Three note / three fingers D major chord

Below is an image of the D major chord played on the 2nd and 3rd frets of the guitar. This is the most basic form of D major chord fingering.

The open notes on the 4th and 5th strings is D and A respectively, which is part of the D major chord notes (D F# A). So it is alright to play those two open strings.

But,  the 6th string open is E, which is not part of the D major chord notes. E is in fact the major 2nd note with respect to D [D (root) – D# (minor 2nd) -E (major 2nd)].

Using string/fret relations, find a way to 'close' all the open strings. This gives us a fingering pattern of D major chord, which can be used as a standard fingering to play major chords all over the fretboard, with root on the 2nd string.

This is useful becaus, by just noting which string holds the root in each of the chord fingering positions, we can use the same pattern to shift to another desired location and play the same kind of chord with another root.

D major chord with no open string

Find D F# and A, the notes of the D major chord, on the frets of the open string in such a way that they are close enough to be with four fingers by a normal size human being.

In this chord fingering pattern, the root note (D) is on the 2nd (3rd fret) and 5th (5th fret) strings. The note to the right of D, the note on the 4th fret, is a D#.

If you shift the whole pattern to the right, with the first finger barre on the 3rd fret, and the 2nd finger on the 4th fret, we get the D# major chord.

The relation is that simple and straightforward.

  1. Remember the pattern that the fingers and frets make with each other.
  2. Recognize which fret/string the root note of the chord is
  3. See where on the same string the new root is
  4. Shift the whole pattern with the inter-relations intact.

… and you have the major chord (or any type of chord that the fingering pattern represents) with the new root note.

If your fingering pattern does not have any open strings, like in the case above, then you are safe to play all the strings, and only the chord notes will sound.

But if there are open strings, make sure the open strings are indeed notes within the chord, else do not play the open strings, just the fingered ones.

In the case of D major chord, we found ways to close all the strings so that we didn't have to worry about playing any notes outside of the chord.

Minor from the Major chord

When the root note D is played on the 2nd string, the minor and major 3rd notes are nearest on the 1st string.

We know how to play the D major chord. To play the D minor chord, just shift the major 3rd note to the minor 3rd note, as shown in the images.

Major chord: Root – major 3rd – fifth. Minor chord: Root – minor 3rd – fifth.

Hold the D major chord fingering, shift just one finger to play the D minor chord.

3 note minor chord

You can shift this 3 note D major or minor chord fingering pattern to other positions to play major or minor chords with the root on the 2nd string. But, make sure that you play only the 1st 2nd and 3rd strings, because the other strings are open and may not have notes in agreement with the chord notes.

In the case of the major chord, we saw how the 3 notes can be repeated on the other strings to get a playable fingering pattern that has no open strings, and therefore can be shifted to any position and all the strings can be played.

With the D minor chord in this kind of fingering pattern, the best we can do is, add one more note as shown below.

D minor chord on 4 strings/4 fingers

The minor 3rd note (F#) on the first string 1st fret is repeated on the 4th string 3rd fret. Rearrange your four fingers to play the 4 notes.

When shifting this 4 string pattern to play other minor chords with root on the 2nd string, remember not to play the open strings, unless you are sure that those strings sound the chord notes.

Minor chord to diminished chord

Diminished chord is a minor chord with the fifth flattened

Minor chord with the fifth flattened gives you the diminished chord from the same root. 'Flat' means go one step lower on the note sequence. On the guitar this means find the fret to the left. (Sharp of a note will be on the fret to the right.)

In this fingering pattern, the fifth is on the 3rd string 2nd fret. To 'flatten' the 5th, find the note to the left of the 5th note – 3rd string 1st fret (shown in the image above).

Naturally, if you keep the relation between the strings the same, you can shift the fingering pattern to play diminished chord for any root, where the root is on the 2nd string.

Also, whenever you are playing the basic minor or major chord pattern, to find the diminished chord, just remember which strings to shift:

  1. to get minor chord from major chord, shift the note on the first string from major 3rd to minor 3rd
  2. diminished chord from the minor chord – shift the fifth note on the 3rd string to a flatten fifth on the fret immediately to the left.



Augmented chord from the major chord

Augmented chord is a major chord with the fifth sharpened

The fifth note is sharpened by playing the note immediately to the right of the fifth note, on the 3rd string.

Naturally, this is a pattern that can be shifted as needed to play augmented chords for root notes on the 2nd string.

There are just two more basic patterns, which when learnt can be used to find out the other chords, just like we did it with the D chord position. More at Chord Code for Guitar