Chords are the most important staple of any guitar players tool box. And because there's a mind-boggling mass of guitar chords out there, it can be a nightmare for beginner guitar players to decide which ones to learn first.
If you're a beginner, don't make the huge mistake of choosing chords that are too difficult to learn first. We're here to show you the first four basic guitar chords you need to learn first.
NO SHORTCUTS! We believe if it's worth learning, it's worth learning properly. There's no point in wasting your time with 'easy versions' or 'cheat' chords. Learn the correct way, learn once, sound epic.
Let's not beat around the bush any longer - The first 4 chords you need to learn as a beginner player are E major, E minor, A major and A minor.
1. The major and minor E and A chord open shapes are used in masses of easy beginner songs.
2. The A major and E major chord shapes can later be moved up the guitar neck to create further chords known as barre chords. This is the same for the E minor and A minor shapes also.
3. Out of all the open chord shapes, the four E and A chords are considered the easiest chords to learn how to play - with practice of course.
Fig 1.0 - Open E major and E minor chord charts with finger position and numbers
Fig 2.0 - Open A major and A minor chord charts with finger position and numbers
The six vertical lines in the chord chart diagram represent your guitar strings. The horizontal lines show the metal frets which divide the fret boxes.
The string notes are found under the strings, and the fret number is on the left of the chart.
Finger position and placement is shown by the circled numbers:
1 = 1st (index) finger
2 = 2nd (middle) finger
3 = 3rd (ring) finger
4 = 4th little (pinky) finger
x = don't play the string
o = open string
Warning: Always make sure you use the same finger placements on chord shapes. A common self-taught guitar player and beginner mistake is to change chord fingerings randomly. This makes building up muscle memory and getting clean fast chord changes a gruelling task.
Pro Tip: A chord written as just a capital letter like this - "A" means it is a major chord. A chord with a lowercase 'm' next to it like this - "Am" is a minor chord.
It can feel really hard to get guitar chords to ring out clearly without any buzzes or mutes at first. Follow some of our top tips and tricks to help you get smooth and clear chords.
1. Lightly wrap your thumb around the guitar neck
2. Keep your thumb by fret 2
3. Press the string with the tips (pad) of your fingers
4. Curve your fingers
5. Press your fingers down with the correct pressure
6. Don't place your fingers on the metal frets
7. Practice chords every day
Read more details about each of the seven chord tips here.
Step 1. Memorise the chord shapes and their names. Don't rely on reading charts.
Step 2. Get the chord notes consistently clear and buzz free. This takes daily practice.
Step 3. Develop smooth and clean changes between the different chords. Use a metronome so you don't speed up and slow down.
Beginner guitar players who fail to set clear practice goals when learning new chord shapes will always struggle to get their playing to sound any good.
It's essential as a newbie player you start off by learning open chord shapes. Open chords are chord shapes that contain open (non-fretted) strings and they're the important first chords you need to learn on guitar.
You can play thousands of songs using open chord shapes, and they can be changed into a multitude of other chord shapes further down the line. The first open chords guitar players learn are mostly played on the first three frets of the guitar.
Major and minor chords are the most often used guitar chords in all styles of music. The main difference between them is their sound - major chords sound happy, and minor chords sound sad.