Chord Building 101
Ah, now we're getting to the good stuff!
A chord is simply just an arrangement of intervals from a scale, and are often played together at once, creating its own distinct sound through what's known as "harmonization."
Like the major scale, chords can also be reduced down to a formula, and is as follows:
"First," "Root" or "Tonic"
Root = First note of a scale
Third = Third note of a scale
Fifth = Fifth note of a scale
Because there are three notes, this is what's known as a "triad," and is the basis for learning all chords (and all music for that matter). If you strum a G major chord in the open position, you'll notice that you'll end up strumming all six strings; even so, you're essentially strumming the same three notes, but in additional octaves (remember: same note, higher pitch).
Also, remember how the major third gave the major scale its "happy" tonality? The same is true of major chords. In fact, the G major chord can essentially be made by using the root, third and fifth intervals from the G major scale.
You may be thinking: "But what about minor scales and chords?" They, too, can be simplified into a formula as shown below:
"Flat 3" or "Minor Third"
By flattening the third by a half-step down from the major this, you create what is called a "minor third," giving it its "minor" or "sad" tonality.
Now that you know the basic building blocks, it's time to work on chord fingerings. As you've probably noticed, dexterity is a recurring theme. To achieve this, practice strumming the major chords below:
*Until your fingers adjust to the demands of manipulating steel guitar strings, you'll likely experience some discomfort. Use your discretion and take frequent breaks when starting out, as the "no pain, no gain" mentality can negatively impact your playing in the long run.
Start out slow - really allow yourself to become acquainted with each chord before you move to the next, then try switch between the chords. Be sure to strum only the strings without the 'X,' above them, and make sure your chord fingerings don't obstruct any of the strings involved in the chord to allow for maximum clarity.
As you practice these chords, challenge yourself to differentiate between the variance in shapes, and slowly play each string/note individually (known as "arpeggiation") and see if you can spot each respective root note and third.
Introduction to Chord Extensions:
Now that your familiar with the basics of chord construction, you can now better understand what is known as a "chord extension." This simply means that you're extending the chord by adding an additional interval to create different musical "colors."
Please note that the topic of chord extensions can become a bit more involved, requiring its own discussion, so don't become too concerned with the topic just yet, because the purpose of this section is to merely introduce to you the concept of adding different intervals to a chord.
Do some sonic exploration by adding an additional interval to any of the chords listed above and see if you like what you hear.