The most important building blocks of any song, guitar chords can be found in almost every piece of music regardless of style or genre. If you’re a new player, learning basic guitar chords can help increase your musical ability and accelerate your learning speed. If you know basic chords, you can play almost any song without difficulty. This is because every song uses the same small group of chords with only a few subtle variations between them. Guitar lessons will often start introducing these essential chords very early on because they are used so often. Whether you’re playing jazz, metal, rock, or country, chords are integral to the song, and having a full knowledge of basic chord structures will serve to help you with your playing. Below are eight simply chords that are helpful for beginners to know ASAP. After you’ve mastered these you can use sites such as Ultimate Guitar to look up and start learning almost any chord or tab you like. For a more structured approach to learning we really like both the Jamplay program and also the GuitarTricks program.
C Major Open Chord
This is one of the first chords any player should learn. The C major chord is found in many songs, because many songs happen to be in the key of C. Playing the C chord can feel a bit strange at first, but your fingers will eventually stretch to hit each note accurately. First, place your ring finger on the fifth string third fret to play the bottom C note. Then take your middle finger and place it on the fourth sting second fret to play an E. Leave the next string open and place your pointer finger on the second string, first fret to play another C note. Some players prefer to let the highest string ring out, but many beginners accidentally mute it with their pointer finger. When learning the chord, be sure to strum the chord slowly and play each note clearly. If the note doesn’t ring out, adjust your fingers and try again. Your hand will eventually find a position where it is most comfortable and you’ll be able to play the chord easily.
G Major Open Chord
There are many variations on the simple G Major chord, but many people prefer to play it with only three fingers. This is an excellent chord to practice if you want to increase your dexterity, because it requires you to play the first and sixth string at the same time. Place your middle finger on the third fret of the sixth string to play the bottom G of the chord. Then take your pointer finger and curl behind your middle finger to play a B note on the second fret of the fifth string. The second, third, and fourth strings are then left open to ring out, which gives the chord a wide and jangly sound. Finally, take your ring finger or your pinky and place it on the first fret third string. There’s a variation of the chord where you put your pinky on the third fret of the first string and your ring finger on the third fret of the fifth string to create a more varied tone, but most beginners prefer to play the simpler chord.
E Major Open Chord
One of the easiest chords to play, there are two main variations on the E major chord. Both variations use three fingers, but many beginners prefer to practice with the first variations. Play the sixth string without fretting any notes and place your middle finger on the second fret of the fifth string. Then use your ring finger to play the second fret of the fourth string, and your pointer finger to play the first fret of the fourth string. The E chord leaves the sixth string, second string, and first string open, which makes it easy to play because you don’t have to focus on fretting too many notes. The second variation uses a different set of fingers, but it creates the same tone as the first variation. Play the same open strings as the first variation and position your ring finger on the second fret of the fifth string. Then take your pinky and put it on the second fret of the fourth string. After that, place your middle finger on the first fret of the third string to complete the chord. This variation makes it much easier to shift to barre chords once you start playing advanced chords.
E Minor Open Chord
One of the easiest minor chords to play, simply place your pointer finger on the second fret of the fifth string and your middle finger on the second fret of the fourth string. After that, you can strum all six strings playing the sixth, third, second, and first string without fretting any notes. One of the only differences between an E major chord and an E minor chord is that the player doesn’t have to fret anything on the third string. That note is open instead of being fretted, which turns the chord from major to minor. A good exercise to differentiate between the two chords is to play the major chord and then release whichever finger you have on the third string to turn the chord from major to minor.
A Major Open Chord
One of the most important open chords, the A major can eventually be used in barre chords, so the shape is very important to learn and master. There are two main variations on the A major chord. With the first variation, place your pointer finger on the second fret of the fourth string, your middle finger on the second fret of the third string, and your ring finger on the second fret of the second string. Then play the fifth string and first string without fretting any notes. It’s important to mute the sixth string so it doesn’t make any noise, because the A major chord will sound incorrect if a low E is played underneath the chord. The second variation has the player lay their ring finger over the three fretted notes instead of playing each one individually. This can be difficult for someone who is starting out, so the first variation is recommended for new players.
A Minor Open Chord
A subtle variation on the A major chord, the A minor chord essentially has the same fingering as an E major chord except it’s played on different strings. The fifth string is kept open to play a low A note, then the player frets the second fret of the fourth string with their middle finger, the second fret of the fourth string with their ring finger, and the first fret of the second string with their pointer finger. The only difference between an A major chord and an A minor chord is that the second string is played on the first fret, not the second fret.
D Major Open Chord
One of the easiest chords for beginners to play, the D major chord essentially forms a triangle on the top three strings. Be sure to must the sixth and fifth string so the bottom notes don’t ring out. The lowest note of the D major chord should be the open fourth fret, which plays a D note. Place your pointer finger on the second fret of the third string, and then bring your ring finger over to play the third fret of the second string. Finally, place your middle finger on the second fret of the first string to complete the D major chord.
F Major Barre Chord
One of the most important chords that a player can learn is the simple F major barre chord. A barre chord can be moved up and down the neck to play different chords without changing the overall shape, so if you learn the shape you can play any chord. The F Major chord requires you to lay your pointer finger over all six strings at the first fret, which might seem difficult at first, but your hands will get stronger over time. While your index finger is fretting every note on the first fret, take your ring finger and play the third fret of the second string. Then place your pinky underneath your ring finger to play the third fret of the fourth string, and put your middle finger on the second fret of the third string. When first learning the chord, be sure to strum every note to ensure that they’re ringing out properly. The chord can be moved up to play different major chords, but it’s important to practice the chord in the first position to build your strength and dexterity.