Chords are groups of notes that when played together form some type of consonant or dissonant harmony. It’s typical for beginning guitar students to ask how many guitar chords exist. The answer is not infinity, but it’s still too many to bother counting. It’s much more productive to learn a few fundamental chords in depth so that you can learn to build new chords by making alterations or additions to the chords you already know. Most guitar players will learn the basic chords E major, G major, C major, A major, and D major as the fundamental hand positions for guitar chord playing. Guitar players who learn the theory behind these chords rather than just the position of the fingers will benefit greatly. If you memorize just the hand positions without learning the individual notes that make up each chord then you are missing the most crucial part of truly understanding what chords are and how to use them. Some people realize they don’t have the time to dedicate but still want to know how to strum a few songs. For players who wish to just learn the basic chords without concern for advancing their chord knowledge, memorizing a few positions is not a bad idea. Many guitar players will tell you that there are only 5 chords to concern yourself with as a beginner. They are the five Major chords mention earlier: E, G, C, A, and D. Major is a word that describes the quality of the chord. The spacing between the notes in music is what gives the chord their quality. Other types of chords include Minor, Dominant 7th, Augmented, Diminished, and many more. Each chord quality will invoke different experiences from the conscious listener. Sometimes the differences are obvious and sometimes they are subtle when trying to identify them one at a time. Each chord quality is unique and it provides music composers the necessary “colors” to best articulate the harmonies and melodies of the composition.
Counting the number of chords in existence is essentially as useful as counting the number of stars. It’s cool to know but how much the statistic affects your day to day experience is little if nothing at all. The cool thing is that you can really have thousands of chords at your finger tips if you learn more about the chord than just the physical hand position. “Fretboard Roadmaps” by Fred Sokolow reveals lot’s of great info on building chords and knowing chords all over the neck of the guitar. If anyone out there can calculate every possible position for a chord please send that number in the comment section of this blog. 😉