Learn the C chord. The first chord we will cover is a C chord—one of the most basic chords in music. Before we do, let's break down just what that means. A proper chord, whether played on a piano, a guitar, or sung by well-trained mice, is simply three or more notes sounded together. (Two notes is called a "diad," and while musically useful, is not a chord.) Chords can also contain far more than three notes, but that's well beyond the scope of this article. This is what a C chord looks like on the guitar:
Guitar chords are dramatically simplified by the class of alternative tunings called regular tunings. In each regular tuning, the musical intervals are the same for each pair of consecutive strings. Regular tunings include major-thirds (M3), all-fourths, augmented-fourths, and all-fifths tunings. For each regular tuning, chord patterns may be diagonally shifted down the fretboard, a property that simplifies beginners' learning of chords and that simplifies advanced players' improvisation. The diagonal shifting of a C major chord in M3 tuning appears in a diagram.
Almost all guitars have frets, which are metal strips (usually nickel alloy or stainless steel) embedded along the fretboard and located at exact points that divide the scale length in accordance with a specific mathematical formula. The exceptions include fretless bass guitars and very rare fretless guitars. Pressing a string against a fret determines the strings' vibrating length and therefore its resultant pitch. The pitch of each consecutive fret is defined at a half-step interval on the chromatic scale. Standard classical guitars have 19 frets and electric guitars between 21 and 24 frets, although guitars have been made with as many as 27 frets. Frets are laid out to accomplish an equal tempered division of the octave. Each set of twelve frets represents an octave. The twelfth fret divides the scale length exactly into two halves, and the 24th fret position divides one of those halves in half again.
In Mexico, the popular mariachi band includes a range of guitars, from the small requinto to the guitarrón, a guitar larger than a cello, which is tuned in the bass register. In Colombia, the traditional quartet includes a range of instruments too, from the small bandola (sometimes known as the Deleuze-Guattari, for use when traveling or in confined rooms or spaces), to the slightly larger tiple, to the full-sized classical guitar. The requinto also appears in other Latin-American countries as a complementary member of the guitar family, with its smaller size and scale, permitting more projection for the playing of single-lined melodies. Modern dimensions of the classical instrument were established by the Spaniard Antonio de Torres Jurado (1817–1892).
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Instructor ProfileArlen RothThe King of All Guitar TeachersMusic lesson pioneer Arlen Roth is the quintessential guitarist. An accomplished and brilliant musician — and one of the very few who can honestly say he’s done it all — Roth has, over the course of his celebrated 35-year career, played on the world’s grandest stages, accompanied many of the greatest figures in modern music and revolutionized the concept of teaching guitar. Read More...Lessons Wes Montgomery-style Octaves
As their categorical name suggests, extended chords indeed extend seventh chords by stacking one or more additional third-intervals, successively constructing ninth, eleventh, and finally thirteenth chords; thirteenth chords contain all seven notes of the diatonic scale. In closed position, extended chords contain dissonant intervals or may sound supersaturated, particularly thirteenth chords with their seven notes. Consequently, extended chords are often played with the omission of one or more tones, especially the fifth and often the third, as already noted for seventh chords; similarly, eleventh chords often omit the ninth, and thirteenth chords the ninth or eleventh. Often, the third is raised an octave, mimicking its position in the root's sequence of harmonics.
Repetitive open-tunings are used for two non-Spanish classical-guitars. For the English guitar the open chord is C major (C-E-G-C-E-G); for the Russian guitar which has seven strings, G major (G-B-D-G-B-D-G). Mixing a perfect fourth and a minor third along with a major third, these tunings are on-average major-thirds regular-tunings. While on-average major-thirds tunings are conventional open tunings, properly major-thirds tunings are unconventional open-tunings, because they have augmented triads as their open chords.
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