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The Five Basic Chord Shapes
by Adam St. James for

There are many thousands of chord shapes that can be played on the guitar. A deep understanding of chords brings to light such concepts as “inversions” and chords which leave out certain chord tones to build creative voicings all up and down the neck of the instrument. In short, it ’s very unlikely any of us will ever learn every chord there is, and even if you came close, you’d never be able to make use of all those chords in anything that resembles music.

But don’t worry about all that. There are really only five basic chord shapes, and pretty much all those thousands of chord shapes I mentioned above can be thought of as variations on these five shapes. I’ll show you how that works in future columns.

But better yet, you probably already know these five most important shapes – they were probably the first five chords you learned – though you may not have thought of moving all these chords up and down the neck. In this column I’ll show you how and why you should.