14 Oct Learn Guitar Chords: Beginners Chords and Tips for Playing
Learning how to play chords is an essential part of learning how to play the guitar. Knowing how to play chords opens up so many different possibilities for you as a musician and a guitar player. Maybe you want to learn how to play your favorite rock song on the guitar or experiment and create new songs yourself. To do either of these things, you need to first learn how to play chords.
In this article, I will be teaching you what a chord is, as well as the basics of how to play guitar chords for beginners. I will be sure to include tips and tricks for playing chords too in order to help out all of you beginner level guitar players learn how to play chords more easily.
What Is a Chord?
Before you learn how to play a chord, you need to first have an understanding of what exactly a chord is. A chord is when a combination of three or more notes are played together at the same time. There are many different varieties as far as different chords that you can play. Some very common chords are used in lots of music, as well as some less common chords that you probably won’t see as often.
Chords are not to be confused with intervals, which are when only two notes are played together at the same time. If you hit three of the same notes at the same time, this is not a chord either. This means that even if you hit three different C notes at once, it does not count as a chord. A chord needs to be a variety of different notes played at once because of the unique sound each chord makes.
The most basic type of chord is one where three different notes which are usually related to each other (typically related on the scale that they’re on) are played at once. This type of chord is called a triad. This can get slightly confusing when looking at a chord like an open A chord for example because although this is a basic triad chord, it consists of two A notes, three E notes, and one C sharp note, a total of six notes. However, since we only count notes that are separate when looking at chords, we do not count it as a total of six separate notes, but as three: A, E, and C.
Understanding the Strings and Frets of Your Guitar
Two other things that you need to know before you can begin to learn how to play a chord are which note each string of your guitar is and the numerical order of the frets on your guitar. A classic guitar has six strings and nineteen frets.
When determining the note of each string, it is important to note that the bottom is the thinnest and the top one is the thickest. Rather than numbering these strings from top to bottom, they are numbered from bottom to top. This means that the bottom, and also thinnest, string on your guitar is the first string. Going from first to last, or bottom to top, your guitar strings go in this order: E, B, G, D, A, E. A helpful acronym to make memorizing the strings much easier is “Every Boy Gets Dinner At Eight.”
The frets on your guitar are the small metallic bars that run horizontally down the neck of your guitar. Fret number 1 is the one that is closest to the head of the guitar, and then you just keep counting down until you get to fret number 19 closest to the base of the guitar. Now that you know how to determine which string is which, as well as which fret is which, we can move on to learning how to play the five major chords.
The Five Major Chords
When you are still at a beginner level, it is important that you learn the five major chords before exploring any of the other ones. These five major chords are the ones that you will see and play the most, so once you get these ones down, it will make building upon your skills and learning other chords much easier. The five major chords are A Major, E Major, D Major, C Major, and G Major.
To play an A Major chord, you place your pointer, middle, and ring fingers all on the second fret, placing the pointer finger on the fourth string from the bottom (D), your middle finger on the third string from the bottom (G), and your ring finger on the second string from the bottom (B). For an A Major chord, you will be leaving the top two strings of your guitar open even though that fifth string is the A note. Once all of your fingers are placed correctly, strum down the bottom five strings, being sure not to touch the top string at all. This is how you play an A Major chord.
To play an E Major chord, you place your pointer finger on the first fret and your middle and ring fingers on the second fret. For the strings, you place your pointer finger on the third string from the bottom (G), your middle finger on the fifth string from the bottom (A), and your ring finger on the sixth string from the bottom (E). Getting your middle finger in between your pointer and ring fingers may be tricky at first but try to keep from gripping onto the guitar too tightly. Once all three fingers are placed correctly, strum all six strings at once. This is how you play an E Major chord.
To play a D Major chord, place your pointer and middle fingers both on the second fret while placing your ringer finger on the third fret. Place your pointer finger on the third string from the bottom (G), your middle finger on the bottom string (E), and your ring finger on the second string from the bottom (B). Be sure to leave the fourth string open even though it may feel slightly awkward at first. Strum only the bottom four strings. This is how you play a D Major chord.
To play a C Major chord, all of your fingers will be placed on separate frets and strings. Your pointer finger will be placed on the first fret and second string from the bottom (B), your middle finger will be placed on the second fret and fourth string from the bottom (D), and your ring finger will be placed on the third fret and fifth string from the bottom (A). Strum only the bottom five strings, leaving the first and second strings open while doing so. This is how you play a C Major chord.
To play a G Major chord, you will be using your middle, ring, and pinky fingers instead of your pointer, middle, and ring fingers. Your middle finger will be placed on the second fret and fifth string from the bottom (A), your ring finger will be placed on the third fret and sixth string from the bottom (E), and your pinky finger will be placed on the first fret and bottom string (E). Leaving the second, third, and fourth strings from the bottom open, strum all of the strings at once. This is how you play a G Major chord.
Open and Barre Chords
There are two types of chords that you can play on the guitar: open chords and barre chords. The five major chords that I just went over with you are all open chords because they each only use the first three frets, and all have some strings open. Open chords are the first chords that you should learn because they are much easier for beginners to get a grasp on. These are the more basic of the two types of chords.
Unlike open chords, barre chords are played with only two fingers rather than three. This type of chord is more complicated than an open chord because you hold down all or most of the strings across multiple different frets. You can move your finger either up or down fretboard for this type of chord to create different types of sounds with different notes. It is important to learn the five major chords and then other open chords before moving onto barre chords though as they are more advanced.
Tips and Tricks for Playing Chords
One helpful trick when you are first learning how to play guitar chords is to take it slow. This tip may seem obvious, but when you are learning to play any instrument, it can be tempting to pick up your pace or try to match the pace of a song. There is no need for this though. Rushing yourself will only leave more room for error, so take your time and go as slow as you need to until you’ve got the chord down. Then you can begin to pick up your pace a bit more.
Some of the chords require you to place your fingers in some slightly awkward positions. Even if you do find the finger placement uncomfortable, be sure not to grip the guitar too tightly; otherwise, it may affect the sound of the chord. When you are first learning to play a chord that may feel uncomfortable, get your fingers into the correct placements and then loosen your grip slightly so that you’ve got a firm grip but not one that’s too tight. Once you do this, then you can play the chord.
It is also important that you practice each major chord until you get them down before moving on to more advanced ones. The more time you spend practicing, the easier it will become for your fingers to go right to the right spots. Your fingers will develop a muscle memory the more that you practice, so eventually you won’t even have to think about it when placing them on your guitar. They will just automatically know where to go based on which chord you’re playing.
This next tip may seem tough but try looking away from your guitar or closing your eyes sometimes when you’re practicing. Don’t do this until you’ve already run through the chord at least a few times and have a general idea of where to place your fingers, but not looking at your hands while playing a chord can help you learn how to memorize that chord much easier. When you see the lead guitarist of your favorite band rocking out, he or she usually isn’t staring down at their guitar the whole time. It’s perfectly fine to glance down at it as needed but being able to play the guitar without watching your hand movements will help make you a better guitar player in the long run.
One final tip to take with you as you begin learning guitar chords is to try and learn some basic songs that use the more popular chords. Playing chords in a song rather than just on your own will help you get the hang of them and get a feel for what they sound like when played with other notes and chords. One easy song that you can use to start with is Happy Birthday. It is a very simple song that uses three of the five major chords and is a great first song to try practicing chords with.
Learning how to play a new instrument like the guitar can seem overwhelming at first, but with some practice and helpful tips and tricks, it doesn’t have to be too difficult. The hardest part is committing to learning the different finger placements and getting used to how the more awkward or uncomfortable ones may feel on your fingers. If you stick to it though and use the tips and tricks that I’ve given you in this article, soon it will start to feel more comfortable, and you’ll be playing chords like a pro in no time.