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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Chord Diagrams with Intervals - CGDA tuning

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Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/11/2020:  15:26:48

This probably exists in many places already, but I like to do these things for myself, so..

Here we have chord diagrams for basic Major, Minor and V7 chords, with all the intervals named. To me, the interval is usually of more usefulness than the name of the note, though the notes are important too, of course.

I used software called Neck Diagrams 2. If any of you are familiar with this, please let me know how to get rid of the fret numbers on the left-hand sides, likewise the fret position marker dots. seems I can't figure out or find out how to share a pdf file or even a photo - it used to be easy. Can anyone help out here?

Edited by - Rob MacKillop on 12/11/2020 15:36:42

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/11/2020:  15:35:58

Here's a link to it on Flickr photography site. I can send you the pdf if you want it.



Edited by - Rob MacKillop on 12/11/2020 15:37:00

beegee - Posted - 12/12/2020:  07:46:03

You either need to upload the files to your BHO page and reference them or link to the url of the file

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/12/2020:  07:59:00

Yes, I know that, Bob, but thanks for mentioning it. I created a post in the forum problems subforum [ ] saying that I tried to do so, and await a reply there.

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/12/2020:  08:46:19

So, now that after downloading a new browser, Firefox, I can now upload photos, but not pdfs.

Click for bigger version:

Edited by - Rob MacKillop on 12/12/2020 08:46:47

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/13/2020:  00:40:25

Let's see if I have managed to share a PDF file...

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/13/2020:  00:41:56

Yes, that seems to have worked. I just couldn't do it using Safari, so downloaded Firefox. I can now share pdf files with you.

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/14/2020:  11:27:32

I'm just curious that there are no real comments about these charts, which I don't mind at all, after all I did them for myself. But I'm wondering if the absence of any discussion is because a) you all know this stuff already, or b) don't think it necessary, or maybe c) would like to understand, but feel too embarrassed to ask about them.

For my part, once I know where the four main intervals are - Root, 3rd, 5th and b7th - I can easily adjust the shapes for all the other chords I'm likely to use, such as b5, b9, #5, #9, 6, 13, #11, dim7, aug7. It seems a better way than learning a hundred shapes: just learn a few shapes, then adjust for altered chords.

Am I mad? laugh 

If anyone has any questions, don't be shy. Your questions might help others.

Edited by - Rob MacKillop on 12/14/2020 11:29:35

jazzbanjoman - Posted - 12/14/2020:  14:05:00


Thanks for posting the chord diagram; I have used the same and have adjusted the fingering to the base chord to obtain upper partials. A great source of these chords forms is in Harry Reser's book "let play the tenor banjo" where he diagrams over 1000 tenor banjo chords in all keys including most of the altered chords.

The true challenge is knowing how and when to use the chords and variations in playing/arranging a song.

Stephen DiBonaventura

Ryk - Posted - 12/14/2020:  14:06:52

Mad may be a bit of an overreaction Rob ... upset maybe....

On a serious note ... many thanks. I do very much appreciate seeing the delineation of the intervals. It .. along with the other pdf you've offered has pride of place on one side of my music stand.

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/14/2020:  14:25:40

Stephen...I try to avoid those One Thousand Chords books. All you need is one page and a little knowledge of music theory, and off you go smiley

Ryk...who's upset? Not me. I'm just curious how others think about chords and harmonies on the fretboard. 

Try this: a 251 sequence in C is Dm, G7, C. Using the chart, see how many ways you can play that on the fretboard, then do the same while altering the 5th of a G7 chord, next time the ninth, etc. Do similar with other chords. It will get your brain working (it does mine) and will help you understand the music you hear on recordings, gigs, and hopefully in your head. Just have fun with it, and when it stops being fun, do something else :-) 

Tom Bzk - Posted - 12/14/2020:  17:53:23

Very easy to understand and very helpful to me!


aintbrokejustbadlybent - Posted - 12/14/2020:  18:46:03

@ Rob MacKillop

Rob, that chart was helpful for me when I first started playing. Now I just figure out chord variations. I think learning how chords are constructed is better than memorizing all the shapes although that can be very useful. From your comments you seem to feel the same way.

On a different note I’m more than half way through the Cello #1. I’ve watched your videos of all three pieces. Makes we want to get a cello banjo. I appreciate all the content you plublish.

SunnylandBob - Posted - 12/14/2020:  18:54:31

Many TB players learn the basic chord shapes for the major, minor & dominant 7th chords early on (along with the standard "parallelogram" diminished 7th) which work well as essential building blocks when they play in common banjo band situations. The ideas of using extended harmonies is often avoided by some hobbyists (imho) because they're not absolutely necessary to create a socially acceptable representation of the songs in the fundamental repertoire played in most of these groups. It's often more of a sing-along scene...what I sometimes appreciatively refer to as "joyful noise".

On the other hand, there are a number of players in and from those group situations who don't get to hear the nuances of extensions, substitutions and other non-basic harmonies applied in music 1) because of the time and study investment required to explore and grow that knowledge, and 2) because those concepts are commonly applied in music which extends beyond that fundamental repertoire of the old warhorse tunes. There are a number of these players who come up to me at rallies etc. asking about "those pretty chord changes" (often 9ths, flatted 5ths, and various substitutions).

Eddy Davis explained in his book about his perspective on the strings as a set of 4 parallel keyboards. Understanding intervals, chromatic alterations, the circle of fifths, tritones, modes and chordal progressions help us to add to and expand expressive possibilities of the banjo. His book talked about all that - and many players I know said they felt it was way over their heads.

So don't mistake the lack of response to your (SOLID) effort to provide useful information as being unappreciated, Rob - underappreciated is probably more likely. A great thing about the interwebs is this stuff will linger around for future banjo kiddies to learn from and appreciate. In this moment, however, some will not get it...if only because they never heard a C9b5 in "Yes Sir That's My Baby" or "The Saints".

aintbrokejustbadlybent - Posted - 12/14/2020:  19:35:49

Bob, yes i think it was one of Eddy’s videos (that I soaked up when I first started banjo) that encouraged learning the fretboard, how to construct chords etc... My guitar background was a handicap at first.

Bob, Ive listen to a number of your YouTube videos, I even pinched your version of Humming to Myself. Your trio is awesome, I like your interpretations, especially the way you let the music breathe. I try to emulate your style. There I’ve said it. Once things open up and you head to Austin, I would like to meet up with you for a lesson.

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/15/2020:  01:08:27

Bob Barto - nice to make your acquaintance! I've just spent a pleasant twenty minutes listening to you online, and am hugely impressed. I'm not involved in jazz banjo, my tenor playing has been of scores from the earliest publications and guys like Weidt (especially), and Bach, always Bach. But I love jazz, from New Orleans to BeBop, and this time round (I've been away from the tenor for a while) I want to use the tenor to play jazz with, hence my writing out charts to help me view the 5ths tuning from a jazz player's perspective.

I totally get your reasoning that most tenor players don't explore altered chords, as they don't feature in the core repertoire. That's understandable. As Covid has made us all aware, social playing is central to the vast majority of players, and we miss it, and that usually requires a traditional way of playing that most can join in on. I'm all for that. But then I hear Eddy, yourself, and this forum's Paolo Botti, and all those ear-tingling harmonisations...and that's something I'm now exploring. I play jazz guitar a bit, but am enjoying it more on the banjo these days.

Now, you mention Eddy's book - I've known Eddy for a decade, and we were in touch many times, but he never once mentioned a book. Can someone tell me more about that, and is it still available?

Ryk - Posted - 12/15/2020:  04:45:11

Many thanks for the reference to Eddy's book. I can certainly see how valuable that is. Now to sit up straight and get to work!

SunnylandBob - Posted - 12/15/2020:  04:53:21

@Rob McKillop - I have to admit, I've been a lurking admirer of your playing (especially the Bach!) over the last year or so as I saw you pop up in this forum. I check in intermittently between teaching, charitable work and other preoccupations and too little time practicing or playing - especially since that vile spiked-ball virus showed up.

The book is available via a link on Eddy's website (, what's up there is a PDF scan of my now tattered copy which I bought when I first met Eddy at a banjo rally in the late 1970's. When I asked him a few years ago, he said he couldn't find a copy so I scanned mine & he put it up on his site.

I'm unsure of how long that site will continue to be maintained so in the interest of those "future banjo kiddies" and all us current ones - here it is!

PS to Mike in Austin: Your words are too kind...but playing together - Oh Yeah!!

Edited by - SunnylandBob on 12/15/2020 04:58:05

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/15/2020:  05:01:40

Cheers, Bob. That looks interesting. I'll give it a read through later when I have more time.

Bach and the tenor banjo were made for each other ;-)

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/15/2020:  05:56:08

SunnylandBob - sorry for spelling your surname wrong. Robert Barto is one of the world's best baroque lute players. I know you are not him, but my fingers automatically spelled Barto.

mastomo - Posted - 12/23/2020:  11:40:45

really great thread

I have download your .pdf

thanks a lot Rob for this !!!

orangeclawhammer - Posted - 12/29/2020:  19:28:02


Originally posted by Rob MacKillop

For my part, once I know where the four main intervals are - Root, 3rd, 5th and b7th - I can easily adjust the shapes for all the other chords I'm likely to use, such as b5, b9, #5, #9, 6, 13, #11, dim7, aug7. It seems a better way than learning a hundred shapes: just learn a few shapes, then adjust for altered chords.

Am I mad? laugh 

I'm relatively new to tenor banjo.  But this is standard approach for jazz musicians on any instrument.  And how I've taught fingerboard harmony for decades.  Chord diagrams can be a starting point, but it's difficult to get to where one can be creative with chords without understanding the intervals that comprise the chord and their functions within the chord.  Your chart should be of significant value to anyone wants to spend the time to assimilate the information you've provided.

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/29/2020:  23:35:16

Exactly, Jim. I too have been teaching guitar for years, and use this method. I was just curious how tenor-banjo players viewed their fretboards. I'm still not sure this method is used or understood by many. But as Bob points out, why learn altered chords if they don't appear in the standard repertoire? Of course, Bob himself understands this stuff uses all sorts of chords brilliantly in his arrangements. But I think he is suggesting that most tenor players don't feel a need to go beyond basic chord melody harmonisations, and still play some great banjo. But it's there if they want it. It's all good.

banjopaolo - Posted - 12/30/2020:  03:58:30

Wow Bob
that Eddie's book is really a piece of banjo history!
Thank you to share it with us

orangeclawhammer - Posted - 12/30/2020:  08:44:15


Originally posted by Rob MacKillop

But I think he is suggesting that most tenor players don't feel a need to go beyond basic chord melody harmonisations, and still play some great banjo. 

I would counter that whether or not one employs extended chord structures, knowing the makeup of the chords you're using (even simple triads) is critical to understanding how to link chord inversions via passing tones, and etc.  Which is fundamental to any melody harmonization endeavor.  

Can one succeed without this knowledge?  Sure.  But then dependent on the inefficiency of trial and error.  

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/30/2020:  08:53:35

I agree, but trial and error has enriched many a life. The main aim, we shouldn't forget, is enjoyment. Whatever works for you, works for you, though a good knowledge of harmony can possibly get you there quicker. If anyone has questions about harmony and chords, don't be shy to ask.

SunnylandBob - Posted - 12/30/2020:  09:53:15

Rob, my appreciation of you grows with each post I read. My late Dad (the best accounting professor I've ever seen or known) really emphasized that the conceptual theory and framework is important, but it ultimately manifests itself in practical application. The application aspect was so important that the apprenticeship method of passing on a craft developed before the general availability of formalized education structures to the masses in society. In short, you can learn by hard knocks or use the academic path but eventually they will converge on the essential "truths" of a discipline.

Our dear Eddy told the story of when he was starting out in Chicago and was given the task of transporting the famous NORK trombonist George Brunies (aka Georg Brunis) to a gig. Eddy was awestruck - despite the fact that Brunies was well into his cups on a perpetual basis at that point. Near the end of the set, Brunies used a set of trick suspenders so that when he extended to 7th position on the slide, his pants would drop revealing colorful underwear. Shocked, Eddy began to question him at the break and Brunis -slurring heavily - replied with something like, "You ****** college guys gotta ruin everything!! We never were lookin' to make ART!!! We was all just having FUN!!!"

Thus, the result of application depends so much upon the goals, training and perspective of the individual involved....

Rob MacKillop - Posted - 12/30/2020:  10:55:51

Haha, that party trick still gets laughs :-) I must try it sometime!

I was thinking more of some guy or gal who picks up a tenor banjo one day, falls in love with it, learns a few chords and tunes, and is generally enjoying life. She/he then joins an online forum and reads that if you don't know how to work out a C13b9 chord, you ain't going nowhere, so you'd better learn all this theory stuff. Well, I encourage that person to learn all the theory stuff - and there are people here who would help them with that - or just keep doing what you do, and little by little you will improve, then at some future point you might start to wonder about such strangely-named chords, but might be too embarrassed to ask. Don't be. None of it is necessary if you are happy in what you are doing. On the other hand, if you decide now is the time to stretch beyond your comfort zone, then there is a world of music out there waiting for you to explore. All it takes is flattening the 5th of a Dominant chord, and sister/brother, you will be solid GONE! :-) in a good way, of course...

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