Learning to play the guitar is a lot of fun, although playing chords can seem a bit intimidating at first. Don't be afraid: it's not much different than playing single notes; you just play them all at once. This article will walk you through the process of determining fingering and show you how to play some common chords. Grab your electric guitar and start rocking.
Part 1 of 3: Understanding Chords
Step 1. Learn what the strings are
The best way to start is by familiarizing yourself with the guitar strings and how they relate to your fingers. To make it easier, we'll number them both. The strings of your guitar are numbered like this:
- Vertically, the strings are numbered 1 through 6 from highest to lowest pitch.
- Horizontally, the numbering is based on the fret positions.
Note that when the instructions say "place your first finger on the third fret", it means that you are actually placing your finger between the second and third frets. It is the string itself that has to be in contact with the third fret. Use the following mnemonic to remember which note is in tune for each string, from lowest to highest:
MEs THEtidos REknock down SUNor YES tea MEro.
Step 2. Number your fingers
Look at your left hand and imagine that you have numbers on your fingers. The index finger is 1, the middle finger is 2, the ring finger is 3 and the little finger is 4. We will call the thumb "P" but you will not use it for chords in this article.
Step 3. Learn the C chord
The first chord we'll cover is the C chord, one of the most basic in music. Before we do, let's take a look at what it means. A formal chord, whether played on the piano or guitar or sung by well-trained mice, is simply three or more notes sounding at the same time. (Two notes are called a "dyad" and while this is musically useful, it is not a chord). Chords can also contain much more than three notes, but that is beyond the scope of this article. This is what a C chord looks like on the guitar:
- The lowest note is the third fret on the A: C string.
- The next note going up is played at the second fret of the D string: e.
- Note that there is no finger on the G string. This string is kept "open" when strumming the C note.
- The highest note is played on the first fret of the B: C string.
- The highest and lowest strings on the guitar are not played for the basic C major chord.
Step 4. Test the notes
Play each note in the chord, from lowest to highest, one at a time. Take your time and be deliberate: press firmly on the fret and pluck the string. Let the note play for as long as possible and then move on to the next one:
- Press your third finger on the third fret of the A string, as above, pluck and let it play until it fades out. You just played the C note.
- Press your second finger on the second fret of the D string, then pluck to play the E note.
- Break! Just pluck the open G string without fingering.
- Press your first finger on the first fret of the B string and let the C note play loudly.
- Play the notes one at a time several times. When you're ready, run your pick or your fingers through the middle four strings quickly. You just played a C chord!
- It may burn a bit the first few times you do this, but as you develop calluses on your fingers, the pain will go away.
Part 2 of 3: Learn More Chords
Step 1. Expand your music vocabulary
Playing a C chord is beautiful and it is definitely a chord that opens the doors to more interesting musical territory, but music is much more than that. Two other chords that are commonly used when playing in C major are F and G. Play a basic F chord like this:
- The notes in the F chord are F, A, and C. Note that fa and do are played with the same finger: the first finger, which is placed across the first fret of both the first and second strings.
- Chords are generally developed so that the lowest note is the chord root, but in this case, F is played at the first fret of the first string. This is called an "investment."
Step 2. Extend the F chord
You can place the note F in the root by playing F on the D string: the third fret from the bottom with the third finger. You may notice that the chord doesn't sound much different, just more "intense."
Step 3. Play a G chord
Like the C and F chords, the G chord is one of the three major chords in the C major scale. There are many ways to play it and we will teach you two. The first way is easy: it is exactly the same fingering as for the extended F chord only that is moved two frets up. [Image: Play Guitar Chords Step 7 Version 6-j.webp" />
Step 4. Play the G chord the easy way
In the picture you can see an easy way to play the G chord with just one finger.
Step 5. Put everything together
Now that you know the three basic chords in the key of C, put them together and you will perhaps recognize about a million popular songs. Strum C four times, followed by F twice and then G twice and then back to C.
- Note that after each chord there is a Roman numeral. These indicate where the root note of the chord is in the scale, regardless of fingering. Once you know the basic chords in all the keys, it's easier to just display a box rather than having to figure out the chord each time.
- Practice until your fingers are tired and then take a break, but come back to it. We will also teach you the basic chords of my and a!
Step 6. Learn the key to me
There are many rock and roll songs that are played in the key of my and also many blues songs. The three chords you should learn are E major (I), A major (IV), and B major (V). In the image you can see the chord of my.
This is one of the easiest chords to play once you've developed calluses on your fingers. You can play all the strings at the same time. Crank up the volume on your amp with this chord, hit it hard, and you'll feel the beginnings of being a rock hero
Step 7. Play A Major
This is another "big chord", sonically. There are several ways to play it. You can use one finger across the second fret of the B, G, and C strings (playing C sharp, A, and E, respectively) or any other combination of fingers. For this example, we will use the fourth finger on the B string, the third finger on the G string, and the second finger on the D string.
As you get better at playing your guitar, you'll understand that scrolling quickly from chord to chord sometimes results in weird fingerings that work anyway. The key is to use your fingers in the most efficient way, and once you get rid of the training wheels, not be afraid to experiment
Step 8. Play the B major chord
You can play this chord the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is shown with the black numbers. You can add the additional note, which is shown in the gray number.
Step 9. Take the test
In the picture you can see another short strum pattern to try on the clef.
Try varying your strum pattern as well - don't just stick to the lines on the paper
Step 10. Learn the key to the
You are almost done! The key to the consists of the in the first position (I), re in the fourth position (IV) and our old friend my in the fifth dominant position (V). In the image you can see how the D chord is played.
Note the first finger through the first three strings: this is the beginning of a "barre" chord. A full bar chord uses one finger through all the strings and is often based on the basic shapes shown in this article
Step 11. Learn an alternate version of the chord
This is useful when played along with the D and E chords.
Step 12. Take the test
Here's another little song where you can test your new chords:
Now think about the Creedence Clearwater Revival song Down in the corner and try again
Part 3 of 3: Using Video Chord Diagrams
Step 1. Learn a G major chord
Your ring finger goes over the third fret of the top string. The middle finger goes on the second fret of the fifth string and the little finger goes all the way down, on the third fret of the first string. Strum all the strings at once to play the chord. If you want, add the third fret of the second string. This is not necessary but creates a stronger sounding chord.
Step 2. Learn a C major chord
Place your ring finger on the third fret of the fifth string. Next, place your middle finger on the second fret of the fourth string (note how this is the same start as for a G chord, only one string lower). Then finish with your index finger on the first fret of the second string. Play all the strings except the top one.
Step 3. Learn a D major chord
This chord only requires the last four strings. Place your index finger on the second fret of the third string. The ring finger goes to the third fret of the second string and the middle finger to the second fret of the first string. You will form a small triangle. Just strum these three strings and the fourth string (the open D) to play the chord.
Step 4. Learn an E minor and E major chord
This deep chord uses all six strings. Place your middle and ring fingers on the second fret of both the fourth and fifth strings. Next, place your index finger on the first fret of the third string. Strum all six strings.
Play an E minor chord by simply removing your index finger, leaving the third string open.
Step 5. Learn an A major and minor chord
The A major chord is one of the easiest chords. Simply use your index, ring, and middle fingers to play the second fret on the second, third, and fourth strings. Play all the strings except for my bass.
Play an A minor chord by playing the first fret, not the second, on the B string. the shape is identical to the E major chord.
Step 6. Learn a F major chord
This resembles a C major chord, only tight. Ignore the top two strings. Place your ring finger on the third fret of the fourth string. The middle finger goes on the second fret of the third string. Finally, the index finger goes on the first fret of the second string. Play only the bottom four strings.