Essential Guitar Beginners Chords

Open Chords For The Novice Guitarist

Playing Your First Chords

Being able to finger a few chords on the guitar will give you a good confidence boost because it means you will be able to strum away and have fun trying to play some well known tunes you may know by ear, this is actually quite good ear-training practice as well!

You will likely find slow 12 bar blues in A major is one of the easiest things to play first with open chords, once you have also learnt the D and E Major chords to go with the A.

Open Chords

Open chords are the easiest to play as they do not require that you hold your first finger across all the strings before fingering the notes, (a bar chord) and some notes are allowed to ring out unfretted

The basic open major chords are A,D,E,F,G,C, learn these first, then you will able to strum lots of simple popular tunes, many of which are written with ADE (A major) and GCF (G major) chord progressions, nah, we ain't playing nothin' in F yet (the starting note for the key of F major) but practice it anyway.

There are sort of two phases to playing chords and both will come easily enough to you with practice.

The first phase is train your fingers to make weird and wonderful shapes that are necessary to construct each chord, and to be able to switch between shapes effortlessly, accurately without thinking and without pause which at first may seem impossible, but trust me, you will nail them eventually, Switching between chords in time to the timing or 'beat' of the music is phase two.

How To Practice Chords

Practice chords by holding down each shape in turn, and playing every string one at a time to make sure every note belonging to the chord rings out cleanly, but is damped if it does not.

This seems easy enough written down, but at first you will probably find your fingers getting in the way and dampening notes required for the chord.

Readjust your fingers or hand shape by bending your wrist until you get it right and every string rings true, then play the whole chord.

When your wrist starts to ache, take a break for a few minutes.
Do not be tempted to play the chords incorrectly, you must train your fingers to make the exact, correct shape, and place them in the correct position on the strings - never practice mistakes, this is a Golden rule of guitar playing.

Chord playing will be very slow going at first and you may get discouraged because you cannot do it - Stop, slap yourself upside the head for being defeatist, and keep practicing. See everything as a challenge. Trust me, you will get there.

Finger Pressure

Another chord-playing skill is to be able to pressure the string just enough with the very tips of your fingers to sound the note cleanly without that finger touching another note that makes up the chord thus dampening it so that it doesn't ring out.

Too much finger pressure will widen your finger pad which may then encroach on another string, once again, at first this can seem impossible especially if you have large fingers, and you will think the strings should be set further apart, persevere until you get it right.

Another important skill is deliberately touching and damping out other strings (that are not part of chord) so that they don't sound, when struck, for example the thumb is often used to dampen the open E string when playing an open A chord.

Some chords require you to hold two or even three notes with your third and fourth fingers, these fingers are weak and useless in the beginning, constant practice will strengthen these fingers enabling you to easily hold 2 or even 3 notes down with your pinkie finger, when you can do that, you have arrived!

As soon as you can can play all the basic chords without pause, give yourself a pat on the back, you're making great progress dude!

Bar Chords

Bar chords are much more difficult to play. The first finger of your fretting hand must form a  'bar' across all the strings right across the neck and hold them all down together.

Effectively the first finger bar becomes the guitar nut, while the remaining 3 fingers form a normal chord shape.

It is also called a finger bar, when one finger holds down just two or more strings that some chords require.

Bar Chord Beginner Tips

Some folks are lucky, their finger is exactly the right length to form a good straight bar, others, like me, discovered that the creases in our finger joints fit directly on a string making the bar less effective, the answer to this problem if you suffer from it is to roll your index finger forward slightly until it makes firm contact with the string.

Also your barring finger does not have to be perfectly straight, so if yours isn't, don't worry.about it, as long as the chord sounds clearly.

As with open chords, with the bar chord held down, play each string one-at-a-time making sure the note rings out cleanly, if not readjust your finger(s) and try again.


Power Chords

So-called Power chords are special chords used almost exclusively in rock music, they have a very powerful and chunky sound and are often played on the first three strings E,A,D making them easier to learn and finger for a beginner. Power chords are great for having fun and playing some instant rock rhythms you may know.

Picking With The Plectrum (Flatpicking)

Picking is tricky at first you usually start by missing the strings completely if you don't look, because you are concentrating on your fretting hand!

You should include a few picking drills in your practice schedule until you get it down, remember no mistakes!

As a starting point, pick alternately on each string, fret a note then pick - down,up down,up down up down -  down,up down,up down up down gradually increasing in speed until you can do it so fast your hand is a blur.

For fast picking you may find it easier to rest the palm, or your extended non-picking fingers of your picking hand on the strings or body if the guitar, depending on what you are playing. Palm muting of strings is used heavily in Rock music.

Once you have mastered a chord or two practice strumming up and down, hold down a chord and sweep down then up across the all strings, try it at different speeds, try and keep both strokes even,  tap your foot to keep time.

Great job so far, but can you do the E7 sharp 9 blues chord? if not get practising on the best Blues chord ever.

But you ain't finished yet, there's hundreds more to learn and some real difficult mother's in there, master these and you are on your way to the big time!

If you want to be a rhythm player like 'Guitar George' you need a very good repetoire of chords in your locker.

Most of the most difficult chords, are used in Jazz music so unless you are going to play Jazz you don't really need to learn them, but learning a few will help your finger dexterity and strength.