Why Certain Notes Are Used When Forming Guitar Chords


There is a reason why specific notes are used for creating chords on the guitar. This is called chord-embellishment theory.

What is a chord-embellishment?

This is the understanding of what notes are used in creating guitar chords. When learning guitar chords, there are certain notes that are chosen for this purpose and they are not chosen randomly. They are chosen for the purpose of sounding harmonically correct. Or in basic terms, notes that sound good when played together.

When you put certain notes together on any instrument whether it be guitar, piano, violin etc, they must be in harmony with each other or else they won’t sound good when played. This usually happens when a person is just starting out learning a song or certain piece of music and doesn’t quite have all the notes mastered.

Although once all the notes are mastered, the music sounds good to the ear and is pleasant to listen to. That is because all the notes are in harmony with each other. This is usually because these notes all come from the same musical key.

What is a musical key?

A musical key is a certain set of notes that reside at a certain pitch in the musical spectrum. They may be a set of notes that are up high or they may be a set of notes that are set low. Maybe even in the middle somewhere. Regardless of where they sit, they are all relative in one way or the other and that is why they sound good together.

This is considered playing “in key” and it is when all the notes in the piece of music sound good together. And for this to happen we must have a basic understanding of how this works. This is where the embellishment theory comes in.

So when it comes to playing guitar chords, you want to make sure you choose the correct notes.  Because if you don’t the chords won’t sound good when you form them.  They also won’t sound good when you play them with other chords either.  Make sure you fully understand the basics of why these notes are chosen to form the basic foundation.  Then you can proceed to extend the chords from there.

How chords are formed.

First, we start with the key that we’re are playing in.  Let’s say the key of C.

C D E F G A B C.  Now let’s say we give each note a number value.  1-8.  C being one D being two and so forth and so forth.

The most basic natural chord in music is the triad.  A chord that is made up of 3 notes.  Tri meaning three, ad meaning notes.  A three-note chord.  Out of the key of C, or any key for that matter, the numbers chosen for this triad are going to be the 1, 3 & 5 of the key. This is what’s known as guitar chord theory.

notes of the C chord

That means that the notes we would choose to make the C Major triad would be the C E & G.  Look at the notes in the above paragraph.  You can clearly see that the 1 3 & 5 are these notes.  And if you look at the C major chord forming it on your guitar and you know your notes (if you don’t I highly recommend you learn them) you can clearly see these notes in this chord.

Why do I need to learn chord theory?

Learning chord theory can help improve your guitar playing in many ways.  It can help you to understand how music works and why it works in harmony when certain notes of the key (any key) are put together to form guitar chords.  Actually chords in general no matter if you’re playing them on the guitar or piano.

Improving your guitar playing is what it’s all about.  By knowing your notes, you’ll be able to create additional chords as well.  Like minor chords (where you flatten the 3rd note by one fret) and 7 chords (where you add the 7th note of the chord, sometimes flattened seventh) and augmented or diminished triads.

By knowing this information, you’ll be able to switch between chords faster, add to your chord vocabulary and be able to express yourself much better in general.  By knowing what notes to add, move or take away you’ll be able to enhance your musical palette of emotion.  You’ll be able to see chords as colors.  And like colors, you’ll be able to create different shades.

Lesson conclusion.

Being able to fully understand what is needed when forming guitar chords is essential to forming, and alternating guitar chords.  This valuable skill will allow you to make leaps and bounds above the competition.  Most guitar players do not know this information.

So if you can take some time to study & wrap your brain around the concept that is being taught in this lesson, you will see very clearly how knowing this information can benefit you.  It can really help you to compose better songs and also to understand the inner workings of music theory.

And if you’d like a book on the topic, I recommend The Guitarist’s Music Theory Book.  This book will show you a lot more in depth what is being taught in this lesson and taken further down the path.

The Guitarist's Music Theory Book

The Guitarist’s Music Theory Book by Peter Vogl is the first music theory book designed for guitar by a guitarist. The book explains music theory as it applies to the guitar and covers intervals, scales, chords, chord progressions, and the Nashville Number System. You will also get online access to audio examples of all the music in the book and also an ear training section. The Music Theory Book was written to help all guitar players achieve a better understanding of the guitar and of the music they play.

If you need any additional help in this lesson, feel free to reach out.  That’s what I’m here for.  And be sure to sign up to my Email Guitar Club so you can receive great additional training tips di=elivered right to your inbox on a weekly basis.

Thanks again for reading and until next time, take care.

Dwayne.

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