Ah, guitar chords. The backbone of guitar playing, but beginner guitar chords are a challenge for newbies like myself.
Whenever you learn guitar chords for beginners, you need to have a clear understanding of overall guitar-playing basics.
Such as finger placement and the strength to hold a note.
This is a guide on how to learn chords. It is important that you know about the most used guitar chords for beginners so that you can start in the right place.
Once you become comfortable with finger placement and your finger is capable of holding a note without any pain — you are ready to learn guitar chords!
What is a guitar chord?
Basic guitar chords are a set of notes played simultaneously.
In a chord, there are at least two basic guitar notes. A root note is the building block of every chord and defines the key of the chord. The root is typically the lowest sounding note.
For example, a C Major will have a C root note. The chord is built upon a C note — giving the chord its name.
Chords are often the building blocks of songs and it is important for you to get a handle on them early.
Beginners often think they need to strum every string when playing a chord but that is only the case for some chords.
Most of the time a string must be muted by a finger to properly play the chord. These are the small things that help to make you a better guitarist.
There’s no point drooling over electric guitar images and wicked solos before you understand some of the 8 basic guitar chords and progressions.
As I said, chords are one of the most important aspects of playing the guitar. They also help provide the rhythm of the song. Knowing how to learn chords and memorize finger placement effectively is vital for beginners.
After learning where the notes lie on the fretboard you’ll begin to construct and practice chords.
What is the best way to learn guitar chords?
Learning some of your favorite songs.
Your most used guitar chords will probably be the ones in your favorite songs.
From the beginning, chords will be your way into discovering more about the guitar and music theory.
If you’ve ever heard of a rhythm guitarist, they are responsible for the backbone of a song. They play the chords, whereas a lead guitarist mostly plays notes that follow a chord structure. Chord progressions form the harmonic foundation of a song and help to drive the melody.
Take a look at a quick video showing an introduction to the major chords (I snagged it from my favorite online platform for learning guitar, Guitar Tricks).
12 Basic Guitar Chords for Beginners (+ 3 More)
Before you learn guitar chords you really have to learn the guitar strings. Once you understand the harmonic relationship between the strings of a guitar you’ll be able to get to grips with the chords we will be discussing later.
Here’s a quick rundown:
- 6th string is the low E
- 5th string is A
- 4th string is D
- 3rd string is G
- 2nd string is B
- 1st string is the high E
The 6th/low E is the top string.
The 1st/high E is located at the bottom of the guitar. If your strings are producing different notes you may have to tune them! Now, what are the first chords to learn on guitar?
The most important guitar chords are:
- G Major
- C Major
- D Major
- A Major
- A Minor
- E Major
- E Minor
- F Major
- B Major
- B Minor
- F Sharp Major
- B Flat Major
- C Sharp Major
- E Flat Major
- A Flat Major
How to Learn Chords
Many popular songs use a progression of these chords. These simple chords probably form the basis of many of your favorite songs.
A chord progression is a group of chords played in a sequence.
These chord progressions make up the rhythm of a song. A melody is usually played on top of these chords. The chord sequence can change the texture, rhythm, and feel of a song.
Therefore, it is important that you know the fundamental chord structures and progressions before you move on to more complicated guitar licks and tricks.
These basic guitar chords will allow you to play a whole host of songs.
We’ll have you learning Beatles songs and Ed Sheeran tunes in no time at all!
Practicing these beginner guitar chords is very important to reach a new level of guitar playing. Unlike running scales, practicing chords can also be very fun and liberating for a beginner. You will be able to understand the fretboard and your finger dexterity will improve. This is when a guitarist gains a better understanding of a song and is able to play the guitar without looking.
What are the first chords to learn on Guitar?
These 10 basic guitar chords are the most important beginner guitar chords to learn.
G Major consists of three-finger notes, G, B, and D. As a reminder, G is the root note.
First, place your pointer finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string.
Next, place your middle finger on the 3rd fret of the 6th string.
Lastly, put your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the 1st string.
With your fingers pressed down, strum every string without muting the open notes.
Since every string is strum, G Major is one of the well-known basic guitar chords. It is a staple in many popular songs.
As you improve your skills on the guitar you will be able to spice the G Major chord up with many variations that play with dissonance and harmony.
C Major is comprised of three-finger notes: C, D, and E.
First, place your pointer finger on the 1st fret of the 2nd string.
Next, place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string.
Lastly, place your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the 5th string.
Strum each string except for the 6th string.
It is quite a natural shape for your fingers to form so it shouldn’t be too difficult to practice as a beginner.
D Major consists of three-finger notes: D, F Sharp, and A.
To begin, place your pointer finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string.
Next, place your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string.
Lastly, place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 1st string.
Strum each string except for the low E and A.
Ask any guitarist what are the first chords to learn on guitar? They will probably say D, C, and G major.
Once you know the G, C, and D major chords you should go back and forth between the three to develop your muscle memory.
These beginner guitar chords are the first few chords you learn as a beginner because they are both conceptually and physically simple to execute.
A Major consists of three-finger notes: E, A, and C sharp.
This is one of the most basic guitar chords to play because each pressed note is located on the 2nd fret. There is no major stretching required.
It’s an easy chord to play regardless of the size of your hand or the ability of your fingers to contort.
Place your pointer finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string.
Next, place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string.
Lastly, place your ring finger on the 2nd fret of the 2nd string.
Strum each string except for the 6th string. Keep strumming until you hear a full and satisfying sound. It is important to strum all the way through.
Adding the A major to your bank of musical knowledge is a great way to start for a beginner.
A Minor consists of three-finger notes A, C, and D.
First, place your pointer finger on the 1st fret of the 2nd string.
Next, place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string.
Lastly, place your ring finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string.
Strum each string except for the low E. Going back and forth between A minor and Major is a good way of learning the differences between minor and major. It is a fundamental concept that you will have to learn as a guitarist.
It’s important to identify early differences when you learn guitar chords so that you can enjoy practicing and developing further down the line.
E Major consists of three-finger notes: E, B, and G Sharp.
Place your pointer finger on the 1st fret of the 3rd string.
Next, place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string.
Lastly, place your ring finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string.
Strum every string with this chord. As with the other basic chords, E major will feature heavily in many popular songs. Try shifting between A and E chords to really get a good feel of the middle of the fretboard. Sometimes it can be difficult to bunch your fingers up.
Nevertheless, it is important to learn guitar chords like E major properly. Solidifying the correct finger placement and fretboard mechanics early on in your musical journey will be essential as you progress as a musician and a guitarist.
E Minor is comprised of two-finger notes: E and B.
Start by placing your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string.
Next, place your ring finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string.
That is all. That’s the whole chord.
Strum every string with this simple guitar chord. Another easy chord that will open up a whole new avenue of possibilities.
All 10 of these chords can be learned in one practice session but it will take a few hours for you to truly memorize them all.
F Major is sort of a complex chord for beginners but is necessary for furthering your abilities. This chord is considered a barre chord. With a barre chord, the pointer finger lies across all strings on a single fret of the root note.
This chord can be moved to every fret resulting in a new chord named after the root note.
F Major consists of five finger notes: F, C, A, F, C, and F.
Each finger is used with F Major.
The pointer finger is placed on the first fret of each string.
Next, place your ring finger on the 3rd fret of the 5th string.
Then place your pinky on the 3rd fret of the 4th string.
Lastly, place your middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string.
Strum each string with this chord.
Your middle finger is very important in barre chords. When pressed on the fretboard the chord is major. If you lift this finger, the chord then becomes minor.
This is probably the most awkward chord to play as a beginner. Unlike the previous seven chords, F major is a barre chord and requires more practice to truly master.
As a beginner, the shape of the F major may feel unnatural. If you practice, the chord will begin to feel comfortable and you will be strumming to your heart’s content.
Once you learn these basic guitar chords, you will surely become more confident in your guitar abilities. You will be able to play many of your favorite songs.
You will also set a foundation for your own songwriting potential. Many great songs were written using the guitar and the 8 basic guitar chords we discussed so far. So get out there and start playing!
Similar to F Major, B Major is a difficult chord for beginners that is nevertheless important to learn.
It’s a common chord that can be found in many songs, so it is important that beginners get a handle on it sooner rather than later. You will struggle to play songs if your fingers aren’t used to playing the F and B major and minor chords.
The guitar notes and finger placement are relatively simple. B Major is a barre chord. Your forefinger is laid over the second fret as pictured above. You also place your fingers on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th string on the fourth fret.
This chord can be quite awkward to play for beginners because it is a barre chord and because you have to bunch up your fingers on the fretboard. However, it is a basic major voicing so it one of the most important beginner guitar chords.
If you want to learn basic guitar chords, B Major may be the last major chord in the scale you want to learn!
Nevertheless, it is an important chord shape to learn that can be used all over the fretboard to make great chords. Once you blast through the awkward beginner phase, barre chords will begin to feel natural and satisfying.
There are several other ways to voice a B major chord but it is important to start with the basics first. Chords can be played in many different ways and as you develop your skills this is something with which you can experiment.
Once you have mastered the basic guitar chords finger placement you will begin to feel like a true guitarist!
Then you can move on to chord progressions, arpeggios, and other complex musical ideas. There is no exclusive or absolute way to learn the guitar so it is exciting when you start.
There are so many possibilities!
10. B Minor Chord
B Minor, like its brother B Major, involves some awkward finger placement for a beginner. It is a common chord that it is not too conceptually complex so it is worth learning early on.
As with the major chord, all your fingers are required. You barre the 2nd fret, place your middle finger on the B string on the 3rd fret, and then place your remaining fingers on the 4th fret on the D and G strings.
This may take some practice to perfect. Even after you memorize the finger placement it may still take some time to transition from the B minor chords to others and vice versa. Nevertheless, it is important for a beginner to learn.
Strum every string with this chord. As we have mentioned your middle finger is very important on barre chords. The middle finger can change a major to minor so it is vital that you get it right! You may have to press down harder than you think to get a full and true sound.
It is a barre chord and therefore will be difficult for a beginner to execute smoothly. As with every chord on the guitar, practice makes perfect!
Once you have nailed these 10 basic guitar chords you will be able to experiment and practice for hours. These chord shapes, voicings, and harmonies are fundamental so it is important to invest a significant amount of your time to learn them properly.
As you develop you will be able to change the voicings and learn some progressions as well. Some chord progressions are more prevalent in certain genres, like the 2-5-1 in jazz. You will also be able to see this if you check out any flamenco songs or easy Spanish guitar tabs.
It is vital that you understand these basic chords before you start becoming genre-specific in your lessons.
11. F Sharp Major
Now that you have tackled a few minor chords it is time to take a look at Flats and Sharps. Thankfully, the finger technique and principles you have already learned will come in handy.
Like the other F chords, F Sharp Major is a barre chord. As you can see above you will need to make a barre with your first finger.
It is an important chord for beginners to learn but it doesn’t have many easy voicings. Before you start playing around with flats and sharps you should concentrate on nailing the more simple barre chords like F major and B major.
The finger placement may feel awkward at first. With practice, your technique will improve and you will be able to transition from chord to chord with ease.
F sharp major is a chord commonly found in rock, pop, and jazz tunes. It is a great chord to learn that will help you play your favorite songs and learn more about music theory.
12. B Flat Major
B Flat Major is one of the most important guitar chords for beginners to learn.
Additionally, instruments such as the clarinet, trumpet, and tenor saxophone are pitched at B flat major. This means that the B flat major is popular for big band or concert band compositions.
To form the chord you barre your index finger across the first fret and place your other three fingers on the D, G, and B strings of the third fret.
The finger placement should be comfortable even for beginners. The cluster formation on the third fret is easy to remember and not too awkward to perform.
It is an ideal barre chord for beginners to learn because it is one of the most used guitar chords and one that doesn’t require exceptional finger dexterity.
If you are a guitarist looking to perform in an orchestra or in a big band B flat major is one of the most important guitar chords you can learn.
13. C Sharp Major
Going further down the fretboard we meet the C sharp major chord. It is another relatively easy shape to form for beginners.
If the chord sounds strange or bad you may want to press down harder and check your finger placement carefully. Be sure to strum right through the strings and allow them to ring out fully.
As with the other major sharp chords, this is one of the most used guitar chords. It is especially useful if you want to learn any popular songs or if you want to transpose songs into flat/sharp keys.
What are the first chords to learn on guitar? C sharp major won’t be one of the first you will learn because it is a barre chord. However, it is still one of the more vital beginner chords that you will be able to play after a few hours of practice.
14. E Flat Major
This chord requires a bit of stretching. The E flat major chord is not a comfortable one for beginners. It is certainly not a natural hand position.
However, it is one of the most important guitar chords to learn. You will find that many songs utilize the E flat major chord.
If you want to play some of your favorite songs you will eventually have to start stretching your fingers and practice this E flat major chord.
For this variation of the chord the index finger only plays the G and low E string. This requires some delicate finger work and will take some getting used to.
There are several variations to this chord that require even more stretching. But I think we will leave that for your intermediate level practice sessions!
The A flat major chord is the final chord we think you should learn as a beginner. Once you go beyond these fifteen chords you will start to get into more complicated stuff.
It is a barre chord with the other three fingers on the 5th and 6th fret. As with the other flat major chords, you may see it expressed as G sharp in sheet music or in tabs.
At this point, you should know how to learn chords and can use your knowledge of the basic variations to start learning different voicings.
As you experiment with finger placement and voicings you will gain a great understanding of the fretboard and chord progressions.
How Are Guitar Chords Named?
The process of naming guitar chords is relatively simple. The name of a chord derives from the root note of the chord. For example, C Major has C as its base note. A basic major chord comprises the 1st, 3rd, and 5th note of the major scale e.g. C, E, and G.
As you start experimenting with more complex chords then you start seeing basic chord names like C Major evolve. As a beginner, you don’t need to trouble yourself with symbols like Caug11 or Cm♭5 yet!
The most important guitar chords for beginners will have uncomplicated names and won’t require lots of symbols. Even as you progress you will find that the most used guitar chords are relatively simple ones.
Advanced musicians often experiment with leaving the root note out of the chord to give it a different feel. Even though chords derive their names from the root note it does not always have to be present.
There is plenty of interesting chordal experimentation to be done when you improve your skills. Hurry up and get learning!
Most Important Basic Guitar Chords Made Easy
This breakdown is the easiest way to understand basic guitar chords. These are beginner guitar chords, however, even more, experienced players can gain some insight depending on the way they were taught.
These chords form a fundamental base for any guitarist. As a beginner, it is important to get to terms with the basics before moving on to more advanced techniques and elements.
Learning these chords will help you navigate the fretboard and improve your finger dexterity. If you practice regularly you will be able to move between these simple chords with ease.
As you begin to develop muscle memory for some of these easy chords you will be able to move on to more advanced chords. Once you are able to properly form barre chords you will be able to play up and down the fretboard with more freedom.
Now that you know how all these chords are formed you can start practicing some of your favorite songs. Even as a beginner, this chordal knowledge will ensure you don’t feel intimidated when you want to learn a new song.
It is important to establish this foundational knowledge before you move on to soloing. It is also helpful to have these chords under your belt before you start playing songs.
However, if you find practicing them boring it might be worth finding a song that has some of these chords. Joy is central to becoming a good musician.
You will struggle to practice regularly if you are bored with what you are learning. Find a song built on some of these basic chords and practice until you sound good and then practice some more.
Follow this guide If you wish to learn the basic beginner guitar chords and want to better your guitar playing. As well as following this guide you should also look to practice as many songs with these chords to make the learning process easier. You will be surprised at how many of your favorite songs are based on variations of the same four simple chords.
Are you a guitar novice with questions or concerns about the guitar learning process?
Leave your questions below in the comment section. We’ll be happy to help.