Beginner Guitar lesson: Basic Guitar Chords

Open Chords

Open chords are the simplest form of guitar chords and are easy to play. They are located within first 3 frets on guitar freatboard and use open string or strings as part of chord. Open chords are one of the first things beginner guitar players learn when they start out.

Em open chord
Em open chord

Chord Structure

All guitar chords are made out of either major scale (major chords) or minor scale (minor chords) and have 3 or more notes from the aforementioned scales in them.

Let's take for example the E minor chord as it is one of the easiest of guitar chords. E minor scale has E, F#, G, A, B, C and D notes in it. Now we take the root note (E), 3rd note (G) and 5th note (B) of the minor scale and get an E minor chord which on guitar is E-B-E-G-B-E starting from the 6th string to 1st string. This formula can be applied to all minor and major guitar chords.

Major open chords
Major open chords

Major Open Chords

There are 5 major open chords on guitar and these chords are A, C, D, E and G. Let's take a look at each one of them.

  • A chord - This chord has A-E-C#-E notes in it (open E note on 6th string usually is not used as the root note is open A on 5th string). To play A major chord you have to put your index finger on 2nd string, 2nd fret (C#), your middle finger on 3rd string, 2nd fret (A) and your ring finger on 4th string, 2nd fret (E). The 5th (A) and the 1st (E) strings stays open.
  • C chord - This chord has C-E-G-C-E notes in it (open E on 6th string is not used). To play C major chord you have to put your index finger on 2nd string, 1st fret (C), your middle finger on 4th string, 2nd fret (E) and your ring finger on 5th string, 3rd fret (C). The 3rd string (G) and 1st string (E) remains open.
  • D chord - This chord has D-A-D-F# notes in it (open E and A on 6th and 5th string are not used). To play D major chord you have to put your index finger on 3rd sting, 2nd fret (A), your middle finger on 1st string, 2nd fret (F#) and your ring finger on 2nd string, 3rd fret (D). D note on 4ths string remains open.
  • E chord - This chord has E-B-E-G#-B-E notes in it. To play E major chord you have to put you index finger on 3rd string, 1st fret (G#), your middle finger on 4th string, 2nd fret (E) and your ring finger on 5th string, 2nd fret (B). The 1st and 6th strings stays open (both E).
  • G chord - This chord has G-B-D-G-B-G notes in it. To play G major chord you have to put you index finger on 5th string, 2nd fret (B), your middle finger on 6th string, 3rd fret (G) and your pinky on 1st string, 3rd fret (G). 4th, 3rd and 2nd strings remains open (D, G and B). Some, including me, like to add D note on 2nd string 3rd fret with your ring finger, which, in my opinion, makes this chord more fuller.


Minor open chords
Minor open chords

Minor Open Chords

There are 3 minor open chords guitar and they are Am, Dm and Em chords. Let's take a look at them.

  • Am chord - Am has A-E-A-C-E notes in it. It's similar to A major chord , only the C# changes to C. To play A minor chord you have to put your index finger on 2nd string, 1st fret (C), your middle finger on 3rd string, 2nd fret (A) and your ring finger on 4th string, 2nd fret (E). 5th and 1st strings are left open (A and E). Open E on 6th string is not played.
  • Dm chord - This chord has D-A-D-F notes in it. The only change from D major chord is that F# turns to F. To play Dm chord you have to put your index finger on 1st string, 1st fret (F), your middle finger on 3rd string, 2nf fret (A) and your ring finger on 2nd string, 3rd fret (D). 4th sting remains open (D). 6th and 5th strings are not played.
  • Em chord - Em has E-B-E-G-B-E notes in it. It is pretty similar to E major, the only difference is that G# changes to G. To play this chord your have to put your middle finger on 4th string, 2nd fret (E) and your ring finger on 5th string, 2nd fret (B). The rest of the strings stays open (E,G,B and E).

Practicing Open Chords

I suggest you to start with one chord (Em would be the perfect choice) and play it string by string just to make sure every note is sounding. When you have done string by string thing for a while, you can start strumming all strings together. Do this with all chords.

Once you have become familiar with all chords, you can start putting them together. Start by putting chords that have similar positions on fretboard like E to Em or A to Am. Then you can take a level up and put together chords that have different positions like C to G or D to E. After you have mastered that, you can put a series of chords together for example C - Am - Em - D.

© 2013 Chris Whiter

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Comments 2 comments

Krista Ostar profile image

Krista Ostar 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

I am just wondering..i read this a took the quiz. I got the quiz wrong because I answered F. The quiz said the correct answer is C. This confused me because on the Major Open Chords C is listed and on neither major or minor open chords is F listed..


Chris Whiter profile image

Chris Whiter 3 years ago Author

Will fix it. Thanks for noticing

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