How to Learn ALL the Guitar Chords (AND HOW NOT TO!)

Every chord practice session should be balanced with a healthy dose of routine diatonic harmony to make sure that you don’t leave yourself lacking in the department of realistic chord application...

If the three primary chord qualities don't get applied musically, (major, minor and dominant chords), we wind up causing imbalances in our application of them. This will often lead to poor chord performance down the road.

In this video, I show how to study chords so that you keep your application of them relevant and how to master more than one fret-board region to be able to apply them more fluently.

If you practice chords using a study approach like the one outlined in this video, you'll find that your versatility for using them and your memory of them will literally go through the roof!

Learning chords on the guitar is one of the most important things that we do as students of this instrument.

However, one big problem for a lot of guitar players is that they will tend to go about their study approach in a way that doesn’t allow them to both memorize and to be able to use all of the primary chord fingerings, and to know how they are most commonly used in music.

In this lesson I’m going to do two things to try and help solve that.

First, we’re going to take a look at an excellent chord practice system. Then, we’re also going to also run through a way that composers use chords to enhance their music.

The musical aspect is important because you need to become familiar with the most common chord movements that get used in all of the songs that you’ll practice in the months and years you have in front of you as a guitarist.

So, let’s get started with the first exercise…

One of the best chord progressions to study is a called the diatonic “I-VI-II-V” progression. Diatonic means that all of the chords are part of the same key.

The “I-VI-II-V” numbers are intervals that relate to the steps of the scale from whatever key has been assigned to the music.

This progression is valuable because it integrates two major chord qualities along with two minor chord qualities - all done from within the same key. The key that we’ll study for our exercise will be the key of “D Major.”

Let’s check out what’s happening right now with this “I-VI-II-V,” chord progression - in the key of “D Major.”

Example 1a). THE PROGRESSION ( I – VI – II – V )
Key of “D Major”

Example 1b). THE CHORD PATTERNS ( I – VI – II – V )
Key of “D Major” = “D” “Bm” “Em” “A”

Composers will often enhance the arrival of one or more of the “Diatonic” chords with a chord type that is not; Major, or Minor. Instead of those chords, composers will apply what are called secondary chords.

These secondary chords are chords that are of a quality that is referred to as, “Dominant 7th.” Once you learn about; Major, Minor and Dominant 7th chords, you have essentially learned the foundation of the three chords that are the most important in music.

To hear just exactly how this would work, we’re going to implement a, “Secondary chord,” into that “D Major” progression that we had just worked on a few minutes ago.

Example 2a). SECONDARY CHORD ( I – VI – II7 – V )
The application of a “Secondary Dominant” chord on the “II-chord”

Example 2b). (E7 chord voicing)


I wanted to take a minute to let you know, that if you want to learn even more about scales and theory I have a great offer for you.

With any donation over $5, or any merchandise purchase from my Tee-Spring store, I’ll send you free copies of THREE of my most popular digital handouts.

One is called, “Harmonized Arpeggio Drills” (it’ll train you on developing your diatonic arpeggios).

Another one is my “Barre Chord” Handout which includes a page showing all the key signatures along with a chord progression that applies barre chords.

Plus, you’ll get my Notation Pack! It has 8 pages of important guitar worksheets for notating anything related to; music charts, guitar chord diagrams, and TAB.

As a BONUS, (from my "Over 40 and Still Can't Play a Scale" video), I'll also throw in a breakdown of all of the chords that are diatonic to the "F Major" scale.

As an EXTRA BONUS for my Phrygian Dominant video, I'll also throw in a breakdown featuring all of the chords that are diatonic to the Phrygian Dominant scale.

Just send me an email off of the contact page of to let me know about either your donation or your Merchandise purchase and I’ll email you those digital handouts within 24 hrs.    


As the title of this video states, I’m showing you how to learn all of the chords on the guitar, through this very effective “I-VI-II-V,” chord progression exercise.

And, as you’re finding out, the “I-VI-II-V,” method has to do with learning one of the most valuable chord progressions, and then taking it and learning to modify it with the concept of using “Secondary Chords.”

But, what you don’t want to do is neglect other fret-board areas when you study your chord ideas. Too often guitar players leave chords exactly where they first found them from a song that they’d practiced.

That’s how “Not” to practice your chords. So, in respect of not leaving any group of chords in only one area of the neck, we’re going to re-locate the chord progression we had just studied over to another fingerboard area of the guitar. We’ll keep it in the same key, but the chords will all be new shapes on the fingerboard.

Example 3a). THE PROGRESSION ( I – VI – II – V )
Key of “D Major” (mid-neck region)

Example 3b). THE CHORD PATTERNS ( I – VI – II – V )
Key of “D Major” = “D” “Bm” “Em” “A” (mid-neck region)…

Next, let’s add our secondary dominant chord. I’ll play the chord changes once again, but this time with the VI-chord of “Em” converted to an, “E” Dominant Seventh chord…

Example 4a). THE PROGRESSION ( I – VI – II7 – V )
Key of “D Major” (mid-neck region, w/Secondary Chord)

Example 4b). THE "E7" CHORD PATTERN

Using the “I-VI-II-V,” chord progression (the way we covered it in this video), will go a long way to help you learn your chords and move through all of the keys so you really get to know the patterns for both Major and Minor...

If you also take the, “I-VI-II-V,” progression to other areas of the neck, what you’ll start to discover is how to play the Major and Minor shapes all across your guitar as well as understand other options for all the important Major and Minor chord shapes.

Then, if you take things to the next level and you also learn how to add in the Secondary Dominant chords, you’ll have covered the three main chord qualities that are found in music!

So, taking guitar chord practice this far, (in an exercise like I’ve covered here), will really help you get to know how to perform the; Major, Minor and Dominant 7 chords (all over the neck), and you’ll learn to understand how they’re applied in pretty much any of the most popular top-40 songs out there!



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