C6th Chords for Lap Steel

Key of C


C Major Chords
C#__________3___3_____________15___15_______7 (if 6th string is C)_


C Minor Chords


E___0___4___8___12___16___20 (repeats every 4 frets)______________



C____0___3___6___9___12___15___18 (repeats every 3 frets)_________



Tune 6th note (bass string) to C# for a dominant A7th open strum (fret zero), and to Bb for a C7. 
Adding the A note (3rd string) with a Bb on bottom gives you a nice C13th chord. Most Hawaiian 
players today are using 8-strings tuned to C13th (E, C, A, G, E ,C, Bb, C), often referred to as C6th + 7th. 
Using Bb gives you a true Dominant C7th chord alongside your C6th chord; whereas using C# you have to move 
the bar up 3 frets to obtain a C7th chord. There are pros and cons to either tuning.








G____0___12____*Notice the Bb on the 6th string, which is the 7th_
E____0___12_____note in the chord, and A is the 13th______________






C____2___*actually it's a nifty way of playing a diminished_______
A_________chord. I use it a lot. It's not considered musically____
G____1____correct, since there's no way to rest the bar exactly___
E____1____over both strings 5 and 6. I move the bar up into the___
C#________chord and then down, keeping it moving. It sounds great!





Making Chords is Easy!

Chord structure diagram:

           HALF-STEPS: |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  | 
    major (no symbol): 1  .  .  . M3  .  . p5  .  .  .  . (1)
                    m: 1  .  . m3  .  .  . p5  .  .  .  . (1)
                  dim: 1  .  . m3  .  . d5  .  .  .  .  . (1)
                  aug: 1  .  .  . M3  .  .  . a5  .  .  . (1)
                 maj7: 1  .  .  . M3  .  . p5  .  .  . M7 (1)
               (dom)7: 1  .  .  . M3  .  . p5  .  . m7  . (1)
                   m7: 1  .  .  m3 .  .  . p5  .  . m7 .  (1)
              m(maj7): 1  .  .  m3 .  .  . p5  .  .  . M7 (1)
                 m7b5: 1  .  .  m3 .  . d5  .  .  . m7  . (1)
                 dim7: 1  .  .  m3 .  . d5  .  . d7  .  . (1)

M = major
m = minor
p = perfect
d = diminished
a = augmented
red = non-standard intervals referred to in symbol

Those are the 6 basic 7th chord types in music.

Explanation of the Dominant 7th Chord

The Tricky to Understand Dominant 7th Chord

The “Dominant 7th” chord name comes from the fact that it occurs naturally in the seventh chord built upon the dominant (i.e. the fifth degree) of a given major diatonic scale. This chord chart below is very helpful to logic out this statement. In any music scale, the 1st note is called the “tonic,” the 4th note is called the “sub-dominant,” and the 5th note is called the “dominant.” That's just music terminology. I've highlighted the “5,” i.e., the dominant note, for simplicity below.

It's very simple, but took me a loooong time to figure out. There's no easy way to explain this. Let's consider E9th pedal steel. Your 9th note is a D, which is a Dominant 7th. Now D is NOT naturally occurring in the key of E, so you have to flat the 7th note (D#) to make it a Dominant 7th. So why is it called a Dominant 7th? It's because the D note DOES occur naturally in the scale of E if you begin the scale on the Dominant (or 5th) note of the key of A. Since the flatted 7th note occurs naturally when built upon the 5th (Dominant) note of a scale, it only makes sense to call it a Dominant 7th.

Here's another way to illustrate. The chord of E dominant 7th is: E - G# - B - D. Take a look below at the key of A. The 5th note (Dominant note) is E. If you structure the 7th chord after the 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 pattern, then starting at the 5th note in the key of A you have: E - G# - B - D; and the D note is NATURALLY occurring here. You didn't have to flatten the D# like you do in a scale that begins with the Tonic (1st note). This is the meaning of the Dominant 7th chord. It naturally occurs only if you build the scale beginning on the 5th note (called the Dominant) in any particular scale.

So in simplest terms, if you begin any scale on the Tonic (1st Note), you're going to have to flat the 7th note if you want to obtain a Dominant 7th. But if you begin the scale on the Dominant (5th note), then you will find a naturally occurring flatted 7th and not have to alter it. This is why a 7th note is called "Dominant," because it naturally occurs in any scale that begins upon the 5th note of a scale.

In short, a scale starting on the 5th (Dominant) note of any scale will produce a naturally flatted 7th note if you build using the 1 - 3 - 5 - 7 structure. Of course, 1 - 3 - 5 in any scale is a major chord. And then you're adding the 7th. Scales built starting from the Tonic (1st note) will produce a Major 7th chord. Scales built starting from the Dominant (5th note) will produce a Dominant 7th chord.

Hence, in the key of C, Hawaiian players commonly use the C Dominant 7th chord (that is, tuning your bottom string to a Bb note). The C Dominant 7th chord occurs naturally in the scale of F, when structured beginning from the 5th note (Dominant note). The Dominant 7th is one of my favorite chords on steel guitar.

Music Chord Structures

  1 (Tonic)   3 4 (sub dominant) 5 (Dominant) 6 7
Key of C: C D E F G A B
Key of A: A B C# D E F# G#
Key of Bb Bb C D Eb F G A
Key of B: B C# D# E F# G# A#
Key of C: C D E F G A B
Key of C# C# D# F F# G# A# C
Key of D: D E F# G A B C#
Key of Eb Eb F G Ab Bb C D
Key of E: E F# G# A B C# D#
Key of F: F G A Bb C D E
Key of F#: F# G# A# B C# D# F
Key of G: G A B C D E F#
Key of G# G# A# C C# D# F G

Major triad chords for Steel guitar

Triads are chords containing three notes: the root, third and fifth. For example: C major consists of the notes C, E and G.

Minor triad chords for Steel guitar

Triads are chords containing three notes: the root, third and fifth. Minor triads are similar to major triads except for a minor third. For example: C minor consists of the notes C, Eb and G.

6th chords for Steel guitar

The 6th chords are identical to the major triad, but with an additional sixth. For example: C6 consists of the notes C, E, G and A.

Augmented chords for Steel guitar

The augmented chord is similar to a major triad, but with a raised fifth. Thus, the augmented chord is made up of two major thirds stacked on top of one another. For example: C major consists of the notes C, E and G#.

m7b5 chords for Steel guitar

The m7b5 chord is similar to a minor seventh, but with a lowered fifth. For example: Cm7b5 consists of the notes C, Eb, Gb and Bb.

7th chords for Steel guitar

The 7th chords are chords made up of a major triad plus a minor seventh, also known as dominant seventh chords. For example: C7 consists of the notes C, E, G and Bb.

9th chords for Steel guitar

The 9th chords are chords made up of a major triad plus a seventh and a ninth. A full 9th chord consists of five notes, but sometimes the fifth or third are left out. For example: C9 consists of the notes C, E, G, Bb and D.

Minor 7th chords for Steel guitar

The minor seventh chord is a minor triad plus a minor seventh. For example: Cm7 consists of the notes C, Eb, G and Bb.

7#5 chords for Steel guitar

The 7#5 chord is similar to the regular seventh chord, but with a raised fifth. For example: C7#5 consists of the notes C, E, G# and Bb.

7#9 chords for Steel guitar

The 7#9 chord is similar to the seventh chord, but with an additional raised ninth. The raised ninth is identical to the minor third, which means that the 7#9 contains both the major and the minor third. For example: C7#9 consists of the notes C, E, G, Bb and D#.

m9 chords for Steel guitar

The minor ninth chord is a minor triad plus a seventh and a ninth. For example: Cm9 consists of the notes C, Eb, G, Bb and D.

maj7 chords for Steel guitar

The maj7 chord is a major triad plus a major seventh (maj7 = major seventh). For example: Cmaj7 consists of the notes C, E, G and B.

add9 chords for Steel guitar

The add9 chord is a major triad with an additional ninth. Unlike the regular 9th chord, the add9 has no seventh. For example: Cadd9 consists of the notes C, E, G and D.

13th chords for Steel guitar

A full 13th chord is made up of seven notes. That is a major triad plus a seventh, ninth, eleventh and the 13th. Since this is impossible to play on a six-string steel guitar, the fifth and the third are often left out (and sometimes even the root). For example: A C13th consists of the notes C, E, G, Bb, D, F and A.

Diminished 7th chords for Steel guitar

The dim7 (diminished seventh) is made up of a diminished triad (i.e. a minor triad with a lowered fifth) and a diminished seventh interval. The diminished seventh interval is a minor seventh that has been lowered a half note (identical to a straightforward sixth). In other words, the diminished seventh is constructed by putting four minor thirds on top of each other. For example: Cdim7 consists of the notes C, Eb, Gb and Bbb (In this example, the diminished seventh interval is written as "Bbb", not as "A").

Suspended (sus) chords for Steel guitar

Sus4 chords have no third, which is "suspended" (sus = suspended) and replaced by a fourth. A variant of the sus-chord is the sus2, where the third is replaced with a second. The sus-chords are neither major nor minor chords. For example: Csus4 consists of the notes C, F and G.

Chord Structures

Note: Once you learn and understand how musical chords are constructed, you'll be able to pick up ANY musical instrument and be playing it in a few minutes. I can actually hear a major or minor chord and identify them. Russian music uses a lot of minor chords. I can tell you if a chord is a 7th, or dominant 7th. And of course, a steel guitar player can readily recognize that Hawaiian sounding C6th chord, which is exactly what a standard ukulele is tuned to. The ukulele is tuned, from the 4th (bottom) to the 1st string (top)... G, C, E, A (or as I like to remember, “God Created Every Animal”). This note pattern will give you the famous melody, “My Dog Has Flees!”

A major scale is composed of the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of any scale. If you flat the third note, you have a minor chord. If you add the 6th note to a major chord, you have a 6th (or relative A minor). There are a lot of helpful teaching aids online to help you understand music theory. You don't need to become Beethoven or Mozart to excel as a musician. Jerry Byrd couldn't read music, although he recommended for musicians to do so if given the opportunity. It can only make you a better steel guitarist. Notice below for the key of C (first row) that the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes (C, E, G) form a C major chord. If you add an A, the 6th note, you now have a C6th chord. Cool huh?

This reference chart is helpful in that you can quickly identify what notes compose a specific chord, either to construct a necessary chord or name a chord that you're already playing...

Here's a few .JPG images that I made with Microsoft Publisher, showing the individual notes per fret on the C6th tuning. I made various charts for the different C6th tunings, so you can copy the one(s) you like to your desktop or website. Please feel free to copy anything from my website. I want to share freely with others. The following charts will help you figure out different chords on the various frets. I think it's a very helpful tool for steel guitarists. The C6th tuning is excellent because of it's broad chord availabilities. These charts will work well with the preceding chord information.



And always remember to C# or you'll Bb!

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