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Guitar Lesson: Easy Chords

Updated on January 22, 2022
Jon Green profile image

Guitar is a great instrument for making rapid progress, most people will pick it up fairly quickly.

Guitar chords

  • Learn basic chords. Chords are when you play at least three notes together.You can learn them through pictures,or chord grids. Please check out my other hub, Guitar Chords 101, which has chord pictures for all the essential chords. There are also hubs like Guitar for complete beginners, and Guitar tabs - how to use them
  • Chord grids - the six vertical lines are the strings, and the horizontal lines represent the frets. So the headstock of the guitar would be above the grid. Also, the thickest string is the line on the far left of the grid.
  • Start with Em (E minor) Am (A minor) and practice playing each one four times and changing between them,really slowly at first. Hopefully you are using fingers 1 and 2 for Em - now try Em to A. Just drop the fingers down one string, add another to the end for the A shape (three in a row) Then try C, F, G7. Read these from chord grids - the six vertical lines are the strings, and the horizontal lines are the frets. Put your fingers just behind the fret (metal) and press hard! Tip: changing from C to F, keep your first finger down on string 2, and just use strings 2,3,4. - you don't need to use string 1, but if you do play it, the open E sounds good anyway.Technically, it's now an Fmaj 7 chord.
  • All these chord shapes are illustrated on the diagram below.
  • Right hand stuff - strumming is best done with a pick or plectrum. Try 73mm Jim Dunlop, one of my favourite picks with a good surface for gripping. Play each chord 4 times for 4/4 time, or you can use multiples of 4 so you could play 12345678 but twice as fast. The other common time is 3/4, count 123 123 etc, like a waltz.
  • Why start with chords? - because you can sing along and get immediate results.

  • Assuming you have not lost the will to live - you can have a go at playing some songs in the key of C. Check out for this - and sing if possible,while playing the chords. Choose something easy, like Stand By Me: C/C/Am/Am/F/G7/C/C Each chord should be played 4 times per bar.The bars are indicated by the slash symbols.
  • Useful tip: if you put a capo on at fret 2 or 3 all the stretches will be reduced, and probably the action or height of the strings too. This can really make a difference.A capo is a little clip device that clamps over the strings and raises the pitch of all the strings to change the key.

  • Next chords: A, D, G, E, B7
  • 12-Bar Blues: Play 4 bars of E7, 2 bars of A7, 2 bars E7, then B7 A7 E7 B7 (one bar each chord) There is a hub or two about this subject too.

Basic chord shapes that work together

Online guitar resources

The internet has made it really easy to learn guitar independently - check out this excellent song by Neil Finn of Crowded House. A good song should stand out, even with just guitar chords and a vocal - this one is a work of art.

Put a capo at fret 2 to play along - the verse is Am, C, Bm, E. (2 times) Am C F

Chords for the chorus are the same as No Woman No Cry- C C/B Am F

It's a simple song that is really easy to play - although Neil seems to falter at one point!

It's got that nice Beatles vibe to it, with a lovely melody - what a great song. Also check out the live version by C.H. on youtube.

If you find this hub helpful, check out my other hubs, especially Guitar Scales for beginners, guitar chords 101, and maybe the music theory hubs too.

Guitar magazines can really help - I buy Guitar Player and Acoustic Guitar, both available in the USA and UK, and Guitar Techniques (UK) These include either a CD or a DVD so you can hear the examples, as well as read them in guitar tab.

At the bottom of this page is a link to - a very well produced site with many free guitar lessons, and some good general advice on playing guitar.

Fall at your feet

Guitar Tab or Tablature

Reading tab - where single notes or chords are notated. Six lines, one for each string with the thickest at the bottom and the thinnest at the top. The numbers are the fret you play in. This will really speed up the learning. WARNING: Many guitar "tabs" are written in pure number form on the net - these are very hard to follow, I wouldn't bother. Just buy some music, or use a site with nice graphics, like

If you follow the link "Read more hubs..." (up the page) I've written one called Guitar tabs which might be helpful. Though it's just in numbers, the thing I was just complaining about!


Listening: using youtube this is now the easiest thing.You can often pick up info about keys, techniques etc. CAPO - when you are starting this can help, because as the frets go up the neck they get smaller, and the action or height of the strings is also reduced - so you don't have to work so hard.

Basic theory - a song has a key. In key of C the chords will be C, Dm, Em, F, G or G7, Am, and B dim. The major scale C D E F G A B C will work with all these chords, or try Am pentatonic,which is easier.It's actually the same collection of notes, with 2 notes missed out.

All the other keys have the same distances between notes and chords, so you can transfer this info to other songs in different keys. For example in the key of D (up 2 frets) the scale will be DEF#GABC#D and the chords will be D, Em, F#m, G, A, Bm, C#dim. Improvising with Bm pentatonic.Try writing a song yourself, using these chords in any order and using the single notes for a melody line - that way you will understand what other songwriters are doing.

Lessons - consider having 2 or 3 to get started. If you live in the SW area of the UK, e-mail to arrange group or private lessons.


Practice - there is no need to spend ages on this. Practice in short 10-min bursts,throughout the day if possible. This is backed by research into effective learning. It's very important to leave your guitar out of its case, so you will be reminded that this is a fun thing to do while waiting for a phone call or whatever. Personally I leave a number of cheap guitars around the house,away from radiators! The good ones stay in their cases, but they never get played! You can be playing while watching TV,especially during the adverts. Do not be too critical, or give yourself a hard time. It is much better to just give up on something that is too hard to play. If you find that you're making good progress, reward yourself with a good guitar - invest in a Fender or Gibson guitar, or a Martin acoustic. Stating the obvious - if it sounds wonderful it will be more fun to practice. 

Improving chord changes

Ok, let's assume you can play the easy chords: Em, Am, E, A, D, G, C, F, G7, B7. This is really the essential list to get started playing songs.

Now try House of the Rising Sun: 6/8 time (count 123456, 123456 etc) for each bar. This song is commonly played in Am, but these chords, in Em, are easier and probably sound better.

Em / G / A / C / Em / G / B7 / B7 / Em / G / A / C / Em / B7 / Em / B7

Another tip: look for patterns in chord progressions. This one has the same four chords, with two slightly different endings. If you memorize that it makes it a lot easier.

You can ask questions via the comments box and I'll try to answer them. Even the ones that start "What are the chords for..."

Here is a good approach for improving chords:

Add a 7th to minor chords, nearly always a big improvement. For instance Am7 is just an Am shape with the middle note taken out (now open G)

Major chords, add major 7th note.

Seventh chords, add ninth.


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