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I bought a guitar course on DVD and am puzzled by the way they have begun teaching the chords, specifically the G major. In the first lesson we were taught to put our third (ring) finger on the E string, third fret and strum from the D string down. I played guitar years ago and the G maj always had more fingers involved and all the chord guides I have found show at least 3. Should I toss this DVD and get something else to resurrect my guitar skills?

  • Has this question become invalid, given the premise on which it was asked? – Tim Apr 17 at 14:03
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    Can you update your question to reflect your comment about strumming from the D string? It's misleading for future visitors and search results. – Michael Curtis Apr 17 at 15:20
  • Done, @MichaelCurtis, thank you for helping me with the etiquette of this site. – Alice Apr 17 at 19:11
  • Thanks! I think it's clear now, this one finger version is an easy fingering, I expect later the DVD should show the full chord with additional fingers on low E and A strings. If it does not eventually show that... well, you might try another method DVD. – Michael Curtis Apr 17 at 19:20
  • If you're playing in a band, it's typical to play only 4 strings and not worry about inversions/bass notes, because the pianist or bassist will take care of that. – Mirlan Apr 20 at 18:56
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If you strum starting from the D string, you have a G chord (composed of the notes D-G-B-G). Since D is in the bass instead of G, this is an inversion of a G chord, specifically it is a G in second inversion. If you start from the open A string, you could call this a Gadd9 chord (composed of the notes A-D-G-B-G), or an even better name would probably be G/A (naming it as a so-called slash chord). This would also be an inversion since a note other than the root of the chord is in the bass.

It isn't a lot of information to go on, but if the DVD is really suggesting that you should play a G with an A in the bass as you have described, I would be wary of the rest of the content.

There are a lot of different ways to play any chord, and different note configurations of the same chord are called voicings. On the guitar, there are usually multiple fingerings for the same voicing.

Here is a typical open-string voicing for a G chord (sometimes this type of voicing is called a "Mel Bay voicing" or a "cowboy chord"):

%3/2.2/1.0/0.0/0.0/0.3/4[GMaj]

But there are a couple of other fingerings for this voicing:

%3/3.2/2.0/0.0/0.0/0.3/4[GMaj]

or this:

%3/2.2/1.0/0.0/0.0/0.3/3[GMaj]

Since a G triad only contains the three notes G-B-D, there are some duplications in the above six-string chord voicing. You can remove the notes on the lowest two strings, which are G and B, respectively. You are left with D-G-B on the open strings, and G again on the top string (E string). This is not an uncommon voicing, and sometimes you want a chord that is a little bit more dainty than a fistful-of-notes cowboy chord:

%X/X.X/X.0/0.0/0.0/0.3/4[GMaj]

Incidentally, there is a variation of the last voicing that is probably seen even more often, and which can be used as a movable form. By moving the pinky on the E string down one fret (or using the third finger on the second fret of the E string) you get a GMaj7 chord. You can move this chord form around by using the first finger to barre the second, third, and fourth strings (B, G, and D strings):

%X/X.X/X.0/0.0/0.0/0.2/3[GMaj7]    %X/X.X/X.5/1.5/1.5/1.7/3[CMaj7]
  • Thank you so much for the very thorough answer. I actually was incorrect when I said that we were being taught to strum from the A - we are actually being taught to strum from the D so based on your answer, that is acceptable. I think I will continue with the course and see where it leads. Also, could you point me to where I could learn to read the fingerings that you included? I have never seen that type of notation (? correct word?). – Alice Apr 17 at 13:57
  • I'd be inclined to call it G/A rather than GaddA, but that's not an issue any more! In fact, it's now a non question. – Tim Apr 17 at 14:01
  • Those are chord block diagrams. Here are a couple of links to pages that explain them. I don't love the way that they render on this site: notice the roman numerals to the right that indicate the fret number. – David Bowling Apr 17 at 14:02
  • @Tim -- agreed, that would probably be a better generic name. I'll add it. – David Bowling Apr 17 at 14:03
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    As for the chord block diagrams, when I first saw your answer, @DavidBowling, I couldn't see the graphic, just a list of characters. That's what confused me. I am familiar with the diagrams. Thanks again. – Alice Apr 17 at 19:08
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You can keep this DVD if it teaches you later what tones you are playing by holding those chord patterns. It is a reasonable methodical approach to start with simple patterns and reduced chords to ease beginners learning to play and right starting to make music.

E.g. I always explained to children how they can play on only 3 strings a nice accompaniment for I - V (C - G7). This concept can be very motivating.

  • Thank you. I am hoping also that the approach is to start slowly and simply and then build. – Alice Apr 17 at 19:05
  • +1 as I think this more accurately answers the OP's question. But @DavidBowling's is very good in explaining the G chord... – erict Apr 17 at 19:40

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