Guitar Secrets

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Open position chords and guitar tablature Instruction

Guitar Lesson 9

In this chapter, we need to learn a little more about guitar chords and tablature. Since we are learning the Am pentatonic scale, it’s a good idea that we learn the chords that blend in with this scale. The first chord we should go over is the Am chord. The Am chord is the main chord in the Am pentatonic scale.

The notes that make up the Am chord are A, C, E. All minor chords are made up of the (1st or root), flat 3rd and 5th notes. Remember in our previous lessons, I said the (m) represents the minor chord. (Am) = A minor. The Major chord is represented with its letter name only. (C) = C Major.

Before we get into any progressions or playing rhythm, we need to learn the chords we will be using.

Am chord and guitar tablature

The first illustration above, to the left, is showing the Am chord being played in the open position. The second illustration shows the Am chord and the notes laid out on the fret board. The third illustration above, shows the Am chord written in tablature. Notice the numbers on each string in the illustration to the right. Each number equals the fret being played, and each number is on the particular string you play.

Notice the 0 on the A string above. That 0 means you leave that string open. You do not fret that string, but you do strum it along with the other notes of that chord. Notice the 2 on the D string. That 2 represents the second fret D string which is an E note.

Notice the 2 on the G string. That 2 represents the second fret on the G string and is an A note.

Notice the 1 on the B string. That 1 represents the first fret on the B string and the C note.

Notice the 0 on the high E string. That 0 means that you do not fret that string, but you strum that string along with all the notes.

The illustrations below, shows the chords in the key of C. Look over the homework assignment and learn the arpeggios assigned.

A good exercise, is to play each note of the chord one note at a time, then move to the next chord to the right. For example, play the Am chord one note at a time starting with the open A string. Then play the next note which is the 2nd fret on the D string. Examples and tablature have been included in illustration below.

Look at the illustration below. Each of the the chords have been written in tablature as guitar arpeggios. Play each note of the chord one note at a time. By playing one note of a chord at a time, you will be playing an arpeggio. If you were to strum all the notes at once, you would be playing a chord. If you played each note of the guitar chord individually, you would be playing an arpeggio. We will learn more about arpeggios later on. Play the exercise below as often as possible. As you play the example above, remember that each note is made up of the particular chord shown. 


One note for each chord has been illustrated above to get you started. 

Your assignment is to fill in the missing open position chords in tablature above using the wheel below for your reference. This wheel shows each chord in the key of C and each section shows the notes that make up each chord. You may want to review the chord chapter if your not familiar with each chord. Use these blank tablature forms and get busy adding the missing notes.

I’ve designed the wheel to the left to show the notes and chords of the key of C major. You can use this wheel to quickly determine the notes that make up each chord. Notice that the C major chord has the notes C, E, G. Those 3 notes make up the C major chord.

The D minor chord has the D, F and A notes to make up that chord. Use the illustration below and the C and F chord as your starting point to fill in the remaining chords in the tablature form.

The illustration below shows the C major and F major chords in tablature form. Tablature is an alternative way of reading and writing music. Each number below represents the fret and string played. You should review the Guitar Tablature section if your not comfortable with this system.


  1. Use these blank tablature illustrations and figure out each chord in tablature. These exercises really help you learn the chords and placement. You can use the the wheel above to help with each note in the particular chord. If you need help, it has been completed above, but a good idea to figure it out on your own.

Look at the C major chord above. The tablature for the C chord has been included above. The numbers in the box above represent the fingers and frets of each chord. The C chord is shown to the left. Notice that the 1 finger is on the B string (C note) first fret. The 2 finger is on the D string second fret (E note) and the 3 finger is on the A string 3rd fret (C note). Notice the open strings, G and high E. These strings are left opened and strummed along with the held notes. Remember, the C chord is made up of C, E and G, that’s why they are strummed with the C chord.

Good Luck,

Guitar Secrets