Quick and Easy: Basic Guitar Chords That Will Have You Learning Your Favorite Songs

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If you’re just starting out in your journey to become a skilled guitarist, you’ve landed on the right page! In this article, we’ll be teaching you the easiest and most basic guitar chords that will be essential to starting your learning off on the right foot.

What is a chord?

While you’re likely already familiar with this terminology, it never hurts to go over.

A guitar chord is a series of notes played at the same time or in rapid succession. When these notes are played together, they create a chord. Chords are used as the building blocks for every song you want to learn to play.

Beginner guitar chords

While all of the chords covered in this article are basic and on the easier side to learn, some are easier than others.

Basic open chords

Open chords are simply chords that do not require all of your fingers to play. With less finger involvement, these chords are going to be the easiest to learn for beginners.

While there are technically quite a few chords that fall under this label, we are going to cover the 8 basic open chords first.

These basic open chords only require the use of your middle, index, and ring finger on your fretting hand. These chords are all located in the top 3 frets of your guitar, so they won’t require much hand movement.

We will begin with the major open chords.

Open Major chords

Major chords contain the 1st, 3rd, and 5th degrees of the major scale of the note you’re playing.

E major

E major is one of the first and most important chords to learn for a beginner guitar player. E Major is a chord that lends itself to blues songs and has a sound that some describe as gritty and sensual.

Songs such as “Under the Bridge” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic are written in E major.

To play E major:

  • 1. Place your first finger on the first fret of the third string.
  • 2. Place your second finger on the second fret of the third string.
  • 3. Place your third finger on the second fret of the fourth string.
  • 4. Play all six strings together in a sweeping motion with your picking hand.

A major

The A major chord is one that can also be described as somewhat bluesy with an optimistic twist. This chord is similar to E major but has a fuller sound.

Popular songs that are written in E major include “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles, and “Dancing Queen” by ABBA.

To play A major:

  • 1. Place your first finger on the second fret of the fourth string.
  • 2. Place your second finger on the second fret of the third string.
  • 3. Place your third finger on the second fret of the second string.
  • 4. Play the top five strings of your guitar while avoiding strumming the last string with your picking hand.

D major

The chord of D major can be described as happy, catchy, and triumphant.

Songs like Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and “Hotel California” by The Eagles are good examples of what this chord can accomplish.

To play D major:

  • 1. Place your first finger on the second fret of the third string.
  • 2. Place your second finger on the second fret of the first string.
  • 3. Place your third finger on the third fret of the second string.
  • 4. Play the top 4 strings with your picking hand while avoiding the last two.

G major

G major is a chord that is best described as holy and is called “the key of the people” as it is widely used in classical and today’s popular music.

Songs like “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd, “Come As You Are” by Nirvana, “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynrd Skynyrd, and “Let Her Go” by Passenger are good examples of songs played in G major.

To play G major:

  • 1. Place your first finger on the second fret of the fifth string.
  • 2. Place your second finger on the third fret of the sixth string.
  • 3. Place your third finger on the third fret of the first string.
  • 4. Play all six strings at once in a strumming motion with your picking hand.

C major

The C major chord is a happy chord that is best known for its bluesy sound and its heavy use in blues and jazz songs throughout history. C major also meshes extremely well with the piano and was created in an attempt to copy the chord played on the piano.

Some well-known songs that are played in C Major include “Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, “All The Small Things” by Blink 182, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” by Michael Jackson, and “Let It Be” by The Beatles.

To play C Major:

  • 1. Place your first finger on the first fret of the second string.
  • 2. Place your second finger on the second fret of the fourth string.
  • 3. Place your third finger on the third fret of the fifth string.
  • 4. Play the top 5 strings while avoiding the 6th string with your picking hand.
Note:

While C major is a basic chord, this chord requires a bit of stretching with your hand in order to play it correctly. Take it slowly, and try not to become frustrated if you are hitting other notes with this chord. Through practice, even those with smaller hands are able to play C major.

Open minor chords

Open minor chords are very similar to open major chords. Instead of including the 1st, 3rd, and 5th degrees of the major chord, they contain the 1st, flattened 3rd, and 5th degrees of the major scale of that note.

Songs are only written in major chords, so we won’t be able to provide reference songs for the following section.

E minor

E minor is a bit easier to learn as it only requires 2 fingers to play.

To play E minor:

  • 1. Place your second finger on the fifth string at the second fret.
  • 2. Place your third finger on the fourth string at the second fret.
  • 3. Strum all six strings.
Note:

You may be wondering why you wouldn’t use your first finger for the fifth string of this chord.

Leaving your first finger open will set you up for easier transitions to other nearby chords. If you used your first finger for the fifth string, you would have to entirely rearrange your hand to play chords like C major, D major, and A minor.

A minor

Speaking of A minor, let’s learn how to play it.

To play A minor:

  • 1. Place your first finger on the second string at the first fret.
  • 2. Place your second finger on the fourth string at the second fret.
  • 3. Place your third finger on the third string at the second fret.
  • 4. Strum the highest five strings with your picking hand while avoiding contact with the sixth string.

D minor

The last of the 8 basic open chords is D minor.

To play D minor:

  • 1. Place your first finger on the first string at the first fret.
  • 2. Place your second finger on the third string at the second fret.
  • 3. Place your third finger on the second string at the third fret.
  • 4. Play the top 4 strings with your picking hand while avoiding the last two.

Next level minor chords

Now that we’ve covered the simpler and easier to learn chords, there are two other minor chords to go along with our major chords that use slightly more advanced techniques. If you’re feeling comfortable with the above and would like a bit of a challenge, try learning the following minor chords.

These chords also use frets lower than the third, so get ready to move those hands around!

G minor

G minor is the first chord on this list that includes the use of a “barre chord”. A barre chord is a chord that uses one of the fingers to hold down multiple notes of a particular fret. You will still need to use other fingers to hit other notes.

These chords are also the first that incorporate the use of other fingers.

To play G minor:

  • 1. Make a barre with your first finger at the third fret.
  • 2. Place your third finger on the fifth string at the fifth fret.
  • 3. Place your fourth finger on the fourth string at the fifth fret.
  • 4. Use your picking hand to strum all six strings.

C minor

C minor also uses a barre chord, but one that does not touch on all six strings. Paying attention to finger placement on this chord can be difficult for a beginner.

It is also the first chord we have covered that uses four fingers.

To play C minor:

  • 1. Make a barre with your first finger on the third fret without engaging the sixth string.
  • 2. Place your second finger on the second string at the fourth fret.
  • 3. Place your third finger on the fourth string at the fifth fret.
  • 4. Place your fourth finger on the third string at the fifth fret.
  • 5. Use your picking hand to strum the first five strings while avoiding the sixth.

Congrats, you’ve learned the basics of guitar chords!

It’s important to keep in mind that learning guitar is a lifelong journey. Practice makes perfect, and while these chords may be challenging to learn now, they are the basis for any song you want to learn how to play.

Having a strong foundation in basic chords will allow you to progress more easily into the harder-to-play chords. We recommend practicing these chords until you can play them without looking at finger placement.

Once you have these down, you can start learning the basics of your favorite songs.

Good luck, and most importantly, have fun!

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