Here are the steps you need to do to create a guitar chord chart for a given chord.
1. Determine the location of the bass note
Because the bass note is necessarily the lowest of the chord. The bass note determines the general area were the chord is located.
Remember that a chord is build on top of a bass note by adding other intervals. If you define the bass note, then you can start building the chord.
If the chord is an inversion, like G/B, then the bass chord is different from the main chord (in this case, B is a third above the main note G).
2. Determine if the chord is major or minor
An important consideration to create a guitar chord chart is if the chord is minor or major. This interval basically says how the chord starts. Since chords are built by adding thirds, a major chord means that the chord starts by major third. A minor chord, on the other hand, tells us that the chord start by a minor chord.
Major chords have an interval of major third between the first and second notes of the chord. They usually give a sense of strength and happiness.
Minor chords have an interval of minor third between the first and second notes of the chord. This usually gives a sense of weakness and sadness to the chord.
Pro tip: Theory topics such as this may look overwhelming at first, but they are really simple when looked in practice with the guitar. I highly recommend the String Theory online course to help with this. This site provides you with an easy way to master music theory applied to the guitar, with clear example that will make theory clear.
3. Determine the main notes for the guitar chord chart
The next step to create a guitar chord chart is to determine the main notes of the chord. This is basically determined by looking at the third note of the chord, which is usually a fifth from the base note. For example, in a C major chord this is a G. In a E minor chord this is a B.
However, in a few cases you may need a diminished fifth. The main example is the diminished chord itself. The diminished C chord is given by C, Eb, and Gb.
-|--|--|--|- -|--|x-|--|- -|--|--|x-|- -|--|x-|--|- -|x-|--|--|- -|--|--|--|- 3rd fret
4. Determine the extensions of the chord
Some chords also have extensions. The most common extension is the 7th, which can be minor or major. For example: Am7, F#m7.
The major 7th gives a kind of dreaming character to the chord. It works well usually with the tonic chord.
The minor 7th is commonly used with minor chords, where it works really well.
When applied to major chords, the minor 7th has an important function: it tell is a chord is dominant, that is, if it asks for resolution one forth down, usually in the tonic.
Other extensions are also possible, most commonly the 9th, the 11th and the 13th intervals.
5. Determine notes to be removed
Some notes don’t need to be present in a chord. For example, the fifth doesn’t always need to be present in a chord, and it can be suppressed.
If the chord has a different bass (for example, C/E), then the first note (in this case C) doesn’t need to be part of the chord.
6. Determine the fingering of the guitar chord chart
Once you have determined the notes on the chord, the next step is to build it. A helping strategy is to base the chord on one of the shapes of the CAGED system.
Once you’ve determined this, create a chart. For example, for Cm7, we can do the following:
- Determine the bass note: C on the fifth string, 3rd fret.
- Determine the 3rd: the third is Eb (minor), which can be found on second string, 4th fret.
- Determine the 5th: this is G, which can be found on forth string, 5th fret (also on first string, 3rd fret).
- Determine the extension (minor 7th), which is Bb, which can be found at third string, 3rd fret.
The resulting chart is this:
-|x-|--|--|- G -|--|x-|--|- Eb -|x-|--|--|- Bb -|--|--|x-|- G -|x-|--|--|- C -|--|--|--|- 3rd fret
Tip: If you want to learn to create guitar chord charts and other topics, I have created a free PDF guitar course that goes over the basis of guitar playing. You just need to go here and get it sent to your email.