25. Get Many Chords For The Price Of One!

One thing I like to address right away is a student playing a barre chord that they cannot easily move about the neck. Specifically, I mean they often can’t identify the different chords they make when moving a barre chord from fret to fret.

For example, many students know how to play a B minor chord in 2nd position:








Yet, if asked to play a C minor chord, are baffled. Yet, if we compare, we see this:










A close look easily reveals they are the same chord, only in the case of C minor, the barre is on the 3rd fret instead of the 2nd.  Of course, we should realize these 2 chords are both originally derived from the common chord A minor:








This chord is simply moved up the neck, with the first finger barring and fingers 2-3-4 doing the work that 1-2-3 are in the A minor chord above.

IMPORTANTLY, the root (bass note) of A minor is on the 5th string:










This means every time this chord is moved up the neck, it will ALWAYS be a minor chord, but the root note will change.  In this case, knowing the names of the notes along the 5th string means you can name (and play!) ALL the chords of the same type up the neck.


It may be helpful to think of it this way—assume each chord has a first and last name, as people do. Think of each type of barre chord as having the same last name, no matter where it is played along the neck. In the examples above, the ‘last name’ of the chord is minor. Whether it is B minor, C minor, D minor or any other simply depends on where the bar is placed.

Learn your notes along the string that is the root (bass note) of the chord!

Again, in the above examples, the root is always at the 5th string, so the name of the minor chord depends on the placement of the bar. When the root is on the 6th string, the same applies. The chord F major is nothing more than E major moved up one fret:











Of the common open position chords (C, A, G, E and D), only A and E (and their related chord shapes like em, A7 etc) are commonly moved up the neck as barre chords. So even if you haven’t learned the entire fretboard (even good players often haven’t), try to learn some of the notes along the 5th and 6th strings to guide you in the naming of these chords. Below is a diagram to help. Remember, there is NO NOTE between B-C and E-F. All others have a note in between, such as A and B (A# or Bb). In this diagram I have listed these notes as sharp (#) only, but all have 2 names—G#=Ab, D#=Eb, etc.







©2012 Jim Greenfield