Easy guitar chords

Chord diagram

Here are four well known songs, arranged in order of difficulty. They are all 8 bars long, which makes them easy to memorise - it's only the amount of info in a telephone number. The chords are in the key of C, but then some common added non-diatonic chords are added.

Non diatonic - chords that use notes not taken from the major scale.

If you are new to the guitar, try looking up Guitar Chords 101 and Guitar Chords 101 Part 2 for more info.

By the last example, we are in more jazz territory. Specifically, this is typical of 1920s Bessie Smith material - but this sort of chord progression was also used by Paul McCartney in his more old-fashioned 20s revival songs.

Every vertical line is one bar, or four strums on a chord. ./. sign just means "ditto" or the same.

Learning these chord progressions is good preparation for tackling Beatles tunes and most rock and pop ballads - the last one will help with more jazz -influenced songs, from the 1920s especially (notice the frequency of added 7ths in the chords.) Bar 5 in the last example is a diminished chord - look these up on my hub Guitar advanced and jazz chords.

Although this is guitar-centric, all this info works well on keyboard too - looknohands.com has the chord details if you need them.

Four simple songs

Improving chords

As a general rule, each chord should have as its lowest or bass note the same as the chord name.

  • A C chord should have the low C - fret 3 on string 5
  • Same for a C7 chord
  • So, don't play string 6!
  • Am would have an A bass note - open string 5
  • Again, don't play string 6!
  • G chord: the lowest note is on string 6, fret 3
  • F chord: the bass note is fret 3 on string 4
  • Always be aware of where the bass note for each chord resides.
  • This will give you a nice clean chord with no muddy sound.

Using a capo

The first set of chords is for Stand By Me. If you can't sing it easily in this key, try using the same chords but with a capo. For instance, a capo on fret 2 will change the key from C to D (C to D is two frets...)

A capo in fret 4 would change the key to E (C to E is 4 frets...)

If you're looking for a gift for a guitarist, this would be a good choice. Many internet bargains are available.

Some players are slightly sniffy about using a capo, but I find them indispensible for many songs and arrangements, and transposing or changing the key of a song to suit different singers.

Used by The Beatles, James Taylor, Paul Simon and many more of the greats.

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