Guitar Root Notes Explained

This one is a very basic, very quick little lesson – probably relevant only for the real beginners out there, but understanding the guitar root notes for each chord you play is quite important.

In general, the root note is going to be the lowest note in your chord, in terms of pitch. Definitely this is the case in all of the open chords and bar chords. Later on, you’ll get into more advanced chords, and probably see some inversions and things…. but don’t worry about that for now!

The reason you need to know where the root note is, is so that you don’t strum anything lower than that note! If you’re constantly just strumming all six strings, your playing will sound muddy and not very precise, or even musical!

Guitar Root Notes Explained:

Video Problems? Watch Guitar Root Notes Explained on YouTube

So once you’ve watched this video lesson, and you understand where the guitar root notes on your chords are located, pay attention to that while you’re practicing. Take the time to think about it, and make sure you’re only strumming notes within each chord that are supposed to be there!

Leave a Reply 8 comments

Phyllis Anderson - February 7, 2011 Reply

Hi, I finally understand the root note but I got you two videos but what I can’t understand is: why do they teach you the C Maj fingering CEC and yet in the chord speller they say it is made up of CEG but tell you not to play the top string so please explain. I know it is the bass but when you look in the chord speller it only shows CEG. Hope you understand what I am getting at. Did you have a video on the I II III. Thanks

    Jonathan Boettcher - February 7, 2011 Reply

    Hi Phyllis,

    E is indeed one of the notes in the C major chord, however in the open C chord, we skip the low E because if you play it, it dilutes the sound of the chord way too much, and the root note (C) can’t ring through. The root note is very important for setting the overall sound of chord, and it needs to have a prominent place.

r. cotton - December 18, 2012 Reply

Let me see if I understand: A scale is a series of notes that can be played when jamming in a particular chord. A root note is the a note on which a jam can begin and end. To blues jam in A  I should start on the Root note of A and end the jam, or stop and regroup on an A note?

    Jonathan Boettcher - December 26, 2012 Reply

     Yes, that’s a pretty good summary… there’s more to it than that, but that’s a good start!

venus - June 4, 2015 Reply

That was beautifully confusing, I know less about root notes and what they are, and guess they are not integral to learning the guitar. The one thing that stands out more than anything is so few people can teach the guitar via the internet, and I can see why I am struggling.

Dave - July 30, 2015 Reply

Hi Jonathan, thanks for explaining the root note which I can admit that I have been looking for an explanation for, some of the videos I have seen the host who is explaining I’m sure they think that you know just as much as them.

Thanks Jonathan

Eddie - October 1, 2018 Reply

So if someone say this song is in A we use A as our root note. Or they say G we use G as our root

    Jonathan Boettcher - October 1, 2018 Reply

    Hi Eddie, in general, root notes refer to chords and scales, a “tonic” refers to a key. So if someone says the song is in A major, that tells you the key is A, and the tonic of the song is A as well. That means the root note of your major scale is A. However, you may choose to solo from another position, like the relative minor for instance, in which case your root note would be F#, and the tonic of the key would still be A.

    It can get a little complicated, but it’s important to know what is referring to what. In the video, I was only discussing root notes as they relate to individual chords, and in that context, we don’t necessarily have enough information to know what key the song is in.

    For instance, we could be analyzing a D major chord, however the key of the song could be D major, A major, G major, E minor, or…. because the D major chord fits into multiple different keys. Hopefully that helps clarify a little?

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