How To Play Guitar Chords For Beginners

Learning how to play guitar chords for beginners is the first thing any budding guitarist needs to master. You might have seen other guitar players effortlessly moving their hands around on the guitar neck – without even looking at them! – and perhaps worrried just the tiniest bit about just how the heck they do that.

Am I right?

Well, as you might expect, it is going to take some time and effort on your part. And I’m going to tell you right up front that there’s no way around this part: your fingertips are going to hurt – more than a little, for a couple of weeks – until you develop some calluses.

The good news, though, is that an astonishing number of famous songs, most of them, in fact, are built on a really small handful of chords. Like, six. Seriously, once you’ve learned E, A, G, D, C and F, you’ll be able to play almost any song. For real. Here’s a chart that shows you all of these chords:

guitar chords for beginners

(*You might notice that I threw in one impostor chord, B, just to see if you were paying attention.)

Anyway, here are the things you’ll need to know to read the chord diagrams:

  • The Xs and Os at the top of each diagram:
    • Xs = strings you don’t play for that chord
    • Os = open strings, where you don’t put a finger on it at all
  • The black dots represent your fingers, and the digits beneath each chord diagram tell you which finger you should use to make that dot. Your index finger is 1, middle finger 2, ring finger 3, and pinky is 4
  • Now, for the grid that forms the heart of each chord diagram:
    • The vertical lines represent strings on the guitar, with the leftmost string being the low E (it’s also the fattest string), and the rightmost string being the high E (the skinniest string)
    • The horizontal lines represent frets, the silver metal things that divide the guitar neck into segments. In this diagram, the topmost fret is the zero fret, closest to the headstock (that thing with the tuning knobs, that you attach the strings to), and the bottommost fret is the 5th fret, heading down the neck towards the body of the guitar

So basically, all you need to do to play any of these chords is to press the indicated strings down at the indicated frets with the indicated fingers, and then use the fingers of your other hand to strum the strings over the body of the guitar

Like most aspects of music and guitar, though, how to play guitar chords for beginners is much, much better explained through video. I’ve scoured YouTube to find one of the simplest, most straightforward videos to help you learn your first chords. This one won’t win any prizes for flash and special effects; it just does the job – check it out.

Okay! You’ve got your first handful of chords down – what’s next? Well, we should probably talk about what to do with that other hand of yours….

Click here to find out what you need to know about learning how to strum!