Every intermediate guitar player should understand how to find and create chords across the fretboard – it’s so important.

Even if you’re already an intermediate guitarist, this article will provide you with an essential collection of guitar chords used by intermediate players and a trusted method for how to create them. 

As most beginners soon discover, you can play most songs on the radio using four basic guitar chords. 

But as time goes on, your musical tastes can change and you might want more of a challenge. 

Learning new chord shapes is one of the quickest ways to open up the fretboard and see it from a different perspective.

Think of this article as your personal library for all the guitar chords you’ll ever need. 

These must-know shapes will help you drastically improve your fretboard knowledge and give you a fantastic basis to understand the chord progressions for all of the songs you love.

Let’s get into it...

Types of chords for intermediate guitar players to learn

As you begin to level up in your guitar skills, one of the biggest challenges you'll discover is knowing how to find and play new chord shapes across the fretboard. 

A larger collection of chords under your fingertips will give you the ability to play more challenging songs and boost your music theory knowledge.

There’s a lot to learn here, so we’d recommend you add these chords to your intermediate guitar practice routine and work through them until you feel confident with each one.

How chords are constructed

To fully understand the ABC of guitar chords, you need to know how they’re constructed. So let’s start at the fundamental building blocks of chords – the humble triad.

What is a triad?

All of the main guitar chords that you’ll encounter in this article will fall into one of the four chord families. 

The easiest way to understand chord families is to learn the four different types of a triad.

A triad is a three-note chord built using a root, 3rd, and 5th.

Triads are at the heart of all the chords you’ve ever heard and describe the ‘chordal DNA’ behind every cool voicing that you play.

Here are the four chord families and how to build the basic triads: 

  • Major (Root - major 3rd - 5th)
  • Minor (Root - minor 3rd - 5th)
  • Diminished (Root - minor 3rd - flattened 5th)
  • Augmented (Root - major 3rd - raised 5th)

Well done for getting those down. 

All easy guitar chords include these triadic ingredients. 

Are you ready to move beyond the humble triad and add some more flavor?

What are seventh chords?

Some of those chord family names might make you ‘diminish’ into your shoes with fear, but don’t worry. 

We’ll mainly focus on major and minor triads. 

The other idea we’ll introduce you to is the concept of the seventh chord. 

  • Now you understand how to create major and minor chords, you’re ready to learn about the 7th. 
  • Seventh chords are four-note chords built by adding the 7th note to a triad.
  • 7th chords give us a little more information about how the chord works in a chord progression. 

For example, a major 7 and dominant 7 chord both have major triads inside, but the different 7ths change the function of the chord. 

Dominant 7ths can be used on the II, III, V, VI, and VII chords. 

Whereas major 7ths are only used on the I and IV chords of a diatonic progression.

When the 7th is added to any of the four triad types, it offers the possibility of creating all kinds of guitar chords that you’ve never discovered before. 

  • Major 7th: Major triad + major 7th 
  • Dominant 7th: Major triad + b7th
  • Minor 7th: Minor triad + b7th
  • Minor 7 (b5) / Half-Diminished: Diminished triad + b7th
  • Augmented 7th: Augmented triad + major 7th

The four main chords that you’ll want to know are the major 7, minor 7th, dominant 7, and minor 7b5 – the others appear a little less frequently.

Below, you’ll see our recommended 18 guitar chords to learn. 

These chord types are crucial for all guitar players to know as they start to appear in many intermediate guitar riffs and songs. 

One of the most valuable things about learning chords is developing the ability to visualize the shapes and patterns on the fretboard. 

Try to memorize the unique shape that each chord creates on the frets.   

As you discover some of these new chord shapes, it's totally normal for some of them to feel like finger twisters. But stick with it, we believe in you.

One last note before you jump in – the chord diagrams below are six-string guitar chords. If you’re a bass, ukulele, or tenor guitar player, then these aren’t the chords you’re looking for.

Major chords

You’ll find major chords in almost every song that you can think of. 

It’s likely you already know some basic major chord shapes, but let’s fill out the fretboard with a couple of useful 6th and 5th string bar chords.

The following chord diagrams are all guitar bar chords.

Unlike open-string chords, bar chords are movable and can be planted anywhere across the fretboard to create the same chord types in any key. 

Although barring chords is a little tricky at first, this technique is essential for unlocking more  intermediate chords.

The G major chord found on the 6th string is a perfect shape to move across the fretboard using the barre technique. 

If you took the entire shape and moved it up two frets you’d be playing an A major chord

The same concept is true for the 5th string chords. 

When shifted across the 5th string a couple of frets you’ll be able to find the same types of chords in a new key. 

Pretty cool, right?

Minor chords

We’ll assume that as an intermediate guitarist, you already know some of the basic open chords such as E minor and A minor chords – if not, check out this article on guitar chords for beginners.

As was the case with the major chords, minor bar chords are completely shiftable across the frets. 

Learning how to play bar chords will open up a range of intermediate guitar songs.

Minor chords are created using a full bar with the first finger. 

It can feel a little painful to lay these down at first, but with enough practice you’ll have them feeling effortless in no time.

Just as before, let’s solidify these guitar gains by finding the same shapes on the 5th string in C minor.

The major and minor chords that you’ve just learned are probably the four most used guitar chords on the fretboard. 

If you’re able to create both major and minor chords across the 5th and 6th strings you’ll have access to nearly 100 guitar chords. 

These four easy guitar chords are the bread and butter for most singer songwriters – so learn them well!

Major seventh chord

Seventh chords sound beautiful when used in the right context. They are slightly more complex sounding chords than what we’ve heard so far.

In particular, the major 7 chord is great for expanding your harmony options when you want to take a basic three-chord progression to the next level. 

Using the two major bar chord shapes from earlier, here’s how major 7 chords look on the 6th and 5th strings. 

The trick to memorizing these chords faster is to identify where the note intervals of the chord are.

Can you see where the original major and minor chord shapes would live?

This common C major 7 shape is a must-know when learning intermediate jazz guitar songs – you’re likely to find it in pop songs too.

Here are some artists who regularly use this chord in their songs:

  • Amy Winehouse
  • Alanis Morissette
  • Alicia Keys
  • Glenn Cambell 
  • Kendrick Lamar 

Dominant seventh chord

Learning this bluesy chord can be a great addition to your harmony collection.

This is a key guitar chord to know – especially if you want to add more interest into a blues song. 

Lots of 60s guitar songs used dominant chords to introduce tension and create an unresolved sound quality to a major chord. 

The Beatles and Rolling Stones wrote many songs that are a great example of using the dominant 7th chord in pop songs to bring new flavors into their songwriting. 

The dominant seventh chord is constructed by combining a major triad with a flattened 7th (also known as dominant seventh). 

It’s perfect for using on the V of a chord progression to invite extra tension into the song. Some musicians will call this the five chord for short when referencing the dominant chord.  

If you’re good at spotting patterns, you may notice that the chord charts are starting to look quite similar. 

Can you see where the dominant 7th note lives?

A common mistake lots of beginner guitar players make is only learning one version of a chord. 

This can be severely limiting for understanding the fretboard. 

Make sure you have both chords down as you move onto the next chord.

Minor seventh chord

You’re doing an excellent job of digesting all of these new chord diagrams. 

Minor 7 chords are useful alternative guitar chords to use in place of a regular minor chord. 

The flattened 7th in the chord adds more character to the regular, sad sound of minor triad and gives it a little more sophistication.

You know the drill by this point, let’s try to memorize the shape that the chord creates and where the minor 3rd and flattened 7th live. Then you’ll have it mastered.

Minor 7, major 7, and dominant 7 are three guitar chords that can really take your playing up a notch. 

These next few chords can be put into the ‘miscellaneous’ bucket. 

While they're still useful to know, they’re much less common than the six guitar chords you’ve just covered.

Minor 7 (flat 5) / diminished chord

Minor 7 flat 5 chords are sometimes known as half-diminished chords. 

They’re created by taking a diminished triad and applying a flattened 7th to the chord. 

In the major scale, the minor 7 flat 5 chord is the VII and appears right at the end of the scale. 

It’s unlikely you’ll see this chord much, so it’s typically not one of the three main chords to learn when checking out sevenths.

These chords sound pretty gloomy right? 

That’s the power of the diminished triad, baby! 

These chords are a great workout for finger strength and dexterity.

Power chord

Perhaps you’ve come across this chord type before? 

Power chords are two-note guitar chords that are super simple to learn. 

Because there are so few notes in a power chord, it’s very common for the root note to be doubled which means power chords are often played as three-string guitar chords. 

If you’ve ever checked out rock and punk guitar chords in a song, you’ll likely have come across power chords before. 

Not only do they have the coolest names, power chords are excellent for injecting aggression and a slight ‘unknown’ sound quality into most chord progressions.

All of the guitar chords you’ve worked on up to this point can be diluted down into power chords by simply omitting the 3rd and 7th notes. 

Getting rid of the 3rd and 7th of the chord means that the chord is no longer minor or major. 

To build these mean-sounding chords, all you’ll need is the root and 5th interval. 

Lots of players like to double the root note an octave above to create more texture.

These shapes can be played as two-finger chords by using the 1st and 3rd fingers to barre across the strings. 

You’ll also notice that the chord shape is the same regardless of the stringset that you play it on.

Like to rock out?

Power chords are commonly thought of as 90s guitar chords due to how often they’re heard in alternative rock and grunge music. 

Here’s a list of songs that almost exclusively use power chords:

  • Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana
  • Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes
  • I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor - Arctic Monkeys 
  • 21 Guns - Green Day

Suspended chord

You’ve just stumbled on a secret type of chord that when used correctly, can add huge variety to four of the easiest guitar chords. 

These chords are excellent for singer songwriters looking to spice up their regular chord progressions as they can add mini melodies between chord changes. 

  • You can instantly go from having 10 easy guitar chords to 30  just by including suspended notes.
  • Sus4 chords are created when the 3rd of a chord is replaced by the 4th
  • In triad terms, you’d usually use the R-3-5 to create a major chord – a sus4 chord uses R-4-5.

The best place to start creating sus chords is by using open string chords. Sus chords can quickly be built on top of open string chords by replacing one note.   

Ready to check out some new shapes? The suspense is killing us.

As mentioned, suspended chords sound great in open string chord shapes, but they work well in barre chords too.

It’s all about finding where the 3rd is and swapping in the 4th instead.

Want more? There are also sus2 chords which we haven’t addressed yet.

These work the same way as sus4 chords but are a little less common. 

If you wanted to create them, you’d replace the 3rd of the chord with a 2nd.

Add 9 chords

Bonus round. Now that you’ve learned those eight guitar chords , we thought it would be fun to briefly introduce you to the world of ‘add’ chords.

Add9 guitar chords are a spin off of regular major chords – think of them as major chords with slightly more interesting personalities. 

We created them by taking a regular major triad and adding a 9th or 6th to the chord, usually on top. 

This gives the major chords a brighter and more colorful sound to play with and can inspire more interesting melodies too.

We’ve got some guitar chords charts below for you to check out. 

Try to spot where the major triad would usually be.

The 9th is usually at the very top of a chord voicing. 

Add6 and add9 chords can be used in place of regular major chords to take a basic progression to the next level.

Style-specific chords

Nice job digesting all of these new and amazing guitar chords! 

Now that you have an A to Z of guitar chords, you’ll want to know which genres of music to find them in. 

Some types of chords appear more frequently in certain genres of music and guitar playing styles.

Here’s a list of some popular music genres and which chords you’ll want to study up on for each one.

Jazz guitar chords

Jazz is arguably the most harmonically complex genre of music meaning that all 10 guitar chords that you’ve just studied are likely to appear in many jazz standards

Here are some facts on jazz guitar chords:

  • Seventh chords are the most common chord shapes in jazz.
  • Altered dominant chords are used over the V chord to create tension.
  • Jazz guitarists will create shell voicings which are three-finger guitar chords using only the root, 3rd, and 7th – this allows more space for the melody.
  • Jazz chord progressions can use anywhere from 14 chords to 32 per song.

R&B guitar chords

Similarly to jazz, R&B guitar chords are sophisticated and usually include extension notes such as the 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th to create more harmonious chord progressions. 

When you listen to Luther Vandross, Amy Winehouse, or Mary J. Blige, it’s easy to focus only on the melody – but the R&B chords underneath are just as important as the gorgeous vocal parts on top.

  • Lots of R&B tunes appear to use five or six basic guitar chords to highlight the song forms. 
  • The real magic is in the extension notes added to create beautiful progressions underneath the melodies.
  • It’s hard to quantify what 80s guitar chords were exactly, but minor11 chords certainly sound like the vibe of many Stevie Wonder songs.

Country guitar chords

Country and blues songs are great starting points for players looking to build their guitar chops.

A large portion of country music can be played with three simple guitar chords, or at least three types of chord – major, minor, and power chords.

  • Chords aren’t a huge feature of electric country guitar / lead guitar.
  • Instead, double stops are used to play through a scale with guitar chords being outlined with two notes.
  • Most country songs move between I, IV, and V.

Like the blues, country will use dominant 7th chords on the I, IV, and V chords to create a heavily mixolydian sound.

Neo soul guitar chords

Neo soul takes elements from jazz, R&B, and hip hop. Usually, the guitarist will flow seamlessly between chords and melody – so understanding how to connect chords with their parent scales is crucial. 

For example, if you’re trying to harmonize a basic melody in the key of A minor, you’ll want to know all of the A minor scale guitar chords and how to play them up and down the neck fluidly. 

This will give you the ability to create chordal passages that complement the melody.

  • Neo soul guitar uses chords as the basis for creating and writing riffs. 
  • Being able to play a harmonized major scale using chords will allow you to create interesting phrases over an easy three-chord tune.
  • Embellishments such as trills, slides, hammer ons, and pull offs are combined with chords to add extra interest and melodic richness to the chord progression.

Funk guitar chords

If you’re interested in playing funk guitar, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with suspended chords.

But in truth, funk guitar is more about holding down a tight groove than flashy chords. 

This means you’ll play a lot of one-chord vamps by moving between suspended chords and dominant chords – these are very reminiscent of how 70s guitar chords sounded.

  • A funk progression may be nothing more than changing from C7 to C7sus4 – the rhythmic groove is the most important part.
  • Because rhythm is king in this genre, you’ll often see players strumming what looks like ‘one-finger guitar chords’.
  • This is when five out of six notes are muted and only a single melody note is heard during the strumming pattern.

Blues guitar chords

Guitarists love the blues because they can play and write tunes using only the three easiest guitar chords. 

  • If you know the A D E guitar chords, you’ve got enough information to play a blues riff in A – these chords will form the I, IV, and V
  • If you make the I, IV, and V chords all dominant 7ths you’ll get that real bluesy character in the chord progression.
  • Power chords can be useful shapes when playing rock and roll, or the blues.

Lots of 50s guitar chord riffs used power chords as the underlying rhythm guitar part while the lead guitar players shred their solos on top.

Here’s a great demo of this idea from some guitar legends 

Fingerstyle guitar chords

The fingerstyle way of playing six-string acoustic guitar teaches us a lot about chords. 

Because the genre and playing style are about carrying the melody, bass, and chords all at the same time, it’s not uncommon to see interesting chord shapes that you’d not see anywhere else.

  • The introduction to Fire and Rain by James Taylor is a fingerstyle guitar masterpiece that shows you how singer songwriters think about guitar chords. 
  • Using your fingers to pick all three notes of a chord individually creates more melodic options than just strumming.  
  • If you learn a few fingerstyle pieces you’ll pick up some great guitar chords for intermediate players. 

The balance of melody, chords, and moving bass lines all in one guitar part creates a worthy challenge and will open your eyes to how piano players think about music.

Guitar-specific chords

The guitar and the piano share a lot of similarities. Both can play cool chords and help support a melody, but the guitar works a little differently.

Because a guitar has six strings, that gives us a whole lot of options for playing the same chord in different areas of the neck. 

The six strings also allow us to play the same chords in a huge variety of ways.

The following shapes are based on a C major chord and the five different ways to play it using 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 notes.

It’s useful to know how to play a guitar chord in a bunch of different ways – this gives you more options when playing/writing new ideas. 

Two-note guitar chords

It’s not often that you see guitar chords highlighted as only two notes, but this harmonic concept has a special name – a dyad. Because they don’t have three notes, dyads are technically an incomplete chord but they can still imply a chord. 

  • Sometimes they might only include the root and the 3rd note.
  • Dyads are useful if you want to make a single chord sound a little sparse on purpose. 
  • Some of the greatest riffs of all time are built using so-called two-note chords.

Here’s a two-finger guitar chords chart to check out, each dyad contains the root and 3rd of C major.

Now to find the 5th string C shape.

Nice work. Let’s reveal the 4th string shape.

Three-note guitar chords

You should know by now that three note chords are usually known as triads – R, 3 ,5 –  but the order of these three notes can vary quite a bit. 

Sometimes it’s fun to mix up the notes to create an inversion.

An inversion is created when the root note is not the lowest in the chord. 

As you progress from an intermediate guitarist into an advanced guitarist, you’ll need these nine essential chords to help you understand the fretboard in its entirety.

  • C chord in 1st inversion would be built using the 3rd of the chord in the bass: EGC
  • C chord in 2nd inversion would be built using the 5th of the chord in the bass: GCE

Here are some inversion examples of a C major chord:

These are just a small selection of guitar chord inversions you could use.

Here’s what they look like on the 5th string

Now for the final set of inversions – this time appearing on the 6th string.

You totally crushed those nine guitar chords. 

Now you’ll have a bunch of options to help you visualize the C major triad across the fretboard.

Four-note guitar chords

These next chords require a doubled note. 

Because triads use only three notes, you’ll need to think carefully about which note you’d like to double. 

Four-note chords are useful when creating ‘middle guitar chords’ on the middle four strings (A, D, G, B).

This leaves the low bass string free for a bass or piano to cover this range, and the high E string clear for a singer to occupy the range. 

This C chord found on the 5th fret doubles the root note in the middle.

Another option is to double the 5th for a different effect.

Now let’s find this chord on a different string.

That’s a nice option right? Here’s another that lives on the 4th string and doubles the root.

Now for a couple of curve balls. This is a 1st inversion C chord with a doubled 3rd.

One more for luck. Check out this C chord in 2nd inversion with a doubled root.

Isn’t it incredible that one single C major chord can create seven guitar chords to choose from?

Five-note guitar chords

5th string chords are some of the harder shapes to play. 

Having four fingers and a thumb has its downsides, and playing five individual notes without a bar is quite the challenge.

Luckily, barring across frets is what we do best and is an easy fix. These next three shapes are crucial for forming major 7 guitar chords and more complex-sounding chords in general.

Six-note guitar chords

Much like the five-note chords you just checked out, six-note chords are often accompanied by a big barre across all six strings.

These are the most painful acoustic guitar chords to play and require a lot of strength in your index finger.

But the hand-strengthening workout they’ll give you is priceless.

It’s probably quite obvious, but six-note guitar chords can only be created by using all six strings on the guitar. 

Incredible work! Now you’ve got more than 24 guitar chords to highlight a simple C major chord. 

More fun facts about chords

Here are some more fun facts about guitar chords that you might not know.

  • The beauty of learning chords on a six-string guitar is that 12-string guitar chords work exactly the same way. 
  • 12-string guitars include a doubled string that sounds an octave up, meaning your regular chord shapes will still work here.
  • Are you a bass player? 4 string bass guitar chords work exactly like a guitar would.
  • Bass and guitar share the same tuning so it’s possible to play many of the same shapes on bass as you would find them on guitar.

Intermediate guitar chord progressions

We’ve learned how to play some more complex chords, and for intermediate and advanced guitarists, most chord progressions will be more than just open major and minor chords. 

Typically in genres like neo soul and jazz, chord extensions are used… extensively. Let’s learn a little more about them.

How to construct chords with extensions

Extension chords contain what are called color tones, which are some of the silkiest and most interesting sounds you can make on guitar. 

Knowing how to add chord extensions can transform your seven basic guitar chords into an endless supply of sophisticated chord options.

  • Once you’ve got a basic major or minor triad under your fingers, adding the 7th is the first extension note. 
  • Extension notes usually appear an octave above the root, 3rd, and 5th. 
  • This is because extension notes need some space to breathe and stand out. 

Most of the time, you’ll find them hanging out on the top strings of your guitar chords. 

Below, you’ll see a list of all possible extension notes in the major scale:

  • 7th
  • 9th which is the same as the 2nd raised an octave
  • 11th which is the same as the 4th raised an octave
  • 13th which is the same as the 6th raised an octave

These are diatonic extension notes which all come from the major scale.

It is possible to find non-diatonic extension notes by picking notes from outside the major scale e.g. a chord like A7#9  where the 9th is raised by a half step (#).


What is the 1 3 5 rule for chords?

The ‘135 rule’ is that basic minor, major, diminished, and augmented chords must be created using a root, 3rd, and 5th. 

These intervals refer to notes picked from the major scale and are used to create each chord.

What chords should an intermediate guitarist practice?

Intermediate guitarists want to have a variety of options when they see a chord progression. 

This means mastering bar chords, inversion chords, and having the basics of 7th chords is crucial for making the jump to an advanced guitar player.

What are G5, C6, and A2 guitar chords?

Sometimes guitar players will use these strange names for chords as a way of telling you that there is no 3rd in the chord. 

Other times, these names will tell you about specific extension notes that have been added to the chord.

  • A2 would be an A chord that uses the root, 2nd, and 5th to create the chord: ABE 
  • G5 would be a G power chord that uses the root and 5th. Sometimes the root can be doubled to create a power chord shape: GDG
  • Unlike the others, C6 is a regular C major chord with an added 6th note inside. 

This is not a suspended chord because the 3rd still exists in the chord – it would be formed using: CEGA

Do some chords sound better on electric guitar  or acoustic guitar?

Truthfully, there’s not really any difference between acoustic and ‘amplified guitar chords’. 

But as an acoustic guitar player you’re more likely to use open string chords for beautiful overinging, and an electric guitar player is more likely to lean on power chords and bar chords. 

Let your ear guide you.

Are six-string bass guitar chords the same as guitar chords?

Unfortunately not. Six-string bass guitars are tuned in perfect 4ths and start on B. 

This means the chord shapes will translate a little, but ultimately you’ll need to make a lot of adjustments.

Bass guitars have much wider fretboards and thicker strings, so big chords aren’t usually their style.

Can the notes abcdefg form a guitar chord?

This would be the ‘a minor scale guitar chord’ and while being unplayable as an eight-string chord, it would also sound quite ugly as there is no intervallic separation (135 rule) between the notes.

Musicians tend to stay away from creating chords where the notes are too close together.

How many chords are in the A minor scale?

In any scale, there are likely to be seven or eight different chords. 

If a scale has seven notes like the A minor scale, you’ll find seven different chords that can be created in the scale by applying the 135 rule to each of the notes.

Am -  Bm(b5) - C - Dm - Em - F - G

This is also true when finding the A major scale guitar chords:

A - Bm - C#m - D - E - F#m - G#dim

Wrapping up

If you cant remember everything you’ve learned today, don’t worry – seven or eight basic guitar chords can take you a long way – just ask Bob Marley or The Beatles. 

The more chords you know, the more options you’ll have the next time you learn or write a song.

Well done on all your hard work today – you’ve made great progress by getting to the end of this article.

Don’t stop now – keep that momentum going with our Intermediate Learning Pathway.

The reason it’s so hard to break through the intermediate guitar plateau is lack of structure – guitarists aren’t sure what to learn next, or where to learn it. 

Here at Pickup, we’ll remove all the guesswork and put you right on track, with daily lessons, interactive jams, and personalized feedback.

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Author: Jack Handyside