Chords in Stacked Fifths

Most modern music is played using chords build on THIRDS.  For example, a basic G chord:



However, you can get some interesting sounds by changing what intervals you use to build your chords.  In fact, some more complex music will use a combination of intervals (3rds, 4ths, and 5ths).

Today we are going to look at making chords out of stacked fifths


In a prior blog, I talked about power chords used in rock music.  That’s the initial building block of these stacked fifths.  Let’s take a look at an example:

G A B C D E F#

A fifth away from G is D, so we have the interval G-D.  However, let’s go one further now and skip a fifth away from D.  You have to kind of imagine another G scale to the right of the one above to get it.  We get an A, so our full chord is spelled out


When you put these together, you get this interesting/open sound that is neither major nor minor.  There is no 3rd within the chord, so you can’t tell if it’s major or minor (It would in fact fit both a G major and G minor chord).

Try practicing this shape on your banjo (or guitar) and see what you think of it.  On the banjo, it is formed as follows:

5th fret of the 4th string

7th fret of the 3rd string

7th fret of the 1st string

You have to skip a string, which makes it a bit tougher for your right hand.  See the video above for more details.


Jody Written by:

Professional Musician of 27 years. I've played Banjo and Acoustic Guitar on the stages of Carnegie Hall, The Grand Ole Opry, and The Ryman Auditorium. I've also played in six different countries.