Chord Puzzles

Guitar chord fingerings can be shown in a number of ways. A chord puzzle in tablature is one way, grids & music notation are others.

I Love Guitar created chord puzzles to demonstrate which fingers stay, if any, & which fingers move for any pair of chords. Puzzles direct finger traffic. Landing on a chord is a consequence of correct travel.

chord puzzle one, e minor, g 6, two types of g, g 7, e minor again with 2 and 3 rather than 1 and 2, E, A minor, C, C7, F, connect these chords

If you can play all of these chords, you can play thousands of songs. You can also use these chords to write songs.

The chords in the following progressions aren't next to each other on the puzzle, but keep in mind that the goal of a chord puzzle is to show us how to change from one chord to the next. We can build our own puzzles for any changes we want to learn. Use blank tab (pdf opens new tab or window) for that purpose.

Once we see how to connect chords (no matter what they are), the idea is there. We apply what we have learned to any chord change.

play this chord progression

progression, c f c g7 strummed down miss down up miss up down up

play this chord progression

progression, A minor c g e strummed down miss down up miss up down up

puzzle two

Having studied many chord learning methodologies, I Love Guitar created Chord Puzzles to assuage the common delays in learning to change between chords. Puzzles demonstrate a process for linking a chord fingering to the next chord fingering. The goal is for us to understand and actualize the connection process. A chord change is the action between chords. As we survey a new tune, we can build our own puzzles to connect any chords in a particular song. Use some blank TAB to write them down.

At a certain point, the linking process between chords is automatic [becomes a Snap - Lift/Hover into the shape of the next]. Thinking is at the beginning of this process. Think hard, once. Don't train mistakes. If we don't get a chord change after 5-10 tries, we are programming mistakes. We may eventually get to a chord using the 'whatever' method, but how did we get there? Yeah, falling down the steps gets us to the bottom all right. Could we recreate the fall, exactly? Be the beginning.


e7 and b7 guitar chords

  1. A horizontal line from one chord to next means that the finger does not move, yet can shift within its fret space. Most chords have a common finger (do not change) with the next
    (indicated by a horizontal line with or without an arrowhead).
  2. A box - gray box - with a number and with a line - whether curved with an arrow, or a diagonal - indicates a finger needs to move from one location (fret/string) to the next. The number inside the box is a fret number.
  3. A box - gray box - without a line indicates a finger that was inactive needs to be placed [an ADD/SUB].
  4. If a new note is open, no box is present.
  5. Smaller numbers next to the tablature fret number is the fingering (Fretting hand - FH).
  6. x = Mute with thumb or index or middle or don't play (AIM). The finger to use for muting is sometimes included in a puzzle (next to an x).

The goal of chord puzzle is to program motion through space in time. A chord change is the motion between the chords. Chords are a consequence of correct travel. Any chord can go to any chord, so...we figure out what it takes. Slow motion is a sure way to program motion. Super slow motion is even better. How slow can we go? Do slow motion even once and notice the difference. All fingers lift, move, and land together, ideally. Layering is acceptable and sometimes preferred, but do practice all fingers lifting, moving, and landing together.

With focused practice, as soon as we lift a chord shape with the intent of moving to a new one, our hand will snap into the next chord shape [if we have programmed the motion]. It will snap and hover so that we can land it on the down-beat [with the strum]. Synchronization makes our hands intelligent; this makes us free to think or not think about other things.

Chords That Go Together

First, any chord can go to any chord. Yet, chords are grouped in families. In a Major Key, the I, IV, and V are Major chords (4-3), the ii, iii, and vi are minor chords (3-4), and the viio is diminished (3-3). For more on this check out this lesson for C Major.

Example in C

  • I, IV, V = C, F, G
  • ii, iii, vi = Dm, Em, Am
  • viio = Bo = Bmflat5