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The G7 chord in root position on a fretboard diagram for guitar looks like this:

G7 guitar chord on a fretboard diagram

But in staff notation, the G7 chord in root position looks like:

G7 chord in staff notation

The correct representation of the notes on the fretboard when written on the staff is G, D, F, and then B (a 10th higher).

I wonder why the note B is more than octave higher than G on the fretboard whereas on the staff B is only a 3rd higher?

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6 Answers 6

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Good question! They do!

The situation you're running into is that your chord diagram doesn't match the G7 you've provided on your music staff.

On the staff you provided, the notes are all separated by the distance of a third- G B D F. I have provided a picture of what the G7 on the staff is telling us to play on the guitar:

G7, with the 4th finger on G, 3rd on B, 2nd on D, and 1st on F: the same as your staff!


The chord diagram that you have provided is of a completely different layout on the staff. The yellow fretboard diagram you have shown will look like this, as per the staff:

The G7 chord from the fretboard diagram in the question represented in staff notation, from low to high: G, D, F, B


Finally, "root position" only means that the note the chord is named after is in the bass: The root note! You can put that note in the bass and play the remaining notes any which way you want, as long as the "root note" is in the bass.

I hope this helps!

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  • An easier, albeit wacky, way of playing the close voicing is with open g and b string, d on the A-string way up on the 17th fret and f on the d-string 15th fret. A more reasonable alternative is of course to just omit the d and play the f on the e-string. Nov 22, 2023 at 16:22
  • Observe how the staff representation comes (or may come) from taking the G one octave down from the second inversion closed voicing (DFGB -> GDFB). Since G was the second voice from the top, it's called a Drop2 voicing - super useful in guitar, works for all kind of chords!
    – moonwave99
    Nov 22, 2023 at 19:19
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“Root position” means that the lowest pitch is the root of the chord, but it says nothing about the other notes. The staff-notation chord is shown in “close position” – the most compact arrangement of notes – which is impractical (if not impossible) on guitar. The guitar voicing is in “open position”, so the pitches are more spread out.

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Very simple answer is - they don't have to. Root position tells one fact only - the lowest note - of any chord in root position, is the root. That's how inversions work as well, 1st inversion has ^3 as the lowest note, 2nd inversion has ^5, and so on. It's become convention.

What you're trying to understand is open and closed voicing. Given that the chord is in root position (root= lowest note), the other notes, be they triad or more, can be spread how one would like - and that fact won't affect the fact that it's still root position.

Couple of other considerations: guitars aren't famed for capability to produce certain voicings easily, so will use whatever they can. Part of their beauty - or otherwise! And it's easier to portray (as in your pic. of the stave) to write chords out in closed position.

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The arrangement of strings on the guitar means that certain voicings are difficult to achieve whereas others are easier. This also leads to the fact that several voicings, or as we call them, chord shapes, are available for most chords.

As it happens, the other day I was required to play a C7b5 chord: C E Gb Bb. It was imperative to find a shape that does not have two strings with a single tone differing between them (i.e. E and Gb, aka F#, Bb and C). In the end, I found a voicing 3rd fret on the fifth string (C), 4th fret on the fourth fret (Gb), 3rd fret on the third string (Bb) and 5th fret on the second string (C). This is a completely different voicing from the chord in root position, and in fact helps by moving the E from its position where it might clash with the Gb, to the top.

Not connected: this is an interesting chord in that it is made up of two tritones.

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A complete G7 chord in staff notation would contain an arbitrarily-selected "G" note, an arbitrary (possibly empty) subset of the "G" notes that appear in higher octaves, an arbitrary non-empty subset of the "B" notes that appear above the lowest "G", and an arbitrary non-empty subset of the "D" notes that appear above the lowest "G", and an arbitrary non-empty subset of the "F" notes that appear above the lowest "G". While many depictions of G major triads simply include the lowest note that's above the root for each pitch and omit the rest, the "real" chord might be more usefully viewed as including all such notes, with the common staff notation opting to use one acceptable subset of them, and the common guitar fingering opting to use a different--but still valid--subset.

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Contrary to what was said above, "root position" of that chord means all the notes are a third apart and the root of the chord is the lowest note. I realize guitar players sometimes have their own terminology, but this is what root position means.

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    In what area of terminology does "root position" mean that? It is certainly not the usual meaning of "root position" in classical theory.
    – phoog
    Nov 23, 2023 at 12:50
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    Part of this answer is inaccurate and untrue.-1. There is absolutely no reason for all notes to be a third apart, except in closed position.
    – Tim
    Nov 24, 2023 at 11:27
  • @Tim It's close position. Nov 24, 2023 at 12:51
  • @ElementsInSpace - it very much depends on where one looks. Either makes sense. Closed, as in no spaces in between, or close, as in not far away. Never can make up my mind. Maybe a question is due...
    – Tim
    Nov 24, 2023 at 14:23

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