Guitar Lesson 4 – Learn Guitar Chords – The Structure

Greetings, World! happy to see you. After knowing intervals, it’s right time to build guitar chords. Intervals are like bricks that build chords and scales. Knowing the structure will help you understand them and name them and even build your own.

Why is it important to name chords? It’s very important, because how can you play them if you don’t know how they are called…? Naming will not just make your music theory stronger, but also will help in building new ones and understand the lead melody (which ones are used in the key).

This article will not cover materials for beginner, because there’re lot of resources on the internet which show how, for example C; Dm; A; E – the basic chords look like. This article is dedicated to the structure (for building). This article is about intervals and chords. If you haven’t red our article about guitar intervals structure, then you should start with that first. It’s highly recommended to understand first steps in learning guitar basics and only then moving to next step.

Today we’ll cover:

  • How to build chords;
  • How to learn the guitar chords structure;
  • Why it’s so important to understand the structure.

Ok, let’s begin. Today I’ll cover the basic steps how to easily understand this (I understand it this way). I’ll try to do that as easy as possible. Let’s start! This group is called Thirds (built from 3 basic notes).

Major guitar chords structure

As an example we’ll take C major chord and build it from 6th (E), 5th (A), and 4th (D) strings. Building from these strings open new ways of thinking.

This is basic C major. (play it!)

C major on A string 3rd fret. It’s very popular which is used in millions of songs from simple home ones to World-class hits such as “Wind of Change” by Scorpions. Let’s review the structure.

Major is built from two intervals: Third + Minor Third

(Third + minor third only! Doing this vice versa will build minor!!!)

The formula is: 1 – 3 – 5

C major is built from C note, E note and G note. Try to see third (C + E) and fifth (C + G) and remember them! After some time it will help you see faster any drop and name it with no effort. If here you don’t understand why formula is from thirds and somehow there appears fifth interval, then fifth is C + G note.

Ok, let’s build the same major on E string 8th fret. Here’s is it:

It’s build from the same: Third + Minor Third

Formula is the same: 1 – 3 – 5

The same C note, E note and G note (other notes are added for fuller sound).

Once again, try to see thirds and fifths. It’s very important to see them. After some time knowing the structure will help you build any chords and arpeggios easily on the whole fretboard which will open new ideas in guitar improvisation.

The last but not least let’s build C major on D string from 10th fret. Here how it looks like:

It’s the same formula: 1 – 3 – 5

Built from: Third + Minor Third

Play it and hear how it sounds. Bright, isn’t it? Try to see thirds and fifths. Try to remember the structure.

(Tip: if you add D note – 10th fret on high E string, then it will be C non-chord).

You can build your own guitar major chords based on the formula. It’s pure Math. Simple!

Minor guitar chords structure

We’ll take C minor as an example and built it from 4th (D), 5th (A) and 6th (E) strings. This is the basic C minor from A string 3rd fret that is used in simple songs and also in World-class hits by famous bands.

It’s built from: Minor third + third

The formula is: 1 – 3b – 5

This is basic guitar minor chord structure from A string. It’s used to play any minor from A string. Try to remember minor third and fifth intervals. It’s build from C, Em and G notes.

Here’s the C minor from E string starting on 8th fret. First finger presses all strings. Playing only 3 strings is the basic structure of power chord that is used for rhythm playing. Once again try to see and remember thirds and fifths. I know it’s tough, but you must force yourself doing that.

The same formula and the same drops.

And lastly, this is the minor chord from D string 10th fret. Here it is:

The same formula, the same note distances: 1 – 3b – 5

Play that chord and listen how it sounds. Try to remember, because that way your opening new thinking ways in your mind.

Ok, that was some kind of guitar theory for today. Yes it’s tough, but that is how I understand the structure and I think it’s easy. This helps me in understanding how to build more complicated chords like add9, add11 and even add13. Everything starts from simple steps. Start with basics and then move forward!

For today’s lesson let’s point out what we have done:

  • We’ve gone thru learn guitar chords structure;
  • Used intervals to build chords;
  • Built them form various guitar strings;
  • Pointed out why it’s important!

I use to say that learning theory is like a “hammer hit right to the head”. But learning anything is always the hard way. After some time it all will digest in your head all this stuff will fly out automatically. You’ll notice how brilliant ideas come from nowhere.


Know knowing the structure how to build guitar chords it’s time to review and learn guitar pentatonics and use them in further playing.

Keep it touch!

Guitar Lesson 4 – Learn Guitar Chords – The Structure
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