30 March 2011

5 Essential Guitar Chords For The Complete Beginner

This post for the complete newcomer to guitar shows five beginner open chords that can be used to play your first songs in several keys. The 5 chords you’ll learn in this tutorial are A, D, E, G, and C, and you’ll also discover how to use them to play songs in the popular guitar keys of A, D and G major. You’ll also find some suggestions for easy songs to play with the chords.


A Major Chord

The first of our five chords is A major. The chord diagram below shows the guitar fretboard with a black circle on the strings and frets to be pressed by your fingers. The thinnest guitar string is at the top of the diagram and the thickest at the bottom, as if you were looking down at the guitar neck while you hold it to play.


The number in the black circle shows which finger to use, 1 for the index, 2 for the middle and 3 for the ring finger. The ‘0’ to the left of the diagram means the string should be played open while an ‘X’ indicates the string should not be played.


E Major Chord

The next chord in the series is E major shown below.


Practice making each chord and then practice changing from one to the other. If you’re completely new to guitar it will take a while to get your fingers moving easily and accurately so don’t worry if your fingers seem to tie themselves in knots at first.


D Major Chord

When you add the D major chord shown below you’ll be able to play literally thousands of three-chord songs in the key of A major.


Here are a few simple example songs to get you started (there are many many more): Blowing In The Wind by Bob Dylan, La Bamba, Desire by U2, Me And Bobby McGee by Kris Kristofferson.


Hint: Not all of these songs use the A, D and E chords in their original versions. Some popular tab sites such as chordie.com or Ultimate Guitar offer tools to transpose the songs to the key of A so you can have a version with A, D and E chords.


Learn More Chords And Keys

The three chords you’ve seen so far will let you play lots of songs in the key of A. By adding a couple more chords you give yourself the option to play songs in the keys of D and G.


Learn the following G chord and you can play three chord songs in the key of D major : D, G, and A chords.



Add of the C major chord, below, an you can more songs in the key of G : G, C, and D.



Practice these chords and you can play many three-chord songs in the keys of A, D and G. Here are some example songs to try : Colours by Donovan (D, G, A), Mr Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan (D, A, G), Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed (G, C, D, A).


These five beginner guitar chords will get you off to a great start, you can play many hundreds of popular songs with them. Find and learn as many songs as you can with them to hone your chord, strumming and picking skills and develop your musical ear.

1 comment:

Johnny Lee said...

Hey Gary,

Great post. I cannot imagine any guitar player not using these 5 chords in his arsenal.

That said, I learned a really awesome way to switch between them from Richard Lloyd. He suggests using ALL the barre forms and moving in the cycle of "4ths".

Note: this is tough as nails. Not recommended for beginners, but if you're beyond the open forms, this could do the trick. Especially the barre chord G-form. Wow.

Check out Richard explaining it in his video: http://www.nobsguitar.com/richard-lloyd-on-the-five-chord-cycle/


Subscribe in a reader

Not Playing Guitar

All content copyright (c) 2007-2018, Gary Fletcher. All rights reserved.