Welcome to the second installment of Chord by Chord, a series designed to build your fretboard familiarity and understanding of harmony. Today we’re going to take a look at a G major chord. I’ll show you how to play a G chord in a few different places on the fretboard, with G always at the bottom of the chord.
A G chord is a major triad, made up of three notes: G (root), B (third), and D (fifth), as shown in Example 1. Since we have six strings on the guitar, some notes are repeated in most chord shapes. If we take a look at Example 2a, you’ll see that there are 3 Gs and 2 Bs. In this case, the lowest note in the chord is the root note G on the low E string. For a variation on the G open chord, you can play the third fret on the B string to add a second D to the chord, as shown in Example 2b.
Next, in Example 3a, we have the most common closed voicing—in other words, no open strings—a barre chord played in third position. Notice that the lowest note is still G on the low E string. As shown in Example 3b, you can also play this chord with just the bottom four notes. With just the bottom three, it would be a power chord, as it’s missing the middle note, or the third of the chord. Or, as shown in Example 3c, you can play just the top four strings. In this case, the lowest note would be the G played on the D string at fret 5.
Example 4 shows a less common chord shape, in seventh position. Here, the lowest note is the G played on the 10th fret of the A string. Lastly, for Example 5a, we have a barre chord in 10th position, minus the low E string. If the third finger barre is too difficult, fret strings 4, 3, and 2 with your second, third, and fourth fingers, respectively. You can also play a derivation of this chord, Example 5b, on just the top three strings. This time, the lowest note is the G on the G string at the 12th fret. Though I prefer to use my second, third, and first fingers on strings 3, 2, and 1, you could instead try your third, fourth, and first fingers—go with whatever fingering feels most natural.
If you also have watched the first installment of the series, you should now know how to a few different ways to play a C chord as well. There are plenty of songs that make use of a C and G chord, for example, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.”