Root notes

Recall, that we've learned the chords E,D,C,A and G.

Consider open position.


Recall, that F#=Gb, C#=Db, G#=Ab, D#=Eb, and A#=Bb
(in the tuning system that we use).

Recall, that we defined a chord as 3 or more notes usually played at the same time.

We also defined the above 5 major chords as:
E = E,G#,B
D = D,F#,A
C = C,E,G
A = A,C#,E
G = G,B,D

Now, we call the note which gives the chord its name, its root note.

So, the note C is the root note of the C major chord. It's also the root note of Cm, C7, etc.

Sometimes we use other words for the root note. We might call it a tonic or the 1 of the chord.

Comparing the 5 chords we've learned with the open position, we find the root notes for our chords.


E major (E = E,G#,B)


D major (D = D,F#,A)


C major (C = C,E,G)

A major (A = A,C#,E)

G major (G = G,B,D)

Okay. In the above chord diagrams, the circles for the root notes have been replaced with R.

You should memorize where the root notes are in every chord shape you learn (scales too). We will soon use this information to play chords anywhere on the neck (not just the first 4 frets).


One of the more basic strums is to first pick the root note (usually the lowest one), and then down strum the rest of the chord.

Below are 2 progressions in TAB. they use all 5 above chords with a bass-note strum.

1.) A-E-D-A (in 4/4 time)



2.) G-C-D-G (in 3/4 time)


Next lesson is on open minor chords.

Christopher Roberts

How do I change all those numbers to letters (for notes, chords, etc.)? Here's a transposition chart

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Last updated May 26, 2003.
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