Having already looked at ‘open’ chords and their simple shapes, it’s time to move towards some harder to grasp, rarer chords that are known as the ‘black notes’ on a piano.
In this important guide, I’ll be taking you through a huge number of variants of the G#/Ab chord:
If you’re looking for a place to start with G#/Ab chords, then look no further…
G Sharp / A Flat Major Guitar Chord
Every major scale has the same theory behind it, building on a pattern of tones between the notes: 1-1-1/2-1-1-1-1/2. On a piano, the ‘1’ means that if you’re starting on the C, then there will be one note (Eb in this case) between your C and the next note of the scale (D), while the 1/2 means that the next note of the scale is directly next door (such as in the move from E-F in C major). On a guitar, the 1/2 means the next fret is in the scale, and the 1 means there will be a fret in between the two notes.
G# major: G#, A#, B#, C##, D#, E#
Ab major: Ab, Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G
You may have noticed that we’re looking at two scales here. Sort of… Technically a G# and an Ab are exactly the same, they just appear in different contexts. Hence why is you take a look at the scales above, each note is the enharmonic equivalent of each other, so if you played a G# major scale out of context, it would be completely impossible to determine whether it was G# or Ab.
For example, in a key with flattened notes, then you’ll (normally) be playing a Ab if you need to use that note, but in a key with sharps, then it’ll (normally) be a G#. Ab is more common than G#, so we’ll approach most of the chords below from the F# perspective.
Each of these notes (degrees of the scale) can be assigned a number as it ascends so you can use a helpful formula to work out chords from it. The G# is a 1, the A# is a 2 etc. while for Ab major, the Ab is a 1, the Bb is a 2 etc.
Once you’re familiar with the scale, you’ll do well to remember that the formula for a G# major chord (and any tonic major chord of any key) is 1-3-5 which gives the notes G#-B#-D# while the formula for an Ab major chord is 1-3-5 which gives the notes Ab-C-Eb.
Within the key of G#/Ab major, you can make various chord sequences and work them out using this numbering system, but remember that G#/Ab major is your tonic, and is where the key will sound resolved and at home.
Songs That Use G#/Ab Major Chords
There isn’t much point in choosing to play a G#/Ab chord specifically (unless it’s to house a singer’s range etc.) as the actual note isn’t really going to change the sound of the chord, just the pitch. However, the way you play your chord is important and will determine which styles each variation should be used in.
- Pixies- Where Is My Mind?
- Queen- Bohemian Rhapsody
- Green Day- Oh Love
- Ed Sheeran- Perfect
- Michael Jackson- Man In The Mirror
- Queen- Somebody To Love
Playing G#/Ab Major
As you’ll have seen in various other guides on BeginnerGuitarHQ (such as C#/Db), we can always combine the classic E major open chord shape with a barre on any fret to bring the shape up. As this one is pretty low down the neck, it works well with open chord sequences on an acoustic guitar.
You’ll want to barre the 4th fret using your 2nd finger, then bring your 4th finger over to the 6th fret of string 5, your 5th finger to the 6th fret of the 4th string and then your 3rd finger to the 5th fret of the 3rd string.
Similarly to the above, we can also move our A major shape up a fair few frets with an added barre to create a nice well rounded shape. As this one is so much higher on the neck, it’ll work a lot between when combined with other similarly high barre chords.
Barre the 11th fret using your 2nd finger, then you have two options: either press your entire 4th finger across the 13th fret of strings 2, 3 and 4, or if you haven’t built up the strength for that yet, then use fingers 3, 4 and 5 to press fret 13 of strings 4, 3 and 2 respectively.
This is a nice easy one if you’re unable to make the full barre shape across the whole neck, and it also gives quite an easy option for muting/staccato playing.
Create a tiny barre on fret 4 of strings 1 and 2 using your 2nd finger, then stretch finger 3 over to the 5th fret of string 3 and your 4th finger over to the 6th fret of string 4. Make sure to mute the two lower strings.
This shape is a bit of a strange one that doesn’t come up that often, but it basically just relies on you being able to make a bit of a stretch and creating a simple D major shape.
Press your 2nd finger onto the 6th fret of string 4, your 3rd finger onto the 8th fret of string 3, your 5th finger onto the 9th fret of string 2 and your 4th finger onto the 8th fret of the 1st string.
G Sharp / F Flat Minor Guitar Chord
A minor scale differs slightly from a major scale in that degrees 3, 6 and 7 are all flattened, so they are lowered by one semitone. This creates the G#/Ab natural minor scale (variants such as the harmonic and melodic minor will be looked at in a separate guide).
G# minor: G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E, F#
Ab minor: Ab, Bb, Cb, Db, Eb, Fb, Gb
We could apply numbers to these much like we did with the major scale, so a minor chord would still be 1-3-5, like the major. But this is a bit confusing, so let’s approach it from the context of the major scale.
A G# minor chord is 1-b3-5, so therefore made up of the notes G#-B-D#, while an Ab minor chord is Ab-Cb-Eb.
Both G# and Ab minor keys are quite rare due to the high number of sharps and flats they both respectively have.
Songs That Use G#/Ab Minor
Again, rarely does a song seek to use the G#/Ab note specifically, but rather the minor chord itself. Whether it is as part of the key and therefore makes sense, or to bring out its sadder sound than a major chord, a minor chord is something important throughout all music.
- Lapko- River Venom
- Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds- In The Heat Of The Moment
- Michael Jackson- Earth Song
- Idlewild- American English
- House Of Lords- Harlequin
- The Wombats- Greek Tragedy
- Stone Sour-Mercy
- Lily Allen- Hard Out Here
- Adrenaline Mob- All On The Line
- Kansas- All The World
- I Prevail- Deadweight
Playing G#/Ab Minor
As with the major variations shown above, the G#m chord is able to replicate the E minor open shape using a barre to bring it up a couple of frets. Again, this one will be easy to use in conjunction with lower, open chords.
Barre the 4th fret all the way across, then use your 4th and 5th fingers to press down on the 6th fret of strings 4 and 5. Make sure your barre is strong enough to bring out the 4th fret of string 3 as that provides the minor 3rd.
Again, we can move a nice variation of the A minor shape up by a lot of frets in order to get another nice new version of the Ab minor chord. This one will work well when you’re already playing barre chords in a similar position.
Use your 2nd finger to barre the 11th fret, then press your 3rd finger on to the 12th fret of string 2, your 5th finger onto the 13th fret of string 3 and your 4th finger onto the 13th fret of string 4.
This version is a nice easy one that you be may be familiar with thanks to a nice easy version of F major that exists just a few frets down. While not technically an open chord, the easy shape and low position of this variation makes this an easy one for beginners.
Use your 2nd finger to barre the 4th fret of strings 1, 2 and 3, and then bring your 4th finger over so that it is pressing down on the 6th fret of the 4th string.
This variation requires you to be able to mute a string in between those you are fretting, which takes a bit of getting used to. Eventually the ability to mute specific strings will come naturally.
Press your 2nd finger across the 4th fret of string 2 and 3, then bring your 4th finger over to the 6th fret of the 5th string; make sure the 1st, 4th and 6th strings are all dampened so they don’t ring out dissonant notes.
G Sharp / A Flat 7 Guitar Chord
A G#7/Ab7 chord, or G#/Ab dominant 7, is a major chord with an added minor 7th. This creates an interval of a tritone within the chord, adding a laying of dissonance to the sound. In a lot of music, the G#/Ab7 is used as part of a perfect cadence, in order to resolve to the tonic. However, one of the primary uses of the dominant 7th in modern music, is as a part of jazzy chord sequences.
If we use major scale theory (which we would unless you’re delving into the realm of modality where this chord has a strong Mixolydian quality) then the formula for this chord is 1-3-5-b7. The b7 takes the F## of a G# major scale down to a regular F#, or the G of an Ab major scale down to a Gb.
This means that the notes in a G#7 chord are G#-B#-D#-F#, while the Ab7 chord is made up of the notes Ab-Cb-Eb-Gb.
Songs That Use G#/Ab7
Both Ab and G# are relatively uncommon in popular guitar music as they are quite distant from E minor, though the G#7 chord is often found as part of E major. The use of the dominant 7th gives a distinctive dissonance that allows the chord to be use in poignant parts of slower songs, while fit into jazzy, faster numbers.
- Gibson Brothers- Cuba
- Jamiroquai- Virtual Insanity
- The Symposium- Half Life
- Will Smith- Wild Wild West
- Stevie Wonder- Free
- Peggy Lee- Deep Sea
- Tame Impala- Patience
- Supertramp- Goodbye Stranger
- The Voidz- One Of The Ones
For a nice, easy moveable option that resides quite far up the neck and allows for versatile, jazzy playing, this common version of Ab7 is probably your best bet.
Simply barre the 11th fret, then use your 4th finger to press down on the 13th fret of the 4th string and your 5th finger to press down on the 13th fret of the 2nd string. Make sure your barre is strong enough to get the 11th fret to be heard on string 3.
This is probably the most common way you’ll see Ab7 approached, as it is a slight develop on a very common barre chord shape that we’ve already looked at. In fact, it just takes the E7 shape and brings it up two frets.
Use your 2nd finger to barre the 4th fret, then bring your 4th finger over to fret 4 of the 7th string, and bring your 3rd finger to the 5th fret of the 3rd string. Make sure you’re pressing down hard enough to bring out the 4th fret of the 4th string as this provides the 7th of the chord.
This option is a slightly weirder, less common shape that is pretty hard to move between and away from, but gives you arguably the perfect spread of notes to voice the chord.
Press your 2nd finger onto the 4th fret of the 1st string, your 3rd finger onto the 5th fret of the 3rd string, your 4th finger onto the 6th fret of the 4th string and your 5th finger onto the 7th fret of the 2nd string.
G Sharp / A Flat Major 7 Guitar Chord
A G#/Abmaj7 chord is simply a major chord with a major 7th attached to the top. This often gives it a very uplifting sound, but there is an underlying dissonance due to the major 7th interval.
If we look at it from the point of view of the major scale algorithm, then the chord outlines a pattern of 1-3-5-7.
This means that the notes in an G#maj7 chord are G#-B#-D#-F##, while an Abmaj7 chord is made up of Ab-C-Eb-G.
Songs That Use G#/Abmaj7
G#maj7 is a good one when used in many contexts due to its ability to slot well into jazz and pop styles. Soul music also finds itself with a lot of maj7 chords chucked in throughout.
- Vansire- Eleven Weeks
- Gus Dapperton- My Favourite Fish
- Ben & Ben- Hummingbird
- Tom Misch- So Close
- Bruno Mars- Treasure
- Ocean Alley- Baby Come Back
- Lady Gaga- Vanity
- Amy Winehouse- Valerie
This is my favourite way to play any version of any G# chord, as it creates such a shimmering sound, while being surprisingly easy to play and move towards/from.
Press your 2nd finger onto the 3rd fret of string 1, your 3rd finger onto the 4th fret of string 2, your 4th finger onto the 5th fret of string 3 and your 5th finger onto the 6th fret of the 4th string. Make sure the lowest two strings remain muted.
This variation is also able to bring a nice full sound to the chord thanks to It bringing the Amaj7 open shape all the way up the neck by adding a barre underneath it.
Barre the 11th fret (but mute string 6), then press your 4th finger onto the 13th fret of string 4, your 3rd finger onto the 12th fret of string 3 and your 5th finger onto the 13th fret of string 2.
If you can make the stretch, then this is another chord that stretches across multiple octaves and can give you a wide voicing that brings out each note.
Use your 2nd finger to barre the 8th fret of strings 1, 2 and 3, then bring your 4th finger all the way over to the 10th fret of the 4th string and your 5th finger to the 11th fret of the 5th string.
G Sharp / A Flat Minor 7 Guitar Chord
The G#/Abm7 chord (G# minor 7) is based on a minor chord with a minor 7th above. It’s sort of the sadder version of the major 7th chord, giving off more of a negative sound due to the minor 3rd, but less dissonance due to the minor 7th interval instead of the major 7th.
If we look at it using the major scale formula, then it follows a pattern of 1-b3-5-b7.
This means that the notes in a G#m7 chord are G#-B-D#-F#, while an Abm7 is made up of the notes Ab-Cb-Eb-Gb.
Songs That Use G#/Abm7
Similarly to F#maj7/Gbmaj7, G#m7/Abm7 can fit nicely into a lot of jazz music due its 7th interval, but equally it appears a lot in popular music styles as despite its dissonance, it has a pleasant tone.
- James Morrison- Ruins
- Womack & Womack- Teardrops
- America- All My Life
- Lily Allen- Close Your Eyes
- Electric Light Orchestra- Mama
- Lucy Spraggan- Lighthouse
- Kenny Lattimore- Heaven And Earth
- Justin Bieber- Pray
Like the major 7th equivalent shown above, we can bring an open A minor shape up a fair few frets and be left with quite an easy barred version of G#m7 that will appear a lot in many songs.
Barre the 11th fret using your 2nd finger, then bring your 4th finger to the 13th fret of string 4 and your 3rd finger to the 12th fret of string 2. Make sure you’re pressing down hard enough on the 11th fret of string 3 in order to bring the minor 7th interval out fully.
This one is a good option to contribute to your jazzy, staccato playing.
Press your 2nd finger onto the 6th fret of the 4th string, then move your 5th finger all the way down to the 8th fret of the 3rd string, your 3rd finger onto the 7th fret of the 2nd string and your 4th finger onto the 7th fret of the 1st string.
This is probably your easy option, but it does put the minor 7th interval at the bottom of the chord, which is a bit odd… but still this bridge shape is really good for funky playing.
Use your 2nd finger to barre fret 4 of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings.
Other G#/Ab Chords
There are a lot of other types of chords you can use based around your G#/Ab tonic. The ones I’ve shown you so far are probably the most common you’ll come across, particularly major and minor.
- Abmaj9#11 is basically an Abmaj7 as above, but with the 9th degree added as normally, and a sharpened 11th, which will bring a tritone dissonance to a normally quite pleasant sounding chord. The notes making up this chord are Ab-C-Eb-G-Bb-D
- G#6 is a dominant 7th chord with the dominant 7th brought down by a full tone. This takes away the tritone and makes the chord using the notes G#-B#-D#-E#
- Ab7b13 brings a flattened 13th to a dominant 7th chord. This heavy extension lends itself to highly dramatic playing or a jazzy setting: Ab-C-Eb-Gb-Fb
There are obviously a lot more chords than this, but these are a few I really like. I have a few tricks to bear in mind when working out chords yourself.
- If you’re in an alternate tuning, remember these explanations won’t be the same!
- Using a formula to work out what notes are in a chord is a really simple way to help you out.
- When building chords that are hard to voice, the 5th is the first degree of the chord you are able to drop. Never drop the root, because that will normally completely change the chord you’re playing. For example, dropping the Ab from a Abmaj7 chord just makes C minor…