How to Read Chord Blocks (Chords Primer)

  • Chord is a set of 3 or more notes played simultaneously that sound harmonious.
  • The Chord Block represents the guitar standing vertically with the Headstock on top.  Chord Block Vertical Lines represent the 6 Guitar Strings numbered from Left to Right 6 to 1 (thick to thin). The Black Dots represent fingers and the Numbers state which fingers are used to form the chord.  The Horizontal Lines represent the Guitar FretsX on a string means do not play that string when playing or strumming the chord.
  • Click on Pictures throughout this page to enlarge.

Chord Block Example 1 (C Major)

Chord Block Example 2 (E Major)

Fretboard Examples of C and E Major Chords

Tab Representation of Chords

  • Chords can be expressed as stacked fret numbers in Tab.  Stacked Numbers in Tab show which Frets are fretted and which strings are being strum.  Tab does not show which fingers are used on which Frets.

Common Guitar Chord Shape Examples

Open Chord – An Open Chord is a Chord that has one or more strings played open while other strings are fretted.  Open Chords are often the most widely used chords in modern popular guitar music.  The A Major Chord is an example of an Open Chord.  

A Major Notation Examples

"Open" A Major Fingering

Minor Barre Chord – also known as a Bar Chord, and sometimes Barr Chord.  Minor Barre Chords are Moveable Chords, meaning you can move the chord shape up and down the fretboard.  The B minor Barre Chord example has the Root Note on String 5.  By moving this chord shape up and down the fretboard, you change the Chord to it’s Root Note Name.  For Example, if you move the entire Chord up 1 Fret (the 3rd fret is played by your 1st finger) you will be playing a C Minor Barre Chord because the 3rd Fret of the 5th String is a C Note.   The Fingering Pictures show the First FInger on the 6th String even though that string is not played.

B Minor Barre Notation Examples

CHORDS VIDEO

Major Barre Chord – A Major Barre Chord is a Moveable Chord.  The F# Major Chord example has the Root Note on String 6.  Moving the chord shape up or down the neck changes the chord to another Major Chord.  For example, if you move the entire chord where the root note is on Fret 3, you are playing a G Major Chord, if you move the entire chord down to Fret 1 you are playing a F Major chord.

F# Major Barre Chord Notation Examples

F# Major Barre Chord Fingering

The B Power Chord (labeled B5) is a chord specifically used by Guitarists. Power Chords are moveable chords.  The Root Note for the B5 chord is a B Note (2nd Fret String 5), therefore if you move this chord shape up 1 Fret you will be playing a C5 Power Chord (1st Finger 3rd Fret 5th String Root Note). Many popular Rock and Pop songs are made up primarily of Power Chords only.  These chords are popular with electric guitars with heavy distortion and or overdrive effects.

B Power Chord (B5) Notation Examples

B Power Chord Fingering

The F# minor Barre Chord is a Moveable Chord where the Root Note is on the 6th String.  (F# minor Barre, the Root Note is the F# on the 2nd Fret String 6).   Moving this chord shape up and down the neck will change it’s Root Note Name.   For example, moving the entire Chord Shape down 1 Fret (1st Finger 1st Fret String 6 is an F Note) the Chord becomes F minor Barre.

F# minor Barre Chord Notation Examples

F# minor Barre Chord Fingering

F# (Sharp) Power Chord (F#5) is an example of a Movable Power Chord with the Root Note on the 6th String.  As with all moveable chords, by moving this chord shape up or down the fretboard will change the Root Note changing the chord name to (letter)5.  For example, by moving the chord shape to the 1st Fret (1st Finger, 1st Fret String 6 is F Note) the Chord becomes F5.  

F# Power Chord Notation Examples

F# Power Chord Fingering