The black dots found on the chord diagrams tell you which fret to press down, and on which string and with which numbered finger. Additionally, you will sometimes see circles above the nut. These circles tell you to play that open string without pressing any fret. So using what we know so far about strings, finger numbers, and dots, let’s check out that same chord diagram again:


Musicians Institute programs are fast paced and certain fundamental musical skills are required before you can begin your program. If you meet entry requirements and are accepted, a one-on-one performance evaluation and placement testing will be held during registration to determine whether you qualify for advanced placement in any area of course work. You are evaluated based on the content of your submission. For more info, please see the MI Course Catalog.

Once you know the basic chords, it might be easier to think of them the way the function inside a key. For example, when in the key of E, the E (I) is called the Tonic. It's what all the other chords want to get to—which is what helps give western music its sense of motion. The A (IV) in the key of E functions as the Subdominant—it's sort of a passive in-between, just as happy to continue forward, as to relax back to the Tonic. The Dominant is just what it sounds like: it leads you where it wants to go. In the key of E, that role is filled by the B (V), and will definitely make your brain want to get back to the Tonic! When you get more familiar with the chords, and want to sketch out a tune, try writing it as I-IV-V (or variations of that) instead of E-A-B. It will make it much easier to transpose when you find out your singer cannot sing in the original key!
When you get right down to it, Guitar Center's friendly instructors will do everything they can to help you reach your highest level of musical potential. And remember, guitar lessons are available for both newcomers to the instrument, as well as experienced players who want to push the limits of their performance to even greater heights. If you would like to learn more about any upcoming workshops at a Guitar Center near you, feel free to give us a shout via phone or email. Any info you need can be found on our Guitar Center Lessons homepage and we'll gladly answer any questions you may have.

Jump up ^ "The first incontrovertible evidence of five-course instruments can be found in Miguel Fuenllana's Orphenica Lyre of 1554, which contains music for a vihuela de cinco ordenes. In the following year, Juan Bermudo wrote in his Declaracion de Instrumentos Musicales: 'We have seen a guitar in Spain with five courses of strings.' Bermudo later mentions in the same book that 'Guitars usually have four strings,' which implies that the five-course guitar was of comparatively recent origin, and still something of an oddity." Tom and Mary Anne Evans, Guitars: From the Renaissance to Rock. Paddington Press Ltd, 1977, p. 24.

Unlike many string instruments which use a bow to create a sound, guitars are played by plucking or strumming the strings on the instrument, which vibrate to create a sound. Chords are played when the guitarist holds their fingers down on more than one individual string to change its length, which in turn changes the frequency of the vibration created - in other words, it creates a different note. Performers often use guitar tabs, rather than sheet music, when learning music: this acts as a kind of 'map' to teach guitarists where to put their fingers on the strings.
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