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GMC Forum _ THEORY _ How To Identify Chords

Posted by: The Professor Oct 22 2013, 03:09 PM

One of the big questions I've been getting lately is about looking at a chord shape or a group of notes and then figuring out what the chord name is from there.

To help with this, here are two steps that I take whenever I have a chord that I can't figure out right away and need to break things down.

Step 1

Write out the notes of the chord in alphabetical order from the lowest note on the guitar as the starting note.

So, if you have the chord x20031, which is B D G D F, you would spell that as:


As that is the same notes, but in order from the lowest notes.

If you can't recognize the chord from there, you can take one more step as you can see next.

Step 2

The second step would be to write out the notes in order, but not have any consecutive notes, such as the F and G in the first spelling, B D F G.

If you do that, you get G B D F, which when you look at it is a G7 chord.

So, the original chord would be G7/B, or an inversion of G7 with the 3rd in the bass.

These steps won't solve all your chord identity problems, but they will help you figure out a lot of chords that you are having trouble identifying on the fretboard.

Do you have a chord you haven't been able to name and it's driving you nuts? Post your shapes/notes below and we'll work it out together.

Posted by: PosterBoy Oct 24 2013, 04:53 PM

I would normally start looking for 3rd and minor 3 intervals between notes to start off with.

Posted by: SeeJay May 5 2014, 12:11 AM

Great information.

It takes a while to develop that ear to be able to pick stuff like this out.

For me, hearing those chords (Major vs Minor, Diminished, 7th vs Major7th, etc) over and over helped me learn to recognize the tensions they create. I think once you are able to pick apart those tensions, it helps you discover what chords you're working with.

I work with a buddy who I play with and swap charts with, and everytime there's a chord with the root in a different place, he can't figure it out. If its a C with the root on the E he puts Em. He asked me to help him figure those kind of chords out. I told him, "listen to some Elton John".

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