Everyone knows how to play an Amajor chord. At this point, you should probably be able to play the A major chord three ways - the open Amajor chord, and the two barre chord shapes (one with a root on sixth string, and one with root on fifth string). If you remember all three shapes, then that's terrific! But I've got news for you - there are many more ways to play Amajor, or any other major chord. In this lesson, we're just going to scratch the surface, and learn three new major chord shapes.
A Bit About Major Chords
Before we dive in, we should briefly explore what exactly a major chord is. Any major chord you have ever, or will ever play, contains only three different notes. Anymore, and it becomes something else (like a major7 chord, or a major6 chord, etc.) Now, there are obviously a lot of times when more than three notes are strummed, an open Gmajor chord uses all six strings, for example. If you check each of the notes in that Gmajor chord, however, you'll find that there are only three different notes played. The remaining three strings played are merely repeated notes. The major chords we will explore today leave out any such repeated notes, so only three strings played in each chord.
6th, 5th, and 4th String Group Major Chords
The first step in playing these three chord shapes will be to find the root note of the major chord you want to play on the sixth string (eg. if you wanted to play A major, the root is on the sixth string, fifth fret). Then, play the first chord voicing above, making sure the root of the chord (marked above in red) is on the root of the chord you're trying to play. You'll probably want to finger the first chord above as follows: fourth finger on 6th string, third finger on 5th string, and first finger on 4th string. This is referred to as a "root position" major chord, because the root note is the lowest note sounding in the chord.
There are two ways to figure out how to play the next chord illustrated above. The first would be to find the root note on the 4th string, and to form the chord shape around that. If you're not too familiar with the note names on the 4th string, however, you may find this difficult. Alternately, try the following: from the note you just played on the 6th string, count up four frets. This will be the starting note for the next chord shape. Plunk your fingers down (I might suggest third playing the note on the 6th string, and the first finger barring the 5th and 4th strings), and you have another way to play a major chord. This type of chord is referred to as a "first inversion" major chord, since the root note is no longer on the bottom. Try moving back and forth between the root position and first inversion chord. Eventually, you will get a feel for how far the distance between the two are, and will be able to move from voicing to voicing without counting frets.
To play the last major chord voicing above, you again have two options. You can find the root note on the 5th string, and form the chord around that note. Alternately, you can count up three frets on the 6th string from the last chord you played, and start the new voicing on that fret (third finger on 6th string, second finger on 5th string, first finger on 4th string). This third major chord is referred to as a "second inversion" major chord. If you would like to bring these voicings full-circle, count up five frets on the sixth string, and play the root position chord again. Once you've memorized these chord shapes, try moving back and forth between all three chord voicings for the major chord you've chosen. They should all sound similar; all three chords shapes above contain the exact same three notes. In each voicing, these three notes are just arranged in a different order.
5th, 4th, and 3rd String Group Major Chords
If you take a quick look at the above diagrams, you'll notice they are exactly the same shapes as the previous chords formed on the 6th, 5th, and 4th strings. So, follow the above rules for these chord shapes, and you'll have learned three more ways to play a major chord.
Once you're comfortable with the above chords on string groups 6, 5, 4 and 5, 4, 3, try using these same shapes to play different major chords (eg. F, Bb, E, etc.)
Example: To play an Amajor chord using the above 6th, 5th, and 4th string voicings, the root position chord starts on the 5th fret of the 6th string. The first inversion chord starts on the 9th fret of the 6th string. And the second inversion chord starts on the 12th fret of the 6th string.
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