How do I play that chord? Part 2: Look it up online.

musical fingers
Image by vl8189 via Flickr

My previous post on chords discussed how to work out the fingering for a chord you don’t know – how to “figure it out”. But let’s be honest, most of us would rather just look up how to play a chord and the easiest place to do that is on the web.

I’m going to review some of the websites I’ve found and like for looking up chords. Before I do, some background. First, there are two types of chord lookup software. The one I’m going to discuss now is where you know the name of the chord but don’t know how to play it. You want to look up all the fingering diagrams possible for the given chord name. It is possible to do the opposite type lookup where you know a specific fingering diagram for a chord but don’t know the name. Many of the software programs can do both, but again, for now I’m just talking about finding diagrams when you know the name.

My Maj 7th chord for test.

The second consideration is what do you want or expect from a chord reference. Many beginning guitar players would prefer not see any complex chords, maybe just open chords. My own preference is to be able to lookup any chord name I encounter. My tests for a good reference is to include m7b5 chords (also known as a half diminished chord) and to include the major 7th form to the right 1 as one of the diagrams for a Gmaj7 chord.

Last week when I was trying to determine how to play a G7b5b9 chord I discovered how few sources include that chord name. The good news is some do include it.

Recommended Online Resources for Guitar Chords.

Guitar Room Easy Diagram for Gmaj7
Guitar Room Simple View

Chord House. I use the advanced view but there is a simpler view as well. The simple view displays the chord in a traditional chord diagram. However, the simple view fails my Gm7b5 and Gmaj7 tests.

Guitar Room Advanced View for Gm7b5
Guitar Room Advanced View

The advanced view at Chord House doesn’t give you a chord diagram. Instead it displays the positions of all the notes in the chord on a fret board diagram. This is almost like figuring out on your own as I described in the previous post, only they’ve provided all the scale positions. It’s still up to you to decide where to put your fingers.

I was able to find G7b5b9. The 7th is implied so the chord is listed in the drop down list as -9-5.

Gootar: Gmaj7

Gootar has many guitar tools in addition to the chord generator. It passes my Gm7b5 and Gmaj7 tests but it does not have G7b5b9. In order to get the Gmaj7 form as in my test case, you must be sure that the “Open” checkbox is unchecked and then click on the “Vary” button until you see the form you are looking for. You also need to specify the starting fret (3rd).

Chorderator is a new favorite that I just found. What I like about it is you just type in the name of the chord you are looking for and then click the “Chorderate” button.

Choderator Lookup entry
Lookup form for Chorderator

Chorderator G7b5b9/G# row 2 of 5
2nd row of results page for G7b5b9/G# inversion

That takes you to a results page. When I entered G7b5b9 I got 11 possible diagrams on the result page. Although all of the original results had the root note “G” as the lowest note, there is a box at the top listing related chords including inversions. If I pick the G7b5b7/G# inversion, the fingering I picked when I figured it out is among the 15 variations on the page. It also listed Db7 (C#7) as a related chord – which is what you get if you omit the root G note from the chord.

Guitar Chord UK C half diminished
Guitar Chord UK

Guitar Chords is a UK site which might appeal to those who don’t need or want too many unusual chords. The site is well organized with easy to read diagrams of the most used chords in the most useful positions. It passes both my tests but does not have the G7b5b9. Since most people, including myself, will rarely encounter the 7b5b9 chord, that shouldn’t be a problem.


  1. Click on any of the other figures in this article to see an enlarged view.

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