The first step in learning to play the guitar is learning some basic simple chords. There are hundreds of chords possible on the guitar neck but only a handful are used in most popular songs.
These handful of chords are usually called the CAGED chords and here we will be going through them and three of the most common minor variations, namely Am, Em and Dm.
If you are just starting out if may be difficult to press down all the strings of the chord at the same time.
If your fingertips hurt a lot try practicing on an electric guitar first and then move on to an acoustic once you are comfortable with the finger positions. It is important to give your fingers time to relax so to take breaks often especially when starting out.
Most songs in popular music stick to 3 or 4 chords for the entire songs and just use variations in the rhythm or melody to keep things interesting.
An open chord is a chord where one or more of the strings is played open (you do not touch the string with your finger but still strum it).
I am going to show you 8 open chord charts below that are not extremely difficult to play and will give you the technical knowledge to play thousands of songs.
Let’s do this!
1 = index finger, 2 = middle finger, 3 = ring finger, 4 = pinky
Commonly the first chord guitarists learn. The fingering is fairly straight forward, be sure to curl your fingers properly and press down the strings with the tips of your fingers. Be careful not to mute the G string with your middle finger.
This chord can be tricky because you need to fit 3 fingers across one fret. Be sure the avoid muting the high E string with your ring finger or the A string with your index finger. It is important that the A string rings out for the chord to sound clear and full.
You will really need to curl your index and middle finger well for this one. Keep your thumb firmly against the back of the guitar neck here. It is worth learning to play this chord without your index finger and instead using your pinky to fret the high E string. This could take some practice but makes it easier to change quickly from G to some of the other chords we have learned.
The E chords have a wonderful bassy tone that resonates through the guitar and playing it right is fairly easy. Be sure to curl your index finger properly to avoid muting the 2 high open strings. Keep in mind that you can switch your second and third finger around to make changing to the next chord easier depending on the song.
Another common first chord. You should not have any muting problems here as long as you are curling your fingers enough and using the tips. Be sure to only strum the top four strings of the guitar and avoid the bottom E and A open strings (Some people even mute them with their thumb if they are doing large strums within a song even though proper technique is to keep your thumb on the back of the neck).
If you can play an E major then you can play an A minor. Simply move all your fingers up by one string. The same things apply here except you do not strum the low E string. Be careful of muting with your index finger as always and remember that you can switch your middle and ring finger to make changing to the next chord easier.
This chord is very similar to D major (I hope you are noticing a pattern here) you will need to swop your index and middle finger around and place your index finger on the first fret. Watch that you ring finger isn’t muting the E string, again, fingertips and curling.
The simplest chord to play, one note different from E major makes it so that you only have to to push down 2 strings. I’m sure not much of an explanation is needed here, just press down and strum away!
Congratulations, learning these 8 chords is the first step to becoming a capable guitarist. If you were paying attention you may have noticed that I did not mention a B chord or an F chord and didn’t cover C minor or G minor. This is because some of them are barre chords and others are simply very difficult to play.
These 8 chords are the most popular chords used in music today and will get you on the road to writing and playing good music. If you are more of the rock and metal persuasion then join me for the next lesson. Power Chords!