Changing just one note of a chord can have dramatic results.
In my development as a guitar player, this little fact was a huge eye-opener for me. Or, should I say ear-opener?
The impact of one note on the tone of a chord was never more apparent to me than the stark contrast major and minor chords.
Basic Chord Construction
We’ve covered basic chord construction on BGI before. If you’d like to get up to speed on this, I really recommend checking out 2 Tuesday Blues lessons from the archives. They’ll come in real handy in this discussion.
As a quick recap of those lessons, we learned that it only takes three notes to play a chord. The 1st, 3rd and 5th degree of a scale can be played together to form a basic major triad (we write the chord formula as: 1 – 3 – 5). If you change the order of the notes, you’ll have an inversion.
A basic understanding of triads and inversions will help you see that an A chord can be found in a variety of places on the neck, not just the cowboy chord and the barre chord.
But what happens if you change the chord formula? If you change the scale degrees?
Minor Chord Construction
If you change the chord formula from 1 – 3 – 5 to anything else, you no longer have a major chord. In fact, one simple tweak to this formula will have you playing a minor chord.
The Minor Chord Formula: 1 – b3 – 5
(that’s the 1st, flat 3rd and 5th degree)
By flattening the 3rd of the chord, you get a minor chord. Flattening just means to lower the pitch of a note by a half-step or one fret on the guitar.
Cool thing is, you can apply what we learned about major chord inversions to this basic minor chord construction. If you play the notes like this: b3 – 5 – 1, you’ll have the 1st inversion. Like this, 5 – 1 – b3 and you have the 2nd inversion.
Pretty cool right?
Check out the TAB for this lesson to get a minor triad chord drill to help you get used to the sound of minor chords and there fingerings on the neck.
I hope this chord theory lesson really helps you see that chords are all over the neck. Pretty handy to be able to play a given minor chord in just about any position on the neck.
Oh and by the way, if you’re into lead playing, this will change your life! Nothing opened up the fretboard for me like learning basic chords and their inversions up the neck.