The 7 Chords Every Guitar Player Should Know (And Learn First)
Discover what the 7 Essential most used beginner guitar chords are (+ finger position charts & exercise tips).
This post shows you how to play the easy basic guitar chords all beginners should learn.
And because mastering open chord shapes means you can learn how to play your favourite songs, this is one you can't afford to miss.
Let's get this show on the road.
The 7 essential most used beginner chords ALL guitar players should learn first are E major, E minor, A major, A minor, D major, C major and G major.
With these chords, you'll be armed with the power to play literally thousands upon thousands of different songs.
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.
Why these 7 Chords are the most important shapes to learn first
1. The C-A-G-E-D-Em-Am open chord shapes can later be changed into stacks of other chord shapes played up the guitar neck. These moveable shapes are known as barre chords.
Fig 1.0 - F major barre chord made from the open E major chord shape & B minor chord made from the open A minor chord shape chord chart
2. Out of the seven chords, the best 2 guitar chords to learn first are E major, E minor. E minor is the first chord you should learn on the guitar because it is the easiest shape to play by far.
Fig 2.0 - Open E major and E minor chord charts with finger position and numbers
Fig 3.0 - Open A major and A minor chord diagrams with finger position and numbers
Fig 4.0 - Open D major and C major chord charts with finger position and numbers
Fig 5.0 - Open G major chord charts with finger placement and numbers
How to read guitar chord charts
The vertical lines in the chord diagram charts represent your guitar strings. The horizontal lines in the chord boxes show the metal frets.
The string notes are written under the strings, with the fret number shown on the left of the chart.
The numbers in the circles show what finger you should use to fret the string:
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 use the same finger placements on chords. A common beginner and self-taught guitar player mistake is to change chord shape fingerings randomly.
All this does is slow you down and makes building up muscle memory and fast chord changes a back-breaking task.
How to play guitar chords properly: Top 7 Tips
Notes buzzing or muting on the chords? Follow these top tips to learn how to play chords cleanly, smooth, and fast.
#1. Lightly wrap your thumb around the guitar neck
The first thing to try if your chord changes feel slow and messy is to adjust your thumb position. Placing your thumb low down at the back of the neck when playing open chords is outdated advice. It makes it hard to grip and change between the chords easily.
Don't make hard work for yourself.
An added bonus to gripping your thumb around the neck is you can also mute the low E string with it on chords that don't use string 6 (A's, C's, D's, for example).
#2. Keep your thumb by fret 2
Your thumb acts like an anchor by helping to control your chord changes and keeping your fingers in the correct position. Your thumb will fight you at first and want to move to the left or drop down. Be patient. It takes time to build proper muscle memory.
#3. Press the string with the tips (pad) of your fingers
To get chord notes to ring out clearly, pressing down on the string with your fingertip allows you to apply the most amount of pressure.
Fair warning: your fingers will be very sore at first. Good news? They get tough pretty quickly though when you practice daily.
#4. Curve your fingers
Curving your fingers around will help you avoid touching the strings below, which stops them from ringing out. Muted and buzzing strings aren't only caused by pressing down too lightly; the angle of your fingers, if too flat, will kill your sound.
#5. Press your finger down with the correct pressure
Many beginner players press down too lightly on guitar strings, but a few press too hard. Follow this simple rule - if your notes ring out clearly, you're using the right amount of pressure. If they're not, try pressing harder. With practice, you'll find the sweet spot.
#6. Don't place your fingers on the metal frets
Contrary to some advice, you risk the notes muting horribly if you place your fingers too close to the fret when you play guitar chord shapes. Position your fingers too far back, though, and you'll have to apply way more pressure.
Work on finding the sweet spot, which is midway between the middle of the fret box and the metal fret.
#7. Practice chords every time you pick your guitar up
Great sounding chords and fast changes don't happen overnight. So get practising every day. You need to develop quality control and standards - never settle for inconsistent sounding chords thinking "I can get away with that".
Never settle for inconsistent sounding chords thinking: "I can get away with that."
- Strum up and down on individual chords for repeated reps of 30-60 seconds to build up muscle memory and finger strength. Increase the time as your fingers get stronger.
- Practice changing between pairs of chords to start with. Take E major and E minor as your first pair.
- Pick through the chords using alternate picking for 30-60 seconds reps. Increase the time as your fingers get more robust. Use a metronome to be working on yet another vital skill.
Go here to get more chord change tips and tricks.
Set your chord goals:
1. Learn the new chord shapes and memorise the name along with the shape. Knowing chord names means you'll learn new songs quicker.
2. Get the chord notes ringing out clearly. They should eventually be mute and buzz-free.
3. Build up smooth and clean changes between the different chord shapes. Practice daily and always with a metronome to work on your timing and rhythm.
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