Chords, Chords, Chords!


by Jeff Nye

Currently working towards a Master of Science degree in Educational Technology at San Diego State University.




Instructional Objective

The learners will be able to read and recognize the two standard forms of musical notation for guitar, as well as recognize common and useful chord progressions and chromatic movement in those progressions.


The learners are guitarists who have a need or desire to be literate in both standard musical notation and common guitar block chord notation. The game is suited to beginning guitarists as well as accomplished players who require a structured way to improve their reading skills. The game is intended for informal study or as a formal class activity.


It is common for developing guitarists to have skills reading one of two common notation systems, but not as common for one guitarist to be familiar and comfortable with both systems. Most popular music can be found with guitar block (graphic) chords printed above standard musical notation (which is written for the piano in most cases). While this is true for pop songs, classical music is usually printed in standard notation only. There are some good reasons for classical music to be presented this way, but the reality is that different players develop literacy in one system while often staying illiterate in the other.

A card game is useful to allow learners to build on their reading strengths while they are making connections between what they are familiar with and what they are not familiar with. Teachers can adapt the cards to include different chord types, and students can add chord types that they feel they need to learn. The cards can also be used to drill students in sight reading situations after the game has been played.

Deck Design

The deck includes cards with chord notation. For each chord that is written in standard notation (musical notes), another is included with the same chord in block (graphic) form. The deck should include all the chords neccessary to allow players to create standard progressions, and/or complete chromatic movements if the intent is to learn styles that rely on chromatic movement (like jazz).

Game Variations

There are at least a couple variations that can be created, depending on the goals of the learner. The one listed here is the simplest.

Chord Concentration The goal of this game is to recognize one chord in two seperate notation styles.

Card Design

Design Process The cards were designed to be visually simple, yet the possibilities for building on the basic game are up to the learners and teachers.

Last updated by Jeff Nye on September 28, 1995.

Return to the Card Game Table of Contents.

Educational Technology 670, Fall 1995.