Chords are forming the foundation of smartChord. smartChord is the ultimate chord reference, as its logic is able to determine every possible voicing for each stringed instrument and every possible tuning. This is very valuable for every musician – from beginner to professional.

The chords are fundamental for most of smartChords features like the songbook or the chord progressions. Therefore it is very essential to understand how to get the most of it.

Chord types

smartChord can handle every possible chord and provides a very large number of chords. The ‘Choose chord’ screen lists these types. As the list is really huge, not all types are visible. Be aware that the lists are scrollable. Filter and search make the list manageable.

Chord type filter

To make this huge list of chord types more manageable, it is possible to filter the chord types and search for them. Tap on the ‘Type’ header or the ‘funnel’ button to change the filter.

All

Lists all chord types supported by smartChord. There may be some exotic types that are not listed, but they are really rare. If there is a chord which is worth to be listed, please send us a new chord type request.

Basic

Lists just the basic chord types sufficient for beginners and intermediates. As the list is very small, it is very clear.

Favorites

Lists all of your favorite chord types. These are the favorite types you have defined specifically for the instrument. And these are the ‘common chord types’ defined in the settings and are valid for every instrument.

We recommend to define your favorite chord types and use this filter if the ‘basic’ list isn’t sufficient anymore. The list with all types is really huge and unclear.

You can define your favorites either with the ‘star’ button or in the settings.

Custom

Lists all of your own chord types and enables you to create new ‘custom’ chords.

Search

There is a second kind of filter. Tap on the ‘magnifying glass’ and enter the name. The list of chord types is updated with every entry.

Custom chords

smartChord allows you to create your own chords. For that you need to switch the filter to ‘Custom’. Then you are able to maintain your own chord types or delete them again. Custom chords do not differ from build-in chords. They are seamlessly integrated and available in all features including the songbook.

Use custom chords to …

  • create own chords with special characteristics
  • rename existing chords according to your naming convention
  • use the same chord with different fingerings in one song

Chord request

If you miss a chord type, please send us a new chord type request. We’ll add it with the next version.

Selection modes

The ‘Choose chord’ screen supports two different modes. The mode “Chord type” presents the feature as it looks when you use it for the first time or “normally”. If you change to “Scale” the feature will look totally different. This can be confusing and is therefore worth mentioning.

Chord type

This is the default mode, where you can select the root, the type and an optional bass note for a slash chord.

Scale

The ‘scale’ mode has a different appearance and handling. It shows diatonic chords for a scale. Diatonic chords are the chords that are derived from the notes of a scale. They build a family of chords all tied to one another by the notes of that scale.

The chords are grouped by their root. Which chords are listed depends on the following points:

  • Scale:
    As the chords are derived from the notes of a scale, they will change from scale to scale.
  • Chord type filter:
    The chord type filter is also active in this mode. This means that the number of chords might be limited to the basic chord types.
  • Maximal number of notes in chord:
    This number limits the listed chords to those which are constructed of this maximal number of notes. So you can limit the result e.g. to power chords with just two notes or you can allow pentachords with five notes. A higher number will result in a larger list.

Fingerings

The great strength of smartChord is the determination of every possible fingering for each stringed instrument and every possible tuning. There are hundreds of possible fingerings for each simple chord and tuning. The building of fingerings differs from instrument to instrument as there are huge differences between an eight-string Guitar and a three-string Cigar Box Guitar. The usage of fingerings differs from musician to musician. It depends on their preferences and skill level.

Most important settings

smartChord does have a large set of instrument-specific ‘instrument’ and ‘chord’ settings to control the determination of the fingerings. We strongly recommend to take the time and adjust the settings individually. The following paragraphs will guide you through the settings. Be aware that these settings are instrument-specific and you have to adjust them for every instrument you use.

Instrument

  • Choose your instrument as the relevant settings are instrument-specific.
  • Choose your tuning
  • Set the number of frets to the last fret you really use. If you set it to a higher number, also fingerings are taken into account, which are not of interest to you. The list of fingerings will be unnecessarily long.

Skill level

Make a self-assessment and define your skill level. This will change the settings to a reasonable preset. A beginner will need fewer and easier chords and fingerings than a professional musician. Please note that changing the skill level may change the settings that you have already made.

Sort order

The sort order is responsible to sort the list of fingerings in the chord galleries and overview screens. It is very decisive to get the best fingering for the situation. If smartChord has to show just one fingering for a chord (e.g. in the songbook), it takes the first in the sorted list. But keep in mind – your favorite fingerings always take priority and are listed always at the top of the list.

  • Default:
    It is the standard sort order focusing on the sound of the voicing, the difficulty to grip the fingering and the position on the fretboard. As a result, you’ll get the best sounding voicing which isn’t too difficult.
  • Ease:
    It prefers grips which are easier to grip. This could be an option for beginners. But keep in mind, that the easiest fingerings are often not the ones with the best sound.
  • Finger:
    Prefers fingerings where you do need less or no finger to grip them, no barré, and no muted strings.
  • Frets:
    Relevant is the position on the fretboard. Use it if you are looking for a fingering, which is near the other fingerings in your chord progression, so the movement of your hand is minimal and changing the grip will take less time.
  • Sound
    This choice is only focusing on the sound and the best sound is preferred.

Maximal frets per chord

It is the number of frets you have to span with your fingers. More than 5 frets are difficult to play – maybe not even possible. A higher number leads to a larger number of possible fingerings. But they could be too difficult for you. A low number leads to fewer fingerings or even no result.

Maximal number of fingers

This means the number of fingers with which you can grasp a chord. Four is normal. The thumb is not counted because it is only the opponent at the back of the neck. If you are a beginner or you have a handicap, you can reduce this number. The fingering will be easier, the selection and the sound will usually suffer.

Show barré chords

Deactivate this option, if you are not able to play barré chords. They will be filtered out. But we would like to encourage you to learn them. It is worth the effort.

Mandatory root

A chord’s deepest tone is the root and leads to its name. If you disable this option, this rule will be invalidated and you will get chord inversions. This is used often on instruments with fewer strings like a Cigar Box Guitar or a Ukulele as an inverted chord is sometimes the only possibility to play a chord.

Allow rootless chords

If this option is activated, chords are regarded as complete, even if the root note is dropped. It will make it easier to play a chord as you have to play one note less. Some chords are just possible as rootless chords on instruments with fewer strings like a Cigar Box Guitar or a Ukulele. You can easily use rootless chords if you’re playing in a band, as often the bass player will play the root note. Or use it if you like the ‘jazzy’ sound of rootless chords (see more).

Approach for best fingerings

  • Check your “Chord” and “Instrument” settings. They are most important for fingering determination. There are reasonable default settings for beginners, intermediate players and professionals which you can adopt to get the best results.
  • Maintain your fingering favorites, as your fingering favorites are always preferred before all other voicings.
  • Think about activating “Favor fingering pattern”. With it, also non-fingering favorites are treated as favorites if their fingering pattern is the same as a fingering pattern of one of your fingering favorites.
  • Think about activating “CAGED system“. With it, every fingering is treated as favorites, if its pattern is equal to a fingering pattern of the CAGED system.

Fingering favorites

Fingering favorites is a strong construct to get always the best results, as your fingering favorites are always preferred before all others. The songbook, for example, uses and shows your fingering favorites if you add a new song to it.

Some thinks you should know:

  • The fingering favorites are specific to a tuning. If you have different instruments with the same tuning, you’ll get the same fingering favorites.
  • The button with the star can be used to maintain your favorites. Alternatively, you can do this with for a long-press in every ‘fingering gallery’.
  • You can favor fingerings by pattern. This is a common chord setting and not specific to an instrument. If it is activated, also non-fingering favorites are treated as favorites, if their fingering pattern is the same as a fingering pattern of one of your fingering favorites. Example: If the F barré chord is one of your fingering favorites, all other barré chords, like e.g. the G barré chord, with the same grip shape are also treated as favorites. They are marked with a blue star.
  • You can favor fingerings according to the CAGED system. This is also a common chord setting and not specific to an instrument. If it is activated, the fingerings obeying the patterns of the CAGED system are automatically favored.

Instruments

smartChord provides about 40 stringed chromatic instruments such as guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin, ukulele. It is also possible to create custom instruments.

In smartChord is always one instrument selected and most features reference the selected instrument. The chord feature shows the chords and voicings for the selected instrument. The tuner uses the tuning of the current instrument.

But every song and chord progression refers to the instrument which was selected during their creation. They stick to the instrument (and tuning), but it can be changed that at every time.

In every feature, where the instrument or the tuning is from relevance, it is possible to change the instrument as well as the tuning easily and quickly by the menu.

Be aware, that every instrument does have its own settings like the ‘number of frets’ or the tuning. Also the ‘Chord’ settings like ‘max. number of frets per chord’, the sort order or the skill level is specific to the instrument.

If you switch the instrument, you’ll automatically get the settings of the new instrument.

As smartChord has got a large set of instrument specific ‘instrument and chord settings’, a useful preset is done, if you change your ‘skill level’ for the instrument.

Instrument favorites

You can define your favorite instruments on the “Choose instrument’ screen. Just check the ‘Favorite’ checkbox for the instrument.

If you have more than one favorite instruments, you’ll get a menu item to change the instrument easily and quickly by the menu. At least in every feature, where the instrument is from relevance.

Custom instruments

You can create additional instruments with their own ‘instrument’ and ‘chord’ settings. These settings are very important to get the best results. Please refer to the most important settings. Custom instruments give you the possibility to change very comfortably all the instrument settings (more than 20) at once. They are seamlessly integrated and available in all features and do not differ from the ‘build in’ instruments.

Tunings

smartChord supports any tuning with 3 to 8 strings. It provides more than 500 predefined tunings (e.g. Drop D, Rain Song) out of the box. And you can easily create your own tunings.

Custom tunings

You can create an unlimited number of custom tunings. They can have between 3 and 8 strings and notes in any combination. A custom tuning is seamlessly integrated in smartChord and do not differ from predefined tunings.

Favorite tunings

If you use more than one tuning, we recommend defining them as favorite tunings. Favorite tunings make it easy to switch between them. If have more than one favorite tuning defined, you’ll get a menu item to change the tuning easily and quickly by the menu. At least in every feature, where the tuning is from relevance.

You can define your favorite tunings on the “instrument’ settings. Every predefined and custom tuning can be defined as favorite tuning.

Capo

smartChord supports using a capo on every fret. You can set and remove a capo in the settings or by menu. If you have set a capo, smartChord shows a red bar and how to grip a chord with capo.

5-string Banjo

smartChord supports the 5-string Banjo with the shortened string. To get the support, just choose the instrument ‘5-string Banjo’.

Chord name

The feature ‘Chord name’, also known as reverse chords finder, shows the name of a chord for a given fingering. It is aware of optional notes (skeleton chords) in chords like the fifth in a C7.
Optionally it allows:

Solfège and Nashville Number System

smartChord supports common musical notation, Solfège and the Nashville Number System. Choose your preference in the general settings “Tone names”. This setting is really important, as it affects everything like chords, scales, songbook, … . Please see our video about it.

Solfège: SO instead of SOL

smartChord makes a compromise and uses SO instead of SOL. It makes everything much easier and consistent if all tone names have the same length. We decided to use SO instead of the more common SOL. But SO is also a valid naming/abbreviation.

Appearance

The appearance of the chords can be changed by a lot of options. Please browse the settings.

  • The fretboard and the chord diagrams can show alternative information: Notes, finger positions, … (chord settings)
  • The fretboard and the chord diagrams can be presented for right and left-handed people (general setting)
  • Color schemes can help you to distinguish the different notes or intervals of chords, arpeggios, scales and the Circle of Fifths at a glance. smartChord offers different color combinations (appearance settings)
  • Fret markers are optional and can be defined with color and position for each instrument individually