Diatonic Chords on the Bottom Strings

Diatonic chords are a family of chords all created from the same scale.

The scale is organized into groups of three (triads) or four (seventh chords) using the technique of skipping every other note.

A great way to play these chords on the guitar is to use chord voicings that only use the bottom three strings.

These voicings are higher in the register and are easily heard above the booming of the bass and drums. They are also a great way to add another level to a chord progression when playing with a guitarist who is using voicings lower in the register (open chords).

Let’s check out the diatonic chords from the key of E major as they are played on the bottom three strings.

Diatonic Chords on the Bottom Strings

Diatonic Chords on the Bottom Strings Live Tab

Download the PDF or GuitarPro files



What are Chord Inversions?

Not all chords are played with the root note as the Bass or lowest sounding note. Using other chord tones in the bass creates Chord Inversions which have a similar sound to the original chord but with a twist.

If a chord has four notes in it you can create 3 inversions from it. The root position chord does not count as an inversion.

Below are the notes of the C major7 chord and their inversion.


This type of thing is much easier to see on the piano then on the guitar due to the way the notes are laid out. In the examples below notice how the inversions simply move up the keyboard one note at a time.

On the guitar it is difficult to play a proper inversion with the notes in ascending order so we mainly focus on having the correct chord tone in the bass.

Major 7 Chord Inversions on Guitar and Piano



How to Play A String Based Guitar Chords

All of these chords use the notes on the “A” string as their root. For example, if you wanted to play a C major chord simply line up the top finger of the major chord shape to the C on the third fret.

Use the first diagram to find your way around the A string when playing these chords.


15 Guitar Chords With Roots on the A String



How to Play E String Based Guitar Chords

All of these chords use the notes of the top “E” string as their root. For example, if you wanted to play a C major chord simply line up the top finger of the major chord shape to the C on the eight fret.

Use this first graphic to find your way around the Low E string on your guitar.


15 Guitar Chords With Root Notes On the E String



Suspended Chords

A suspended (sus) chord is a chord that has no major or minor third. The third is replaced with either a major second or more commonly a perfect fourth.

The absence of a third gives these chords an open and pleasant sound. In the rare instance that a seventh is added it would be a minor seventh.

The term suspended comes from classical music where a note from the previous chord would carry over (be suspended) into the next chord. In modern music it simply refers to the harmonic construction of the chord.

Sus Chord Construction


A Collection of Sus Chords



Open Chords

Here are some chords every guitarist should know. Open Chords are played within the first few frets on the guitar and include notes on strings that are not fretted and thus considered to be “open” strings. They are the first chords most guitarists learn.

Open chords are sometimes referred to as Cowboy Chords but don’t be fooled, they have a fuller and more robust sound then barre chords that reacts well to the over-driven guitars of rock.

20 Guitar Chords You Need to Know



Diatonic Chords

When we create music using only notes and chords from one scale we call it Diatonic music.

Let’s take a look at the diatonic chords we can get from the major scale.

The scale we are going to use to create our chords is C Major. I’ve shown the chords in four ways:

  • On piano
  • As an open chord
  • As a barre chord
  • As triads moving up the neck

The Diatonic Chords in the Key of C Major







So the triad chords that we can make from the C major scale are:




Constructing Chords from Scales

Triads are chords made of three separate notes. These notes are chosen from the scale of whatever key you’re writing in.

Select any note in the scale to act as your chords root note. Now continue up the scale selecting every other note until the root note repeats itself. In the example below we can see how this would work.
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Using a Capo

The Capo is a popular device used to shorten the strings of a guitar in order to raise their pitch.

Using a capo changes their tuning allowing you to easily change a song’s key without playing any differently on the neck.

The capo essentially becomes the end of the neck and all chords and scales are played in relation to it.

There are various types of capos available. Choose one that is easy to use, doesn’t get in your way and holds the strings uniformly without affecting the tuning of your guitar.

The Capo in Action

Notice how easily a G Major chord can be turned into an A Major or D Major chord simply by adding the capo on different frets and treating it as the end of the neck.