ArtistWorks Blog

Beginner Guitar Chords

Do you want to learn how to play the guitar in a fun and easy way? A great place to start is by learning some beginner guitar chords — you’ll be playing your favorite songs in no time. Read on to learn the basics.

Open Chords

The first chords we’ll be learning are called “open chords” because they incorporate a mix of open and fretted strings. These chords are easier for beginners because they require less finger strength than barre chords. Most important, they allow the player to shift easily between chords in first position rather than moving up and down the fretboard.

The first three chords you need to know are D major, G major, and A major. For D major, you’ll need strings 1 and 3 at the 2nd fret, and 2nd string, 3rd fret. The left hand fingering for these notes is 2nd finger, 1st finger, 3rd finger, respectively. Only strum strings 1–4 for this chord.

G major is the 6th and 1st strings at the 3rd fret, and 5th string, 2nd fret. Left hand fingering is 2nd finger, 3rd finger, and 1st finger, respectively. For A major, you’ll need strings 2, 3, and 4 all on the 2nd fret. The best fingering for this chord is 3rd finger, 2nd finger, 1st finger, in that order.

The I-IV-V Progression

Arguably the most important progression for beginning guitarists is the I-IV-V. The Roman numerals represent the scale degree that the chords are built on. In other words, the numerals describe what we call the “root note,” which is also typically the lowest note (or bass note) of the chord. The roots of the chords that we learned above are D, G, and A.

What makes this progression so important is that a huge number of popular tunes can be played by utilizing the I-IV-V progression in different keys. If you’re interested in learning more about chord progressions, you can do so here.

Target Practice

The most common challenge for beginning guitarists when learning new chords is getting all of the left hand fingers into position without breaking the rhythm. To do this effectively, you’ll need some target practice. Let’s discuss a few ways of doing this.

If you’re already well on your way to getting your fingers into position but find that only one finger is lagging, you’ll want to visualize each finger placement as a target, and try to alternately land each of your fingers on the targets at the same moment.

If you find yourself struggling to get any of your fingers into position, break down the chords into individual targets. For example, moving from D major to G major, your 1st finger must jump from the 3rd string, 2nd fret to the 5th string, 2nd fret. Practice this in rhythm, preferably with a metronome, until you’ve got it down. Only then should you add the remaining fingers one at a time, until you’ve mastered the shift between chords.

Letting It Flow

Once you’ve got your first I-IV-V progression down, you’ll want to add some basic strumming patterns to establish flow, or consistent rhythm in your playing. The best place to start is a basic downstrum on beats one to four, always changing chords on beat one.

To learn more about strumming patterns, explore how to play the guitar here.

Most of all, remember to enjoy the process of learning how to play the guitar. Have fun with your new chords and the songs that they will bring!

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