Guitar Chords 201: Chord Melody and Inversions


Authored by Rick Peckham


Course Code: OGUIT-320

Next semester
starts April 1

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


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.

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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
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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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


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Guitar Chords 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.



  • Students are required to record video while performing with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • Webcam (using either video recording software, or the video recording tool that is built into the learning environment)


  • Electric or acoustic guitar


  • Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required):
      • Instrument connected directly to audio interface (recommended electric option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
      • XLR microphone and audio interface (recommended acoustic option)
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external speakers
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need XLR/instrument cables and a microphone stand.
  • Recommended: Printer, if you would like to print out examples used in the course.

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Rick Peckham


Rick Peckham is an internationally known jazz guitarist and educator. He has presented performances and clinics on six continents and specializes in a unique blend of styles, including jazz, rock, blues, fusion and country finger style performance.

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Currently a full-time professor in Berklee’s Guitar department, Peckham has been a faculty member since 1986, and served as assistant chair of the Guitar department, with 1,100 guitar students and 60 guitar faculty, from 1992-2013.

The internationally released album, Left End, with drummer Jim Black and bassist Tony Scherr was named one of the best releases of 2005 by DownBeat magazine. 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. Several then-Berklee students he has coached include Lionel Loueke, Lage Lund, Frank Möbus, Jeff Parker, Matt Stevens and Nir Felder.

In 2007, the University Professional & Continuing Education Association awarded the Berklee Online course he authored, Berklee Guitar Chords 101, “Best Online Class.” He has also authored the DVD Modal Voicing Techniques, and Hal Leonard books Berklee Jazz Guitar Dictionary and Berklee Rock Chord Dictionary. Read Less

Amanda Monaco


Grammy-nominated guitarist/composer Amanda Monaco has performed at venues such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Birdland, Jazz Standard, and Flushing Town Hall. She has released five albums to date and her playing has been described by The New York City Jazz Record as “utterly unique, a breath of fresh air in the cookie-cutter climes of both mainstream and free jazz.” Before she began teaching at Berklee in 2011, she was a member of the faculty at New School University and the National Guitar Workshop. Monaco is the author of Jazz Guitar for the Absolute Beginner.

Norm Zocher


Originally from Chicago, Illinois, and referred to as "a guitar legend in the making" as well as being one of "Boston's best composers" through his work with the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, Norman Zocher is a long-time New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music faculty member. He has performed with and recorded a broad range of artists, including Maria Schneider, Muhal Richard Abrams, Oliver Lake, John Medeski, Steve Lacy, Bob Brookmeyer, Esperanza Spalding, Bob Moses, Paul Bley, and Dave Holland. The recordings of the Abby and Norm Group with his wife, fellow Berklee guitar professor Abigail Aronson Zocher, gained him international recognition as a composer and an instrumentalist. Other critically acclaimed albums have featured Zocher with Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, John Patitucci, and Joey Calderazzo. He is a resident composer and guitarist/pedal steel guitarist for the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra.

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Guitar Chords 201: Chord Melody and Inversions can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:

Related Degree Majors


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