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How do I play that chord? Part 4: Books, charts and devices.

Books – Reviews

Chord BooksAlmost every guitar instruction book I own includes guitar chord diagrams. In fact, many of the music books I own also include diagrams for the chords in the tunes. But for this article I’m only reviewing books that are intended to be references for guitar chords. This has resulted in me having to ignore for now some of the books I first used to learn chords, especially jazz chords. I didn’t learn jazz chords from the books below. But I do refer to these books when my fingers and memory get stumped on a chord – sometimes on something I once knew but have forgotten.

A search for “Guitar chords” under books at came up with 3,465 results. That’s a lot of books about guitar chords, although I suspect some are instruction or music books that include chords. But even limiting it to the 71 printed reference books, it’s still a lot of books on chords. Needless to say I don’t own that many chord books and I’ve never seen or heard of most of those book in the results. But I have had years to browse through music stores and find what I thought were good chord resources. Here are my comments on some of the books in my collection which are still available for sale from Amazon.

The Jazz Guitar Chord Bible Complete by Warren Nunes © 1999 Warner Brothers Publications.

  • Has a table of contents organized by chord type. Includes the 7b5b9 chord type under dominant chords.
  • Most chords do not include the root – this is common for jazz chords.
  • Lists common fingerings for common chords of the type specified followed by a collection of short chord progression examples using the chord type. Although I like the idea of providing examples as chord progressions, I found it made looking up how to play a specific chord more difficult.
  • An example of the above is the book begins with the “Basic Major” chord forms and lists one page of diagrams for C and G chords. It follows this with 5 pages of example progressions which include major chords.

Guitar Chord Encyclopedia by Steve Hall. © 1993 Alfred Publishing Co., Inc.

  • This book has 36 different chord names for each key (2 more than Essential Guitar Chords – must be very complete).
  • The table of contents nicely arranges root notes in a 2D table with the root/key across the top and the chord name in the left column. This allows you to go directly to the page where a specific chord starts. For example, by looking in the 6th column of keys (Db) and the 11th row of chords (minor 6th add ninth) I can find that a Dbm6add9 can be found on page 139.
  • This book passes the major seventh test but no bonus points – no G7b5b9.
  • The first few pages of the book is a good, condensed chord theory section.

Mel Bay’s Complete Book of Guitar Chords, Scales and Arpeggios’ by William Bay. © 1992 Mel Bay Publications.

  • Although this book begins with scales and arpeggios, the largest section – about half the book – is chords.
  • There are 27 listed chord types for each key.
  • There is a table of contents where keys are arranged alphabetically with the 27 chord names for that key under each key heading. You can thus find the exact page where a specific chord is shown.
  • I like the arrangement of the chords in each section. They are arranged in boxes for Melody Chords (usually the high strings), Inside Chords (played on the 2nd through 5th strings), Rhythm Chords (jazz or Freddie Green type chords where some strings are deadened) and Bottom 4-String Chords (which are played on the lowest 4 strings).
  • Passes the major seventh test but no bonus points.

Essential Guitar Chords by Robert Hartz. © 1993 Mt. Holly Press. (Only available from used booksellers).

  • Chords are arranged chromatically starting with chords having a root of C.
  • There is a table of contents so you can quickly find where each root family of chords begins.
  • There are 34 different chord name types for each root note. It includes the 7b5b9 chords in addition to other obscure chords. It is something I like for completeness, even if I never need to know how to play most of the chords.
  • In spite of above, it fails my Freddie Green major 7th test.


If you’re looking for a basic chord chart, look no farther. I’ve created one you can download here. It has the basic forms of the Chords C A G E and D and some supplementary chords useful for playing chord progressions in the keys of C A G E and D. Basic Chord Chart

THE ULTIMATE GUITAR CHORD CHART II – by Phillip J Facoline seems to be in the public domain. You can download it from many sites including right here. It has over 1200 chord diagrams.

Dedicated Devices

I don’t own any of these devices so I can’t really review them. I think an app for your smart phone, if you have one, would be more likely to be with you when you need it. The reviews for these devices haven’t been outstanding at amazon. Still, some people find them useful and recommend them. What do you think?

  • BG-1 Guitar Chord Computer by Snarling Dogs
  • Chordmaster II by Planet Waves
  • Chordmaster/Tuner/Metronome by Planet Waves
  • Guitar Professor Chord Finder by Quik Tune
  • Handheld Software: Chordmaster Software for Palm OS by Planet Waves

Smart Phones

I own a Blackberry Curve. I like it but I’d like to upgrade to an Android phone. In the meantime I’m happy with my curve. I can’t give accurate reviews for any of the apps below except for the Blackberry – only so far I don’t see a need for a phone app on the Blackberry. If you own an iPhone or Android phone but hadn’t thought about finding a guitar chord app then I’ve been of some help. Otherwise, you’ll have to tell me if any of these are any good as well as letting me know if I’ve missed some good apps at the app store you can access through your phone.


LilGuitar by Lil Ride Software LLC $7.99

A comprehensive guitar chord dictionary for BlackBerry® Smartphones including over 1400 guitar chords.

Guitar Chords by Scott Erkkila $2.99

Guitar Chords for the BlackBerry® displays and organizes over 1300 chord fingering diagrams for the guitar.

Guitar Studio by LCA Mobile Inc. $9.99

30,000+ chord library. Tabs. Tone Tuner.


GuitarToolkit By Agile Partners $9.99

Essential guitar utilities, including an amazingly accurate tuner and a library of over 500,000 chords, all on your iPhone or iPod touch.


Guitar : Solo Lite by Coding Caveman $Free

Solo is a great, easy to play virtual pocket guitar.

RipChord Deluxe by Awesome Unlimited $??? (Not free)

RipChord can figure out how to play any chord in any tuning, at any position on the fretboard. But it throws in something extra. It determines every possible way to play that chord, including all inversions (which can be disabled in the Settings screen).

2 thoughts on “How do I play that chord? Part 4: Books, charts and devices.”

  1. I have a jazz guitar blog that deals with jazz guitar. I have a guitar chord and soloing method book. There is great articles there at the blog. One in particular is how music theory is over complicating the study of jazz guitar. The great jazz guitarist did not uss scales or theory. They used their understanding of barre chord shapes and chord tones.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Best of luck on your jazz guitar blog. I do not have any method books here but I do have some free downloads that may be of interest. A chord chart is available as a PDF. Also a download on basic chord theory. I also have a number of articles on scales, argpeggios, etc. that some may find useful – again these are free on See: Major Scale Positions for Guitar; Arpeggios from major scales – Part 1 and Arpeggios from major scales – Part 2: Harmonized Scale.

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