Learning chords is essential to playing most styles of mandolin. They an important part of playing with a jam or group as well as just simply singing along to songs. Starting off, you don’t need to know a ton of different chords – just one or two versions of each chord are usually enough. But as you progress, you’ll realize there’s good reason to learn more chord shapes up the neck. The goal of this page is to provide fretting options for various chords.
Some music theory first. Chords are simply any 3 notes played together. For example, a Major chord is played using the first, third, and fifth degree of a scale – in the key of G, that would mean playing the G, B, and D notes at the same time. Most chords are built off the Major or Minor chords and add “extensions” that change the color of the chord played. I recommend getting a solid base with the basic Major and Minor chords before venturing to the more complex extensions.
Regardless of your current skill level, I would suggest not trying to learn all the chords immediately. Start small and pick a few chords from your favorite song and learn those using one chord shape per chord. Once you have those down, try using a new chord position for each chord. Keep repeating this process and eventually you’ll be able to play that same song all over the neck.
Why use different positions? Among the many reasons, here’s two good ones.
- The timbre of a chord – different chord positions will sound slightly different. Some are higher pitched, some are lower, the notes are rearranged, etc. In addition, sometimes you just want to play in a particular position.
- Learning the fretboard – by learning where the chords are, you will become better acquainted with the notes on the fretboard – which will make things a lot easier when soloing. Check out my Fretboard Road Maps lesson here too.
To help learn these chords, I’ve created a few chord charts showing the basic 1 4 5 progression in various keys (if you aren’t sure what that is, click here for my Nashville Numbering lesson). The chords are laid out in two ways – first is the “academic” style just showing many variations of a particular chord. This part of the chart is to be used more as a reference than a practice. Second is the “practical” style which includes 16 different simple 1 4 5 progressions to get used to playing through these chord changes. Of course these charts are just a small sample of potential options. After reviewing the charts, try writing some of your own out too. Here’s a blank chart to help.
- Major Chords
- Minor Chords
As always, if you have any questions – feel free to contact me.
If you are liking the song breakdowns and want to learn more, check out my personal coaching page.
If you like this content, consider donating to my site. If you’d like to be notified when I post new content, subscribe below. Generally, you’ll get about 1 email a week