Most of us learn a ton of chords one by one, often times using many of the chord dictionaries out there. Then we learn bar chords and power chords and are able to move them around using only a few simple shapes. But the chords are usually seen as one solid block and are usually large cumbersome chords. Chords can be much more powerful than that and also used as soloing aids.
As we progress on the guitar we can move beyond the common chords that everyone plays and into lighter chords also use an awesome technique known as voice leading. Voice leading is a term that describes the method of moving from one chord to another in as smooth a motion as possible. This means each note moves a minimum of distance between chords, perhaps a half or whole step (1 or 2 frets).
The following system teaches you how to build any chord, focusing on 6th, 7th, 9th, 11 and 13th chords (and their alterations). These are powerful, moveable shapes, and in order to do this you need to understand where each interval is within a chord. Let’s get started!
Here’s the F7 in all root position, again on the highest four strings (EBGD).
From D string to E string we have the notes F, C, Eb, A. Again, note the overall shape of the chord (it’s moveable), location of the root F on D string, and lastly – note the intervals on each string ie. root, 5th, min. 7th, maj. 3rd.
Here’s the F7 in 1st position, again on the highest four strings (EBGD).
Note the location of the root (B string) and the other intervals (in order maj. 3, min.7, root, 5th).
Here’s the F7 in all 2nd inversion, again on the highest four strings (EBGD).
Root is on G string in this inversion.
Okay the basis for this entire system is learning the F7 in all four inversions on the highest four strings (EBGD). Here’s the lowest one we can reach on the guitar (3rd inversion).
From D string to E string we have the notes Eb, A, C, F. A few points are CRITICAL to using this system! Note where the root is (E string first fret), note the overall shape of the chord (it’s moveable)), and lastly – note the intervals on each string ie. min. 7th, maj. 3rd, 5th, and root. This is SO important as we will be moving these intervals to create all other chords!
Here’s the F7 in all 3rd inversion, this completes the octave (from 1st fret to 13th fret).
Make sure you know where each interval is (root, 3rd, 5th, 7th) because we will be moving these to form all the other chords you can imagine!
Okay now that you have learned the 3 inversions of F7 on the high 4 strings and where each interval is you can build any other chord by simply moving one or more notes down:
For F9 raise the F to G
For F13 raise the C to D
For F7#11 lower the C to B
For F7aug raise the C to C#
For example for Fmin7, move the A from F7 down a half step to Ab.
For Fm6 lower the Eb of Fmin to a D.
For Fmaj7 raise the Eb from F7 to an E
For Fmin7b5 lower the C of Fmin7 to Cb
For Fdim7 lower the Eb of Fmin7 to Ebb (D).
We can do this same process for other F7 chords (ones on strings 5432 and 6432)
You can also check out my post on Drop 2 chords.