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How do I play that chord? Part 3: Desktop tools.

Updated 2019-12-21 

Did you realize there were so many resources available to help learn how to play an unfamiliar guitar chord? This is part 3 in my series and it isn’t the end. I’ve been reviewing chord lookup resources I use or have discovered, mostly those I recommend but occasionally I’ve include some just because they are popular. This article is on desktop software tools. (Still to come will be books, charts and devices – including smart phone apps).

My criteria for a good chord reference:

  • The resource should include major seventh chords of the form of this 1 Fmaj7: 1_x_2_2_1_x. Any resource should have many different ways to play each chord. However the chord form I just described for major seventh chords is quite common in jazz. It’s sometimes called a Freddie Green style chord. Freddie Green was the rhythm guitarist with the Count Basie Orchestra. He often simplified even this chord to be just the low 4 strings – or in other words a 3 note chord which gave the essential feel of a major 7th. I can’t trust a resource that doesn’t have this chord to have the best fingering positions for other chords.
  • The resource must include diagrams for minor seventh flat fifth chords, e.g. Gm7b5. These are also sometimes named half diminished chords and sometimes notated as GØ.
  • Bonus points for showing diagrams for seventh flat 5th flat 9th chords (as in G7b5b9). I encountered a G7b5b9 in a lead sheet while on vacation and wanted to know how to best play that chord. If a resource includes these chords it indicates a fairly comprehensive collection of guitar chords. But it is an uncommon chord so you shouldn’t worry much if the resource does not include it.

You may have different criteria. That’s OK. I just want you to understand my criteria.

Do you have a guitar tablature editor on your computer? I reviewed tab editors in a previous post. If you do have a tab editor, you may also already have a chord dictionary.

GuitarPro. The default is for GuitarPro to show Gmaj7 as a bar chord. It indicates that strings 5 and 1 are not played but you then have to click a checkbox to show only the finger positions that are played. It has G7b5b9 in its database. However, if you are inserting a chord diagram based on the chord in the tablature, GuitarPro often shows a non-standard name which you have to edit for your needs. The chord I would name as C7#9 is given the name Cm7(b11) by guitar pro.

TablEdit. You can create your own chord diagram catalogs, save them and share them. You can download chord diagram catalogs from the TablEdit website. However, it isn’t a great source for determining how to play a new chord name you’ve encountered.

TablEdit: Standard Chord Catalog
TablEdit Catalog

iReal Pro. A source for how to play chords to songs you’ve loaded in the app is iReal Pro. It is not a good source for looking up a specific chord nor is the chord displayed with a song always the best or one you want. But it is amazing that you get can get not only the chords to most tunes in the Real Books but also chord diagrams for guitar or ukulele.


  1. If you haven’t seen this streamlined chord notation before it lists the played fret numbers for each string (E_A_D_G_B_e).

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