Mobile Chord Forms for guitar I
Prepared by Alan Humm
Once you are familiar with the general run of root level chords, it is
time to move on the mobile chords that can be played anywhere on the
neck. These are sometimes called 'orchestral forms,' presumably because
guitarists who played in the big bands had to be able to handle any key.
If you are stuck on the nut, you will have a problem with that.
Notes on the guitar fingerboard.
The truth is, if you have been getting familiar with your nut-position
chords, you already know most of the orchestral forms. But there are two
hurdles you have to get past. First, you will need to get comfortable
with full barre chords, if you are not there already. I gave alternate
fingering on the regular nut position of the F chords that require full
barres. This is just a matter of practice and building your strength,
but it is an essential step for your future on guitar. At this point,
you should just pick a fret and run your index finger behind it
completely. Press hard and try to get all the notes to sound, one at a
time and then all together.
If you already know your notes, or at least how to figure them out, you
can go ahead and jump to the next page now.
The second major hurdle is that you need to learn the notes on the
neck,1 particularly the bottom two strings (of course, if you
learn the sixth string, you will have the first string under your belt
as well). To the left is a chart of the neck with the note names
Actually, my guitar doesn't have any dots below the fifth fret.
Classical guitars usually don't have any dots at all!
The green dots should correspond to the dots on your guitar neck
(although sometimes the first dot is behind the second fret, rather than
the third).2 Already thinking about giving up? It is not as hard as it
looks, you just need to learn the pattern. At first you will be just
using that pattern to find the notes; later you will be familiar enough
with them jump to them without thinking. Baby steps.
Let's start with a piano keyboard, because it is easier to see what is
going on there (you don't have to be familiar with the piano, and you
definitely do not need to be able to play it). Once you see what is
going on there, it should be pretty easy to translate it to the guitar
fingerboard. Just remember, that musically, it is the same thing.
Notes on the piano keyboard.
The piano keys are connected to note names, just as with the frets in
the guitar chart above. But you probably noticed a couple of things.
First, there are only seven note letters, repeated over and over.
Second, it isn't a simple arraignment of white-black-white-black all the
way up. There are no black keys between the Es and the
Fs, or between the Bs and the Cs. Now
look at the guitar fingerboard. You can see the same pattern. Most note
names are two frets apart, except the Es and Fs,
and the Bs and Cs.
When you do get the black keys (or the fret locations that are left
unlabeled on my chart), we name those notes with reference to the notes
around them. The black note just to the right of F is called
F♯ (F-sharp). That corresponds to the fret
just above the F on the guitar fingerboard. The same note is
just to the left of the G on the keyboard, and just below it on the
fingerboard, so we also call that note G♭
(G-flat). So, if someone tells you to find
C♯, you start by finding C, and then slide
up one fret.
If you can't find C, you start at the bottom (you know that's
an E) and count up, remembering to jump a fret between most
notes, but not between the Es and the Fs or
between the Bs and the Cs. That will get you to
the seventh fret, then you slide up to the eighth fret for your
No surprise, the next string over works the same way, except that you
start counting from A rather than from E (after
all, it is the A string). As for there only being seven
letters, the distance from one letter to the next one with the same name
is called an octave. If you play two notes an octave apart, you will
immediately hear that they sound like the same note (kind of); it's just
that one note is higher than the other. That is why there are multiple
notes with the same name-they are the same(ish).3
Looking at the fingerboard you should observe that the notes start this
octave repetition on the twelfth fret (where the two dots are). This
always the case. You should also notice that most of the notes on the
sixth string are also on the fifth string (exactly the same notes. If we
count octaves, then both strings have all notes). I told you to look for
a C♯ on the E string. If you do the same
thing on the A string, you get to it sooner (the fourth fret).
At this point, we want to move on to the next page to figure out how this is
going to help you with the mobile chords.