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Learn How to Play Guitar Chords

Updated on July 6, 2011

What is a guitar chord

A guitar chord consists of three or more notes played at the same time. This is done by strumming the guitar strings. Learning guitar chords is one of the first steps in learning how to play guitar. There are many different types of guitar chords and any given chord can be played in different positions on the guitar neck. As a beginning guitar player there are certain chords that need to be learned first, as these are the basis for all other chords you will learn.

D major chord

How to Read A Chord Diagram

Chord diagrams are used to show how a specific chord is played. By knowing how to read a chord diagram you will be able to learn any chord you want.

How does it work:
A chord diagram is basically a picture of the guitar a vertical position. The picture to the right is a chord diagram of a D major chord. The picture below is also a D major chord.

The six vertical lines on the diagram are the six guitar strings.

The horizontal lines are the frets on the guitar neck.

A chord diagram will tell you a number of things.
1. The name of the chord will be at the top.
2. The black dots show where to place your fingers.
3. The numbers underneath indicate which fingers to use.
4. A X above a string means do not play that string
5. An O above a string means to play that string with no fingers on it.

Numbers indicate which finger to use
Numbers indicate which finger to use

The First Guitar Chords To Learn

The first set of guitar chords to learn are are the basic major chords in the open position. They are referred to as open position because they use at least one open string in them. An open string means there is no finger on it.

The major chords to learn are:
C major
A major
G major
E major
D major

Below these chords are shown both ways. In a chord diagram and a picture of them on the guitar neck.

The C major Chord

Do not play the sixth string (thickest string) when playing a C chord.

When first learning to play chords, make sure each note sounds clearly. Play each string separately and adjust your fingers as needed to get a clear sound.

A major chord

 The A major chord only uses the top five strings.

G major chord

 For the G chord you can strum all six strings. Notice there are no Xs above any strings.

E major chord

 The E chord also uses all six strings.

Practicing Guitar Chords

Once each chord is learned individually, then you should start practicing switching from one chord to another. Take it as slow as you have to, to make sure they are sounding good. It is important to learn chords properly first. The ability to change chords quickly will come with time. It is a good idea to learn some basic strumming patterns to practice the chords with. For an introduction to strumming check out strumming acoustic guitar.

Comments and Questions

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    • profile image

      Esther Stephen 

      20 months ago

      This site has really helped me as a beginner. Its easy to understand and it has convinced me that i can do even better than i thought i can.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      thank you, this is very helpful for beginner like me :)


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