Guitar Chords 201: Chord Melody and Inversions

Author: Rick Peckham   •   Course Code: OGUIT-320

Building on the foundation of Guitar Chords 101, this course is the next level in Berklee's world-famous approach to guitar study, one in which players focus on the individual notes that make up a chord, rather than on the chord's shape. Guitar Chords 201 provides essential technical training that will improve your style, intonation, technique, time feel, and tone.

The course starts where Guitar Chords 101 leaves off—with an in-depth exploration into the construction of open triads, seventh chord structures, and inversions of complex chord forms. You'll move on to learn popular fingerstyle patterns, alternate tuning options, major and minor bebop scales, and voice-leading through chord scales.

Your studies will take you through a variety of genres, and focus in on a number of legendary artists and guitarists, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Look at a lead sheet and play chord voicings, with harmonized melodies using seventh chords
  • Open triadic shapes and inversions in several musical styles
  • Have a greater knowledge of constructing open triads, seventh chord structures, and inversions of complex chord forms
  • Play and know some basic approaches to chordal playing using fingerstyle patterns, Travis picking, Brazilian Bossa Nova styles, and some alternate tuning options
  • Play and use quartal modal voicings, as well as some advanced jazz chord substitutions

Lesson 1: Inversions of Seventh Chords, Triads, and Open Triads

  • Review of Seventh Chord Shapes
  • Seventh Chord Summary: The Big Seven
  • Chord Spelling Etude
  • Drop-2
  • Drop-3
  • Seventh Chord Inversions: Major 7 and Dominant 7
  • Chord Melody: Harmonizing Melodies with Triads
  • Open Major and Minor Triads

Lesson 2: Chord Melody and More Open Triads

  • Chord Melody: Harmonizing All Scale Notes
  • Diatonic Open Triads
  • Inversions of Triads: Open Diminished Shapes
  • Inversions of Triads: Open Augmented Shapes

Lesson 3: More Inversions, Crossovers, Chord Melody, and More Open Triads

  • Inversions of Seventh Chords: Minor 7 and Minor 7b5
  • Crossovers 1 C and F Blues
  • Working with Diatonic Inversions: Drop 2 Chords on Strings 5, 4, 3, and 2
  • Chord Melody "House of the Rising Sun"
  • Open Triads with I IV V I

Lesson 4: Fingerstyle Patterns and the C–A–G–E–D Approach

  • Basic Fingerstyle Patterns
  • Travis Picking Basics
  • C–A–G–E–D Approach to Chordal Playing
  • Chord Melody Tune: Avalon by Vincent Rose

Lesson 5: Harmonic Minor Voicings and Bossa Nova Fingerstyle Patterns

  • Harmonic Minor Voicings
  • Fingerstyle Patterns: Basic Brazilian Rhythm Patterns
  • Crossover/Transfer Example
  • Chord Melody

Lesson 6: Melodic Minor and Advanced Chord Substitutions

  • Melodic Minor Diatonic Chords
  • Melodic Minor Harmonies Used for Chord Melody
  • Major 6/9 Voicings: Substituting Dominant 7sus 4 Chords for Major Chord Sounds
  • Range Considerations for Chord Voicings
  • Crossover Tune: "Back Home Again in Indiana"

Lesson 7: Melodic Minor Harmonies and Modal Voicings

  • Use of Melodic Minor Derived Harmonies
  • Modal Voicings: Quartal Harmonies
  • Inversions of Maj7/Maj6/Min6/Dim7/Min7b5

Lesson 8: Open Tunings: Slash Chords Revisited and More

  • Slash Chords and Inversions of Slash Chords
  • CAGED Part 2: Use of Capo
  • Drop D Tuning: "Dear Prudence"
  • Open G Tuning: "Start Me Up"; Basic Chord Shapes
  • Chet Atkins/Jerry Reed Style
  • Harmonizing Melodies with Quartal and Slash Chord Harmonies
  • Rhythmic Interpretation

Lesson 9: Major and Minor Bebop Diatonic Scales and Alternate Tunings

  • Scale Descriptions: Major/Minor Bop
  • Harmonizing Bop Scales
  • Fingerstyle Patterns with Bop Scales

Lesson 10: Harmonic Major and Voice Leading through Chord Scales

  • Harmonic Major Harmonies
  • Voiceleading through the Major Scale (Goodrick-Style Interval Sets)

Lesson 11: Voicings from Symmetrical Scales

  • Chords from the Symmetrical Diminished Scale
  • Chords from the Symmetrical Augmented Scale
  • Voiceleading through Melodic Minor with Interval Sets

Lesson 12: Putting It All Together: Summary

  • Voiceleading through Major, Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor, and Harmonic Major
  • Rhythm Chord Basic Shapes
  • Chord Melody Final

Rick Peckham

Author & Instructor

Rick Peckham is an internationally known jazz guitarist, clinician, composer, and writer. He has performed with George Garzone, Jerry Bergonzi, Mike Gibbs, and Dave Liebman, and recorded the album Stray Dog ( as a member of the notorious jazz collective Um, led by trombonist Hal Crook and occasionally featuring organist John Medeski. His most recent recording Left End—a set of original compositions mixed with collective improvisations—was recently recorded with drummer Jim Black and bassist Tony Scherr. In addition to extensive work in the U.S., he has led or played on tours in Ireland, Canada, Spain, and Germany.

Currently Assistant Chair of the Berklee College of Music Guitar department, Peckham has been a faculty member since 1986, and was integral to the development of Berklee's ear training and musicianship curriculum. He organized the college's honorary doctoral tributes to Roy Haynes, Joe Zawinul, Jack DeJohnette, and John Scofield, featuring then-Berklee students Kurt Rosenwinkel, Matthew Garrison, Antonio Hart, Abe Laboriel Jr., Melvin Butler, and Seamus Blake. He is also a prolific and accomplished writer, recently releasing Modal Voicing Techniques, a best-selling DVD for Berklee Press.

For further information on Rick Peckham please visit his website at:


Completion of Guitar Chords 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. 

Required Textbook

Berklee Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary by Rick Peckham, Berklee Press/Hal Leonard

Software Requirements

A recording tool is provided within the course that will allow students to record videos of themselves playing for assignment submission. Alternatively, students can use a digital camera, smartphone, or tablet to record assignments.

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • A printer is recommended for printing music examples used in the course
  • For electric and acoustic/electric guitars, a basic amp chord with w/ a 1/4" to 1/8" adapter for recording directly into the computer
  • For acoustic guitars with no pickups, a microphone w/ a 1/4" to 1/8" adapter for recording directly into the computer
  • A built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface)
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


Got a question? Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

  • Level
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition

Contact an Academic Advisor

Mon-Thu, 9AM-8PM ET
Fri, 9AM-5PM ET
Call or Text Us at

Int'l: +1-617-747-2146

Create a Free Account

Request Information

Create an account to download our catalog, get our newsletter, and more.

Stay Informed About This Course

Create an account to download our free course catalog, and receive updates about this course.

Sign Up to Sample a Lesson

  Secure form. Berklee Online will not sell or rent your email address to third parties.
Our privacy policy