The Basics of Learning Guitar Chords


Guitar chords are essentially a collection of notes that are played together at once. They can be played on any combination of strings. But for beginners, these strings are typically adjacent, and usually, consist of all six strings.

The guitar is very unique when it comes to playing chords due to the layout of the fret board. It sometimes makes it difficult or impossible for the chord to run in tonal order.

Chords can often be played with the same exact notes on different places on the fret board. The following will provide you with a basic overview on how the most basic guitar chords are played.


Most guitars have six strings and are tuned to E-A-D-G-B-E, although different styles of tuning can be utilized in order to accommodate different music styles. The guitar chords that are used for this tuning take advantage of the intervals between the strings. These are each perfect fourths, with the exception of the interval between the third and second strings which is a major third.

Besides this tuning, another popular choice in blues and rock music is the dropped D tuning, which alters the tuning of the sixth string to a D instead of an E. However, a newer player need only be concerned with the standard E tuning when getting started.

Major Guitar Chords

The Major guitar chords are an excellent place to begin, and are among the easiest to perform. These are created by playing at least a root note, a major third, and a fifth. The C Major chord is typically the first one learned due to its ease of performing. In this example, the notes played are a C, E, and G. It is most often performed by using the following fingerings:

  • E on the first string
  • C on the second string
  • G on the third string
  • E on the fourth string
  • C on the fifth string


The reason why the sixth string is not played is due to the fact that it is an open E which would change the base note.

Other common guitar chords learned by beginners include the A Major, G Major, and D Major. These are most important for the beginner to learn for several reasons. First, because they are all major triads. They can easily be played in open position near the top of the fret board. And finally, they are easily turned into barre chords which can be played down the entire length of the fret board.

Barre chords are created by taking the index finger and extending it across multiple strings, often all six. Two of the most common barre chords use the same shapes as the A Major and E Major chords. By extending the index finger across the strings above these shapes they may be played anywhere on the fretboard, creating a new chord each time.

This is only an introduction to the basics of guitar chords. And even though learning more about guitar chords can take a lot of time, it’s worth it if you’re serious about playing the guitar. In the long run, this will make your guitar learning experience much more enjoyable.

Anne Rose is a self proclaimed guitar addict, acoustic master and guitar teacher who frequently contributes to sites like

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