An interesting three-note chord is the following on guitar (in standard tuning):

╫───╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ E
╫───╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ A
╫─G─╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ D
╫───╫─B─╫───╫───╫───╢ G
╫─E─╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ B
╫───╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ e   

As a Gmaj6 (no 5) interpretation:
╫───╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ E
╫───╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ A
╫─1─╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ D
╫───╫─3─╫───╫───╫───╢ G
╫─6─╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ B
╫───╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ e  

As an Emin (first inversion) interpretation:
╫───╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ E
╫───╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ A
╫♭3─╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ D
╫───╫─5─╫───╫───╫───╢ G
╫─1─╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ B
╫───╫───╫───╫───╫───╢ e  

This seems chameleon-like in that it appears to be both major and minor at the same time. Is one of these interpretations wrong, or does it simply depend upon the context?

EDIT: My graphics above are intended to represent a six-string fretboard, with the strings labelled to the far right. The numbers represent my interpretation of the notes.

Let's suppose that the notes, in ascending order, are G, B, and E. The top graphic illustrates the named notes. The middle graphic illustrates those notes as the root (1), the major third (3), and the sixth (6) which together yield what I am calling a Gmaj6 (with the 5 omitted). The bottom graphic illustrates the same notes as a minor third (b3), fifth (5), and root (1) of a Emin triad in the first inversion.

  • Do the numbers on the lines represent frets or what? It may be easier to understand using note names.
    – Tim
    Jun 13, 2014 at 13:59
  • The chord position on the left side, is it from the first fret (the most right one) or not?
    – seseorang
    Jun 13, 2014 at 14:06
  • I don't understand the fretboard graphic at all. It's upside down from most chord charts and tablature and I can't see the relationship between the lines and guitar frets. Could you draw the diagram using jTab or something? Jun 15, 2014 at 4:05
  • My chord illustration methods are non-standard; I adopted them long ago when limited to standard typeface. This revised (html) version still utilizes the same principles and perspective. I have enlarged the diagrams so that the literal interpretation is now consistent with the named notes. I utilize this method of drawing because it communicates the identity of each chord voice.
    – Kirk A
    Jun 15, 2014 at 11:59
  • 1
    @KirkA, guitar tabs are of no use for people who don't play the guitar. Your question will be much more useful if you simply use note names instead.
    – Lee White
    Jun 15, 2014 at 14:49

3 Answers 3


If the graphic above starts at fret 1, the chord is simply a D minor in first inversion because you have the notes F, A, and D in that order. It would be notated as Dm/F . I

This chord would not be a maj6 chord without a 5th because a 6th chord is just a 7th chord in first inversion. Because of this, omitting the 5th omits the color tone in a 6th chord (the 7th in the original chord) and takes the quality of a 6th chord away.

  • THanks for your definition; it agrees with the following wiki entry, but that same entry actually defines TWO interpretations: one classical, one modern/popular. The classical definition relates to the sixth interval in the first inversion. The result would be an Emin6 (I think), rather than what I called a Gmaj6. Actually, I don't yet understand how one would notate each of these sixth definitions, so that is still creating confusion. (See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sixth_chord for details.)
    – Kirk A
    Jun 13, 2014 at 14:28
  • @KirkA it's the same spelling of the chord in both classic and modern, just the thinking behind it is diffrent. Think of it this way, you have all the notes to make a minor triad and you are missing one note for it to be a maj6th. Wouldn't it make sense for it to be the chord with all notes accounted for instead of missing one?
    – Dom
    Jun 13, 2014 at 14:50

With G B and E you get a sort of G6. Often a V (D) is included. Since Em is E G and B, the two are sort of inversions of each other. Take it one step further, using the D in both, it gives a proper G6 and also Em7. All this is assuming the notes are as quoted. Or, if the notes are indeed D, F and A then read the above bi as a sort of F6 and Dm.


althought the chord starts with a G note, the result has got a minor quality, so I would say it's a minor triad inversion. Also because it's easier to understand music if you "feel" the sound instead of trying to rationalize everything- the sixth of the G (E) , here, is virtually useless, from the G Major 's point of view (if chords could talk, I mean...)

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