is a simple pattern that the other 2 chord positions always follow! So you really want to remember these 3 simple patterns.

Shortcuts to the 9

Here are “trimmed down” versions of the 9 positions. These shortcuts are not “cheating”. They are all legitimate chord positions in their own right. They have been used to create famous guitar solos like the one at the beginning of Brown Eyed Girl (which uses the easiest versions of four positions shown here).

One benefit of practicing these simpler fingering positions is that they ease you into mastering the more challenging, full-version positions.

How to practice

Science has unlocked the physiology of practice. Only 15 minutes or so is all your brain needs to start building neuron pathways that make the task easy to perform. So it is counter productive to continue to practice for long periods at a time!

Root Notes

This chart shows all of the root notes in each 9 position. (Remember: root notes indicate the note of the chord, depending on where it is played on the fretboard.

Example: If you play an E position on the 3rd fret, the root note is on G; so you are playing a G chord.

Refresher on Open and Closed Chords

You recall that open chords, unlike closed chords, must always be played in one location on the fretboard. They cannot be played anywhere else, because they contain one or more open strings. Regardless, you’ll find these chords much easier to play. But it’s not a contest. Open chords and closed chords are equally important. You do need both. Of course, there are many more chords that you will want to explore as you gain proficiency and confidence. (See my links for more chords and helpful tips.)

that with only 9 chord positions, you can play any major chord, any minor chord and any seventh (7th) chord, anywhere on your fretboard. That’s more than 100 chords!

how to read chord diagrams and tell which strings are open and which not to play, and the various symbols and abbreviations used to identify chords.

how notes on your “two” fretboards are organized, and how to locate any note—natural, sharp or flat.

where each root-note is located within the 9 position chords and how to align it with the same note on the fretboard to create any major, minor and seventh chord for that note.

how to listen to a song in order to find its root. This allows you to identify the song’s key and its chords.

how to use the L-shape to quickly identify the key to a song right on your fretboard.

how the L-shape reveals which chords to play in a 3-chord progression.

how a rotating pattern (A-E-D) tells you the other 2 position chords you need to play a 3-chord song.

all the above—which is more than many good guitarists…and you did it without studying any complicated music theory!

My Chords System    Chord Charts    Progressions    Your 1st Guitar    Guitar Anatomy    Tuning Tips    Songs