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 out of it.
The ‘Chords’ screen is the entry point to the chord reference. It’s the point, where you select the chord you want to use or get to know.
There are three steps to selecting a chord:
- select the root of the chord
- select or enter the chord type (e.g. m, dim or maj7). Be aware, that the list of chord types is filtered
- optionally you can select a bass note for a slash chord
The resulting chord will be displayed in the title bar.
The chord diagrams show you the possibilities of how the selected chord can be fingered. Scroll through the gallery and see how different the same chord can be. Listen to the different sounds by tapping on each fingering option. By the way, the size of the gallery and chord diagrams is changeable.
smartChord knows every possible fingering, but only shows you the ones that are relevant to you. You can define which fingerings are relevant for you in the settings. The default setting was made by specifying your playing strength.
Use the toolbar to:
- Switch between the ‘Chord’ screen modes
- Simplify a chord type
- Find the best fingering for your needs
- View the fingerings in a whole screen
- Favor chord types and fingerings
- Get more information about a chord
Chord type filter
smartChord knows more than 1200 chord types. Displaying the complete list becomes very confusing. Therefore the list is pre-filtered. The filter works in three steps:
- smartChord filters out all chord types that cannot be played with the selected tuning. For example, five-note chords for a 4-string ukulele are not displayed at all
- Via the chord type spinner, you can directly select predefined chord types
- The input field allows you to enter the chord type directly. The list is reduced with each input to the chord types that contain the entered text
Chord type spinner
- Dictionary: shows the complete list. Also, those that exist only in theory
- Professional: shows all chords that are also used in practice and represents all available chords for the tools and features in smartChord. There may be some exotic types that are not listed, but they are really rare. In this case, you can add the missing chord types from the Chord dictionary or you can send us a new chord type request.
- Advanced: shows the chords used by advanced players
- Beginner: shows the most common chords, which are also interesting for beginners
- Custom: shows you the chords that you have created yourself.
With this filter, you also get the possibility to delete these chords or to create new custom chords
- Favorites: shows you your own chords (Custom) and the chord types you have defined as favorites. You can set them by clicking the button with the star. Please note that the favorites are specific to the instrument you have chosen. We recommend that you first determine your favorite chord types and use this filter to get the clearest representation of the types you need
- 6th, 7th, …: shows you the chords of the selected category
Most chords do have possible simplifications. The simplified chords are normally easier to play but less colorful and interesting. Simplification is done step by step. Your favorite chords are marked with an ⭐
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 your own chords with special characteristics
- rename existing chords according to your naming convention
- use the same chord with different fingerings in one song
If you miss a chord type, please send us a new chord type request. We’ll add it to the next version.
Chord screen modes
The ‘Chords’ screen supports two different modes. The mode “Chord type” lets you select a chord by its root note, chord type and optional bass note. If you change to “Scale” the screen will look totally different. This can be confusing and is therefore worth mentioning.
The ‘Chords’ screen uses this mode if you click on ‘Chords’ on the home screen. In this mode, you can select the root, the type and an optional bass note for a slash chord.
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:
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.
- The maximal number of notes in the 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 allow pentachords with five notes. A higher number will result in a larger list.
The chord dictionary lists every imaginable chord. To take all naming conventions into account and to allow freedom in the chord name, one can include a chord from the chord dictionary as a ‘custom chord‘ into smartChord. This allows it to be used in any feature. ‘Custom chords‘ can, for example, be integrated into songs just like any other chord.
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 taking 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.
- 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 is not of interest to you. The list of fingerings will be unnecessarily long.
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.
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.
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.
It prefers grips that 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.
Prefers fingerings where you do need less or no finger to grip them, no barré, and no muted strings.
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.
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, but 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.
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 favorite, if its pattern is equal to a fingering pattern of the CAGED system.
The ‘Fingering explorer‘ will assist you to find the best fingerings for your needs:
You can change the relevant chord settings and get the resulting fingerings immediately in the gallery. If you have found a great fingering, define it as a fingering favorite. Fingering favorites are always visible and top listed, independent from the chord settings.
At the end of your exploration, you can apply the chord setting changes or discard them.
Be aware, that …
- the list of settings is scrollable and not every setting is visible when opening the screen
- there is a handle to resize the fretboard grid
- you can change the size of the chord diagrams with a pinch zoom-gesture
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 things 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.
The ‘Chord overview’ screen gives you an overview of the different ways to play a chord. You can use the pinch gesture to make the chord diagrams smaller or bigger.
This screen shows you next to a large chord diagram further information about a chord. For example, the structure of the chord including its notes and the formula.
Please note that you can change the information on the chord diagram:
- Notes (Settings)
- Notes (Theory)
- Relative notes
The chord diagram shows you also if it is a favored fingering. It’s yellow, if the fingering is favored by yourself. It’s blue, if the fingering is obeying the patterns of the CAGED system.
The statistic gives you a quick overview of the preferences of a fingering:
- Fingering: The fewer fingers needed to grip a fingering, the better. That’s why grips with the fewest fingers needed have the biggest swing in the statistics.
- Difficulty: The number of fingers is not all that determines the difficulty of a grip. Among other things, the distance between the fingers, the frets to be spanned, whether it is a barré chord, whether strings have to be damped… Again: The easier a fingering is to finger, the greater the swing in the statistics.
- Sound: The same applies to the sound: The better a chord sounds, the greater the swing in the statistics.
You can sort the fingerings by these criteria (settings).
smartChord provides about 40 stringed chromatic instruments such as guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin, and ukulele. It is also possible to create custom instruments.
In smartChord is always one instrument selected and most features reference the chosen 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 at every time.
In every feature, where the instrument or the tuning is relevant, 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.
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 instrument, 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 relevant.
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.
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.
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 into smartChord and does not differ from predefined 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.
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 a capo.
smartChord supports the 5-string Banjo with the shortened string. To get the support, just choose the instrument ‘5-string Banjo’.
The feature ‘Chord name’, also known as reverse chords finder, shows a chord’s name for a given fingering. It is aware of optional notes (skeleton chords) in chords like the fifth in a C7.
Optionally it allows:
- Slash chords
- Inverse chords
- Incomplete chords
- Rootless chords
To get the chord name of a fingering, tap on the corresponding fret for each string or for an open, resonant strings tap next to the nut. For a muted string (not plucked) tap next to the nut until a cross appears.
You will see your chord notes below the fret diagram. smartChord identifies possible chord names according to your combination of notes. Often there is more than one possibility to name a chord, therefore you might be shown different chord names.
The default setting displays just one chord name, you may extend the list to all possible chord names by using the ‘+’ option. Reduce it again by using the ‘-‘ option.
Tapping on a chord gets you to the ‘Details‘ screen providing you even more specific information and possible fingerings. smartChord always offers you the most popular chord name in the first place. Using the options ‘Slash’, ‘Enverse’ or ‘Incomplete’ might extend the list naming chords.
- Slash: means slash chords will be included in the determination of names. They can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/slash_chord
- Inverse: means inverse chords will also be shown. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/inversion_(music) and
- Incomplete: means other chords – for example, chords without a fifth – will be considered
- Rootless: chords are regarded as complete, even if the root note is dropped
Of course you can also use a capo while naming chords.
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 more 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.
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