The Basic Guitar Chords For Beginners and How to Play Them

Published Categorized as Basic Techniques, Chords

The following basic guitar chords for beginners will form the foundation of your chords. Learning these chords and their shapes will help you in learning many other guitar chords.

Not only that, there are also hundreds of songs you can learn that involve just these basic open guitar chords.

guitar chord diagram explained

The first part of this post will explain how to read guitar chord charts. And then we’ll move onto playing the actual guitar chords.

The guitar chords that will be covered in this post are.

  • E
  • Eminor
  • A
  • Aminor
  • D
  • Dminor
  • C
  • G
  • F

Table of Contents

Guitar Chord Chart – Getting Ready

So that you can understand this post – and guitar chord charts wherever you come across them – I have explained how the guitar chord charts work in the diagrams below.

Chart 1

Imagine a guitar leaning against the wall. This is the view of the chord chart.

guitar chord diagram explained

So;

  • The top dark line is the nut of the guitar
  • The frets are shown horizontally
  • The Strings are shown vertically
  • Your fingers are labelled 1 through 4 as shown in the diagram

Chart 2

guitar chord diagram explained chart 2

The “x” and “o” symbols above the strings indicate whether that string should be played or not. The “x” means that you do not strum that string and an “o” means that you strum that string as an “open” string.

Where there are fingers on the strings there is neither an “x” nor an “o”. You should always strum these strings.

This might be confusing for some at first, especially if you’re not still sure about guitar string names. But you will get used to these diagrams and they will get easier to read fairly quickly.

The E Major Chord

For the E Major chord I will go through and explain how it is to be played.

For the remaining guitar chords, I will just show the diagram because the diagram will describe what you should be doing.

If in doubt refer back to the “Getting Ready” charts above.

E Major Chord

As per the diagram above you should:

  • Place your 1st finger (index) on the G string in the 1st fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the A string in the 2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the D string in the 2nd fret
  • You should strum all of the strings. The Low E, B and E strings will be strummed as open notes.

The E minor Chord

E minor chord

Very similar to the E Major chord – you just have to lift off your 1st finger.

The A Major Chord

A Major chord

The alternative to playing the A major is to swap around the 1st and 2nd fingers. This way, the 1st finger is on the G string on the 2nd fret and the 2nd finger is on the D string on the 2nd fret.

To get the best sound possible, you want to get your fingers as close to the front edge of the fret as you can. Because you have 3 fingers all trying to fit into the 2nd fret for the A major chord, some people find it easier to have the first finger on the G string to try to get it closer to the edge of the fret.

Note that you aren’t going to be able to get all 3 fingers right to the front of the fret whichever way you do it. Just try to get that 1st finger somewhere in the middle and not right to the back of the fret.

You’ll know what I mean when you try the chord.

The A minor Chord

A minor chord

The D Major Chord

D major chord

The D minor Chord

D minor chord

The C Major Chord

C major Chord

The G Major Chord

G major chord

For an alternative G major open chord you can bring in the 4th finger. Move the 3rd finger up to the B string 3rd fret and place the 4th finger on the high E string 3rd fret.

The F Major Chord

F major chord

The F chord is perhaps the most difficult of the open guitar chords in this list.

You need to bar both the B and high E strings with your first finger. You also need to make sure you miss both the Low E and A strings as you strum.

Although if you play the A string it won’t matter too much. There is an A note in the chord so it will still sound fine. However it won’t sound right if you play the Low E string.

How I like to play this chord is to mute the Low E string with my thumb (bringing it over the neck of the guitar) and to mute the A string with the tip of my third finger. But this might be too difficult to start with – so you can start out just making sure you miss the Low E and A strings as you strum.

Now to Practice

Over to you now. The more you practice the more natural these guitar chords become.

You should also practice transitioning between the different guitar chords.

For more guitar chords plus video lessons on how to play them and some good techniques on how to transition, it’s a good idea to check out some online video lessons. There are both free and paid lesson reviews there.

If you are going to go for paid lessons the best that I’ve seen so far is Jamplay. Check out my Jamplay review.

Have any questions or comments about the guitar chords in this post? Please feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.

Wanna try to play some chords? Check out these blog posts:

FAQs

What are the chords of each guitar string?

The standard tuning for a guitar, starting from the thickest string (lowest pitch) to the thinnest string (highest pitch), is as follows:
1st string (high E): E
2nd string (B): B
3rd string (G): G
4th string (D): D
5th string (A): A
6th string (low E): E

These are the open string notes, which means that when you strum the guitar without pressing down any frets, these are the pitches you will hear. Each string is typically associated with a number when referring to tabs or chord diagrams.

It’s important to note that guitar chords are formed by pressing down certain combinations of strings and frets, creating different notes and intervals. The chords themselves are not directly related to the open string notes.

What are the 5 basic guitar chords?

The five basic guitar chords that every beginner guitarist should learn are C Major (C), D Major (D), E Major (E), G Major (G), and A Major (A). These five chords will give you a good foundation to start playing many songs and will help you develop your finger strength and coordination on the guitar.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

9 comments

  1. hey there! I’ve always wanted to start playing the guitar Properly but never had the time! i like how carefully structured your post is. you seem to be well a seasoned guitarist! where do you think i could get good guitars and any particular brands you could recommend for a newbie like me?:)

    1. Hey Stinson

      Thanks for visiting and I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      You can check out my post on the best guitars under $1,000 if you like (see link below).

      https://sixstringacoustic.com/best-acoustic-guitars

      Although this is probably going to be a bit out of your price range if you are just starting out. I am looking to review some cheaper guitars soon but am yet to do so – check back in a couple of months and there should be some reviews up.

      Yamaha and Seagull have some great guitars that are cheaper – you could check out those brands for some of their lower price range models. The Seagull S6 series guitars have a great reputation for being great sounding guitars for a low price so they’d be worth checking out I reckon.

      Hope this helps and thanks again for visiting

  2. Hello!

    I love your post! It really took me over 30 years back in time when I picked the guitar for the first time in my life. There was ni internet back than and nio chance to learn anything that way. I got the book to learn from but it wasn`t clear like your post. Thanks for the article, it was a pleasure reading it.

    Regards

    1. Hey

      Thanks for your kind words. Glad you liked the post. Yeah there was no internet when I first starting learning either – at least not in the way there is today. Only the kind where it took an hour and a half to download 1 low quality picture over a local network!

      Great to hear from such an experienced player. I hope beginners find the post as easy to understand!

  3. Good article making learning to play the guitar simple and easy for anyone to do, playing any instrument has many benefits and is good for the body and the mind.

    How long have you been playing the guitar, what would you recommend as a good beginner guitar for a teenager?

    1. Hi

      I agree that learning an instrument has many benefits – for adults and kids a-like.

      Check out the following link for some good beginner guitar options. Most of the options there are smaller in size – which is a good idea for a beginner guitar – often even for adults.

      My Top Beginner Guitar Choices

  4. This is very informative. I am 41 and just starting to learn the guitar. Hahaha Hope this is not too late for me. lol I learned some basic chords but I wonder why it doesn’t sound good even as I followed where to put my fingers on the strings on the said chord. Just learned in your post that there are chords that I shouldn’t strum some strings. Hahaha Following your instructions here, not strumming those with x sign, it sounds good now. Hahaha Thank you very much, Nate. God bless you.

    1. Hi Teresa

      It’s never too late to learn guitar. And yeah, important that you strum the right strings as well as getting the fingers in the right frets. Glad that the chords are sounding better now.

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