The Five Basic Chord Shapes, Part 2
The E Shape Played as Minor
Again, this is probably one of the first chord shapes you ever learned. Its easy, and by sliding it up the neck and adding a barre behind it, you can easily create a minor chord on each of the 12 chromatic musical notes. This chord shape has its root note on the sixth string. If you play a barred version of this chord higher up the neck, the note your first finger is barring on the sixth string is the root note of the chord.
E Shape Minor Chord
Move the chord up two frets and youve got F# minor:
E Shape Minor as Barre Chord
You can finger these chords two ways, regardless of whether youre playing the chord in open position or higher up the neck as a barre chord. The easiest and most common is to use your third finger on the fifth string and your fourth finger on the fourth string. This is the same fingering you would use if you were playing the major version of the E shape chord, and especially if you slid that chord up the neck with a barre.
The preferred version of E-shape minor chord fingering, however, is to use your second finger on the fifth string and your third finger on the fourth string. Its a little tougher, especially in barre form, but this fingering leaves your fourth finger free to add additional notes on top of the chord, particularly if you want to play a minor seventh chord (see diagram 3) or a minor add nine chord (see diagram 4), both of which are common in a variety of musical styles.
F# Minor 7
F#m add 9
The A Shape Played as Minor
The A minor chord is another that ranks right up there among the first chords most guitarists learn. I'll show you how to turn it into a barre chord, and to play the related minor 7 chord in two forms. Whether you're playing in open position or higher on the neck as a barre chord, the A shape minor chord has its root note on the fifth string.
Notice that there are two fingerings for the basic A minor chord in open position. You should be comfortable playing the chord both ways, because there are times when one position will work better than the other, depending on the chords before and after, or the added melody notes you might want to play on top of the chord. In fact, the way most people play the chord in open position doesn't work when you want to slide the chord up into a barred position higher on the neck, but the barred fingering is not as comfortable in open position. So learn and practice them both.
A Shape Minor Chord
Move the chord up two frets and youve got B minor:
A Shape Minor as Barre Chord
To play a minor seventh chord, in either open position or as a barre chord, all you do is lift off the finger on the third string, regardless of which fingering youre using. Here is a B minor 7 chord, played using the A shape:
B Minor 7
And by placing your fourth finger on the first string, you get another version of the A-shape minor seventh chord. This one, played up two frets, is a B minor 7 chord.
Another B Minor 7
The D Shape Played as Minor
The open position D minor chord has its root note on the second or fourth string. This chord can be played with two different fingerings.
The fingering shown in diagram 9 is preferred for the open position chord. Its a little easier to finger than the alternative, but mostly, it is the preferred version because it frees the fourth finger to play melody notes on top of the chord basically, it allows the fourth finger to play the G note at the 3rd fret on the first string, should you want to.
D Shape Minor
The second fingering for this chord can be done in open position, but really becomes necessary when sliding the chord up the neck and playing it as a barre chord. Just like the D major shape, you can slide this chord up the neck and play it without a barre, but adding a barre to play the root note on the fourth string really adds a lot of depth to an otherwise weaker sounding chord.
Move the chord up two frets and youve got E minor:
D Shape Minor as Barre Chord
The C Shape Played as Minor
This one is tough. Its very difficult to finger, though it gets easier the higher up the neck you go. You probably wont find much use for this chord shape, but you should still understand it, know that it exists, and understand its relation to the C shape major chord.
C Shape Minor Chord
You don't really want to bother barring this shape the notes that occur from barring dont belong in the chord and sound bad. But higher on the neck, with a slightly different fingering, this shape becomes more playable and useful. The root note of this chord is on the fifth string, played with your fourth finger.
This is one of those chords where it makes sense to focus, fret-wise, on your fourth finger. When thinking about this chord, and where you'll play it on the neck to get the desired minor chord, think in terms of where your fourth finger is going. Here is a C shape G minor chord at the 10th fret:
C Shape Minor higher up
The G Shape Played as Minor
This one is almost as tough as the C shape chord, but not quite. It also has limited use, but the open position version sounds nice. This chord has its root on the sixth string.
G Shape Minor Chord
Higher up the neck, the fingering gets tougher and playing the higher strings becomes all but impossible. So up the neck, this chord, as a barre, is limited to lower range use. But thats probably cool for anyone playing dark, heavy music, or using a lot of distortion.
Again, this is one of those chords where youll watch your fourth finger for the name of the chord. Played with your fourth finger at the 10th fret, this is a G shape D minor chord.
G Shape Minor as Barre Chord
So Whats the Difference Between a Major and Minor Chord?
If this question has popped into your mind, you need to read my column Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar 8: Building Major and Minor Chords.
The only difference between a major and minor chord is one note, or actually, one fret. There is a little music theory behind this, and for that lesson, see Shut Up 8, linked above. But briefly, look at these diagrams of a D shape major chord and the D shape minor chord:
The only difference is the note on the first string. In the D major chord its played at the 2nd fret F#. In the D minor chord its played at the 1st fret F natural. F natural is the minor third of D; F# is the major third. In all the chord shapes explained here and in Shut Up 101: The Five Basic Chord Shapes, the only difference is the major and minor third of each chord or a one fret move.
If you want to be a better player, the theory behind this stuff is really, very, very easy. Dont be afraid of it, and dont be lazy about it. As I explained in Shut Up N Play Yer Guitar 8: Understanding Major and Minor Chords, if you can count to 13, and know the alphabet from A to G, you can master the basics of music theory in a matter of minutes. It grows from there, but the basics are that easy.
Just do it.