Country Guitar Chords
Listen To Me Talk About Country Guitar Chords
The term "country guitar chords" is something which gets asked about and searched for by beginners but actually there's no such thing as "country" or "gospel" chords. The chord shapes we use to play country music are pretty much the same as you would use to play most other kinds of music too. It's just that the application of them is different.
When you first get started it's easy to find yourself overwhelmed by the fact that there are literally 1000's of guitar chords to potentially learn and yes, some guitar players really do know them all! The good news however is that by simply learning the essential ones (about 10 - 12 chords) it's possible to play an incredible amount of easy country guitar songs, including all the biggest country hits and many of your all time favorites too.
Essential Guitar Chords For Country Songs
Here's a list of the essential chords you should know...
Download my country guitar chords PDF guide here
Here's What To Do
Step One: Learn & memorize each chord shape so that you can find them on your guitar without needing to refer to the diagrams for help
Step Two: Create little progressions where you can practice changing from one chord to another in order to be able to change between all of them quickly.
In a nutshell the whole thing works in this way. First you learn then you perfect.
Most of the time 'learning' with country guitar lessons is simply about memorizing something whether it be a scale in tablature, new chord shapes, a 3/4 strumming pattern and so on. Most people find this part relatively easy to do. The real work however comes when you need to make those things so ingrained in your playing that they start to feel automatic and second-nature to you. It's only when something feels easy for you to do that you can really use it. And in order for something to feel second-nature, you need to practice it to the extent where you could almost perform it in your sleep. That takes work!
A Classic Country Chord Progression
In the example below I've written out a typical country music chord progression, the kind where you'd normally see the lyrics to a song written above the chord changes. When you play through it your focus should be on making a smooth transition from one chord to the next without the presence of any gaps or moments of hesitation. Then entire thing should flow effortlessly.
It's an example of the simple two step process. First you learn something then you create ways to practice it to the point of perfection.
G | C | G | D7 | G | C | G - D7 | G
How To Make Up Your Own Practice Progressions
The easiest way is to simply choose one of the groupings from below and arrange the chords within that group into different orders. Practice cycling the variations you come up with around and around, repeating them every day.
So long as you stick to chords within each group you'll be playing within one of the 5 most used keys used in country songs and the chords will go well together!
Group 1: C | F | G | G7
Group 2: G | C | D | D7
Group 3: D | G | A | A7
Group 4: A | D | E | E7
Group 5: E | A | B7
The Structure Of Chords
All chords, regardless of the instrument or style of western music, are constructed with the same theory and principals. The best way to understand chord construction however is to first look at a basic scale, let's take C major as an example. The notes in a C major scale would be all naturals i.e. no sharps of flats
C D E F G A B
In simple major and minor chords we have just 3 notes and these are lifted directly from the scale - the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes. So starting on C the notes needed to form a C chord would be C, E and G (1, 3, 5). For a minor chord it's the same except that the 3rd is flat (a minor third) and would look like this C, Eb, G (1, b3, 5).
The system is fully transposable. If you wanted to find the notes in a G chord you simply apply the same formula but this time starting from the G note in the scale - G, B, D. Or for a G minor chord... G, Bb, D
These are called triads and they form the basis of all major and minor chords. Even through there are just 3 notes they can be repeated in a chord voicing. So for example, a C chord is made of up C, E, G however when played on guitar the order of notes in the chord could be C, E, G, C, E. It doesn't matter, so long as the essential tones are all present with nothing else added it's going to function as a C major chord. It's actually possible to 'voice' the same chord in many, many different ways.
Country music on guitar also employs a lot of dominant 7 type chords. These chords have some inner energy (dissonance) which has a desire to be resolved into another chord and find a place of rest. This is due to the presence of a tritone but that's getting a little advanced for this lesson!
To get a dominant seven chord we take the triad formula simply add and extra note so a dom7 chord would typically contain 4 notes instead of 3. The formula would b e 1, 3, 5, b7
Do You Really Have To Know This Stuff To Be Good?
Knowledge is power.
There's no doubt that taking the time to educate yourself on the basics of music theory will help you become a better guitar player however is it essential? No, not at all. There are many examples of fantastic guitar players who can play like a dream who don't understand anything of music theory at all.
Just in case you don't happen to possess a perfectly natural talent for guitar playing however, it's better to take the little bit of time required to learn the essentials of how music actually works. You'll find that it's actually very logical and well worth it.
Examples Of Country Guitar Chord Progressions To Practice
C | F | G | G7
G | C | D7 | G
E | A | E | B7