I am a beginner in reading sheet music. I can understand what each notes are and one stave has a G clef and the other an F clef. I am trying to solo this on guitar and was wondering if there is a chord structure that I can play to this. How can I figure out the chord shape for this pattern? Is there a theoretical way to identify the corresponding chords?

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7 Answers 7


Since you can read the notes, you can quickly work out that the first bar is Bbm. Half way through the next bar might just be Ab or potentially Absus4. Then the next bar Gb7. You have to analyse each bar or half bar. There will be passing notes and extra notes that don't need to be included in the guitar chords. You have to decide what sounds right to you. If you don't find these to be the most user-friendly chords on the guitar, you might like to use a capo on the 1st fret and play it in Am.

When you say you are "trying to solo this on guitar", are you wanting to include the melody with the chords? If so, then that is a much more demanding procedure.

  • Could you expand a little on how you came up with that chords atleast for a bar or two?
    – RBz
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 5:00
  • Yeah, more like i want to do what a keyboardist can do looking at this. He will play both the base and the melody. In my guitar classes i used to do it with songs when i have a chord structure , or just plain open notes. When its a chord its easy to play the base and the melody, that's why trying to generalise the procedure of identifying the chords from the sheet that i have.
    – RBz
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 5:01
  • 5
    You need to do some musical analysis of what's going on harmonically. In the 1st bar you have a Bb (as the bass note), Db and an F. That is the triad of Bbm. The Eb is just a passing note in the melody. Half way through in the next bar it is not so clear cut. It looks like an Ab chord, but some of the notes in the melody don't belong to that chord. That's why I suggested it might be Absus4. You might find a better fit.
    – Jomiddnz
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 6:15
  • 2
    Just analyse what the notes suggest to you harmonically. Ab and Eb in the bass sound like it wants to be an Ab chord, but the extra notes in the melody suggest a more juicy chord than that.
    – Jomiddnz
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 6:16
  • 1
    Plus 1 for the capo suggestion. Please consider editing your answer to incorporate your very well worded comment about musical analysis of what's going on harmonically. That one comment is almost better than your answer ;-) Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 20:31

Work out the chord shape? That's not always possible from piano music to guitar.

Work out the chords themselves is easier. First is to establish what key the piece is likely to be in. Here, with 5 flats, it's either D♭ major or its relative B♭ minor. You can read the dots, so in the first bar, there's predominantly B♭ F and D♭ notes. They, together, make up B♭ minor chord.

Half way through the second bar, there's A♭ E♭ and D♭. The chord springing to mind here is A♭sus4. So, all you do is look at the main notes - those on beats 1 and 3 initially, and translate them into a chord - often one that belongs to the key stated in the key sig. That's what you do!

  • 1
    Plus 1 for "First ... establish what key ..." That would be an excellent way to narrow the potential choices of chords to try first. Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 20:33

The left hand part is just power chords (= root + fifth) so you can probably get away with just playing the root note (since the fifth is implied by being present in the overtones).

If you want to play full triads, then look to the key signature and the melody to find whether it's a major or minor chord.

  • Could you explain this concept you shared with an example from the question?As i said , i'm new to this whole thing and i'm not sure i understand what you suggested.
    – RBz
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 5:03
  • 2
    The procedure called harmonizing the scale in the key of Db gives the chords Db Ebm Fm Gb Ab Bbm Cdim. So if you read just the lowest note, then you can use it to pick the chord from this list. This will work if there are no accidentals that change a note from flat to natural or sharp. Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 6:13

In this particular case the job is easy. The LH has a simple series of open 5ths. We can assume these are the root and 5th of the chord. So bar 1 and the first half of bar 2 are a B♭ chord, moving to an A♭ chord in the second half of bar 2.

Now look at the melody. If the first chord was B♭ MAJOR we'd expect to see some D♮ notes. If it was B♭ MINOR there would be D♭ ones. Get the idea? This method gives us a definite answer for the first and third chords. The second one is undefined - it's SOME sort of A♭ chord but there's neither a C or a C♭ in the melody. But it's a pretty safe bet to assume the key signature would prevail if there WAS a C. Or maybe it's a sus4 chord.

Don't forget to learn to play the tune! It's probably a better thing to play than any amount of guitar 'widdley'.


The notes in the staff would likely restrict the "chord shape". If you simply had the letter names of the chords above the treble clef you would be free to choose how they are played for the most part (even chord names indicate an inversion when properly notated). What you need to do is transcribe the bass clef so that all the notes are in the treble clef and see how they combine. The chord structure should become pretty clear soon enough but you may run into some difficulty since (1) the bass clef does go lower than the lowest note on guitar, (2) Some of the bass may overlap the melody once it's brought into the treble clef, and (3) guitar is actually played an octave lower than written. Despite being able to read both clefs you are trying to read this on an instrument that it was not written for and you may need to do some arranging. My comments are more general and may not all apply to your example. Also, if this were arranged for guitar one might transpose key so that it is in an open string key. This would allow you to use open strings for the bass making multi voice upper registers easier to play. Once all this is dealt with you can then focus on "shape", and there may be more than one possible fingering for the set of chords you have.


I do this type of stuff alot but I know music theory. There's a lot moving parts (no pun intended) here. There is a lot of good advice above. Here's mine:

  1. 1st of all if you do not know the song and how it sounds AND have a good ear, there is no foolproof way to know if you assigned the correct chords short of someone like me reviewing it.
  2. Many times in looking at the bottom line (bass line) on arrangements like this you not looking at the root of the chord (b note b chord) and so you have to know the song and know construction of chords and their inversions to determine the actual chord.
  3. Then you have to learn to ignore passing tones in the Melody line (typically top line) and not allow them to dissuade you away from the simple chord progression of the song.
  4. There's a little more to it than this, but these 3 things are important basics that will help guide you.
  • Thing 1 you must know the song and how it sounds, Thing 2 you have to know the song AND know constructions of chords and their inversions Thing 3 Ignore passing tones in the melody line. Did I get that right? Is there a theoretical way to identify what chords might be most appropriate (assuming you do know the song)? Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 20:39

If this sheet is from you and you want to find out what chords would fit to this music (apart of this rudimentary fifth) you should learn the basics of chords and triads, as you won’t make any progress by asking for chords to each melodic pattern.

But if this bars are parts of a composer who knew what he wrote and why he just wrote this block chords of open fifths there’s no need to find out the chords for guitar, as the accompaniment would be meant as it is: root tone and fifth and no third. Then the guitar should play nothing else than this tones.

(You could try to play on a keyboard 1-3-5 instead of 1-5 with the left hand and you will find out that this triad won’t fit to every motif. So if you feel 1-3-5 doesn’t fit just play 1-2-5 or 1-4-5, write the names of this tones and play them on the Guitar as a chord.)

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