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In this guitar lesson we are going to learn how to start recognizing chord qualities. Recognizing chord qualities simply means being able to hear if a chord is a major or minor chord. This is a great skill for any guitarists to have especially if you want to figure out songs for yourself. The idea behind this lesson is to start training you ear to hear the difference between two intervals, a major third and a minor third. It is probably a good idea to be familiar with the major scale and the basic bar chord shapes before continuing on with this lesson. We will be using G major and G minor chords for this lesson.
Start off by playing the familiar G major bar chord shape that has your 1st finger across all six strings on the 3rd fret. The notes in this chord are G, B, and D. Now play just the 5th fret of the 4th string and the 4th fret of the 3rd string. Those two notes are G and B, the root and 3rd of a G major chord. The distance, or interval, between the G and B notes is a major third. Play these two notes and listen to the way they sound together. The major third interval is what gives a major chord its distinct sound. If you can memorize the sound of a major third, recognizing the sound of major chords will be much easier for you.
Now let’s take the same idea and get know the sound of a minor chord. Play the G minor bar chord shape that has your 1st finger across all six strings on the 3rd fret. The notes in this chord are G, Bb, and D. Play just the 5th fret of the 4th string and the 3rd fret of the 3rd string. Those two notes are G and Bb, the root and 3rd of a G minor chord. The interval between G and Bb is a minor third. Play these two notes together and try to memorize how they sound. Now go back to the major third and listen to that interval. Go back and forth between major and minor thirds until your ear starts to memorize the different sound of the two intervals.
Using your ear memory to identify what major and minor thirds sound like is one of the first steps to start training your ear to recognize chords. If you have a friend that plays an instrument try this exercise with them. Get your friend to play major and minor thirds at random. See if you can guess which interval they are playing. This may be difficult for you at first, but if you work hard on it for a while it will start to become second nature to you. You will start to hear major and minor thirds everywhere.