How many Guitar Chords are there?

If you are a guitar enthusiast, then you may be aware of a couple of guitar chords. However, if you are a beginner and you are wondering how many guitar chords are available and which ones you should learn, then you are in the right place.

As one who has had engagements with guitars and related lessons, I will be guiding you in this article, the number of chords you may expect, and which ones to learn first as you proceed.

First, you should know that a guitar chord is a set of simultaneously played notes, although sometimes they can be played in sequence. Trying to derive the number of guitar chords could be misleading as there are almost infinite possibilities of chord formation.

We can come up with a set of guitar chords when we focus on two main points of approach;

  • When we consider standard tuning as a method of chord formation
  • When we consider chord positioning on the fretboard.

Well, in either case, the number of chords that can be formed is close to infinite.

Let’s have a look into some chords which you may find helpful in your learning progress.

Triads

Triads include both the major and the minor chords. Their distinct notes identify them; the root, the third and the fifth. 

The third is above the root and can either be a major or a minor chord, depending on whether it’s on a major third or a minor third.

The fifth is perfectly fifth above the root and can also be identified as a minor or major, third above major and minor third consequently.

Basically, when referring to chord C major with regard to the major scale, the root, third and fifth notes are C, E, and G. Also, for C minor on a minor scale, the root, third and fifth are C, Eb and G. The scale length will make a difference.

Both the two sets of triad chords, major and minor, form the backbone in musical chords, thus commonly used. Therefore, you should strive to learn them first as a beginner before you venture into deeper and more complicated chords.

The major and minor triad chords are also accompanied by other types of triads:

  • Augmented triad
  • Diminished triad

Augmented tried includes the root, major third but has a twist in the end; the augmented 5th. Thus C, E, G#. 

The diminished triad also constitutes the root, minor 3rd, and a slight change at the end; the diminished 5th. Hence, C, Eb, Gb.

However, if you are a beginner, learning these two types of triads may not be of much importance as they are not commonly used like the major and the minor chords.

7th Chords

If you add a 7th interval to a triad, you form a 7th Chord which exists either as Major or Minor 7th; Cmaj7, Cmin7 or C7; dominant 7th. 

It would help if you equipped yourself with the knowledge on these chords, as you are more likely to encounter them when learning.

The other 7th chord you should learn is a half-diminished chord referred to as the b5, minor seven chords.

Learning this chord will be efficient if you are advancing your guitar skills, especially when you are at the intermediate level. 

Major 7 and diminished 7th are also an example of 7th chords, which are hardly used in a musical context. Don’t exhaust yourself trying to master them as you may end up not realizing their benefit in the long run.

Extended Chords

These chords are mostly used for jazz, thus referred to as jazz chords. 

You form extended chords by stacking 9th, 11th and 13th chords above the 7th. The commonly known ones are the minor, major and dominant, which are stacked further.

Extended chords are also available in different variations. They are created by making alterations to notes. However, further alterations will lead to the formation of altered chords, which is a different type of chord altogether.   

Altered Chords

Altered chords are formed when 5th or 9th notes have been raised or lowered on either end of the extended chords, or sometimes both.

The common altered chords are;

  • Neapolitan 6th 
  • C7(#5)
  • C9(#11)

As you have noted with the extended chords, altered chords are also mainly used for jazz music. You may not need them if you are not a jazz enthusiast. 

Slash Chords

In most cases, the C note is used as the root note. However, in some cases, you may introduce a different lowest note to play with C major. For instance, the chord C/G will illustrate that you should be playing C major chord but using G as the root note instead of C.

Finally

There are numerous guitar chords that you can learn and improve your playing skills. You should identify the type of musical context you want to focus on to find the right combination of guitar chords you should learn. 

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