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How to read guitar chord diagrams

Updated on August 16, 2010

How to read a guitar chord diagram?

Hi to all!! Decided to write up a page for people who are self learning the guitar and also for those who are keen on taking up guitar lessons in singapore because Im from Singapore! I know there are many different online tutorials out there, but reading another one from different point of view might help you in your guitar learning through online guitar lessons.
Will be posting on how to form a chord on the guitar by reading the chord diagram. I'll be writing in the most lay-man terms as I assume you to be completely new to guitar. If you have some basics, it'll be great!

Ok so let's get started.. Here's what you'll usually see on a chord diagram:

C Chord Diagram
C Chord Diagram

Now that's a C chord. Before we learn how to form the chord, let's take another step back and look at this: 

This picture shows how a chord diagram should be read. The diagram you see is exactly the same position as it is shown on the real guitar. Meaning - The six vertical lines you see on the magnified diagram represents the six guitar strings on the guitar as shown in the picture of the real guitar. The horizontal lines represents those metal-like lines on the guitar which are called frets. Frets are the spaces between the metal you see on the guitar, so on the diagram, the horizontal lines represent the frets.

So now you know how the diagram represents the guitar, we can try to read the C chord diagram again and try to form it.


You can see that below the diagram I typed EADGBE. That is the standard tuning of a guitar. The first E on the left which means the most left string you see now on the diagram, is the thickest string you see on the guitar. (Recall how the diagram represents the guitar above) The A string would then be the 2nd thickest, followed by D, G, B and E where the GBE strings are thin strings. Therefore the E at the most right of the diagram represents the thinnest string on the guitar.
Now that you know how it works, let's try to form it. The black dots are notes that you must press/put your fingers on, on the guitar fretboard. Let's start reading from the left side of the diagram. The first black dot you see is on the 3rdfret, A string, am I right? Try searching for it.. I hope you can find it! The next black dot we see is on the 2nd fret D string. The last black dot we see is on the first fret, B string. Now these are the 3 positions you must press on to form the C chord.
Ok you must be wondering which fingers must you use to press the notes. I guess showing a picture would be many times better than trying to explain with words. So here's how the C chord looks like:

There you have it, the C chord! Use your guitar pick, and strum it downwards and you'll be able to hear it. Take note for the C chord, do not strum the E string (thickest string). Because it simply doesnt sound good in lay man terms. :) In musical terms, we wouldn't want to have an E note as a base for the C chord, unless we are playing chords like C/E. So keep in mind.
For the rest of the chord diagrams you see, try forming them, it should be easy now that you know how to read the chord diagram.
I hope you did learn something out of this page! :) Enjoy learning guitar!


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      David 5 years ago

      Keep it up nice work angel.