If you’re new to playing music, or just starting out on the guitar, one of the first things you’ll need to learn is how to read chord charts.
Learn how to master guitar chord chart effectively and efficiently, with this step-by-step guide.
What is a Guitar Chord Chart?
A chord is simply two or more notes played together.
A guitar chord chart is a map that shows you which frets and strings to press in order to create a certain chord. If you hang your guitar vertically, you’ll notice that the guitar chord chart is a visual representation of the fretboard, with each guitar chord shown in a specific position.
They usually have six vertical lines (the strings) and horizontal lines (the frets), with numbers or dots indicating where your fingers go.
Why Should You Use One?
There are several reasons why you might want to use a guitar chord chart:
– To help you learn new chords: If you’re just starting out, guitar chord charts can be a great way to learn new chords. Simply find a chart with the chords you want to learn, and follow the instructions.
– To help you remember chords: Once you’ve learned a few chords, guitar chord charts can be a great way to remind yourself how to play them. If you’re ever unsure of how a chord is supposed to sound, or where your fingers go, simply refer to the chart.
– To help you transpose chords: If you’re playing with other musicians, guitar chord charts can be a great way to quickly transpose chords into different keys.
How to Read Guitar Chord Diagrams
As a guitar player, learning how to read chord charts is an essential skill. Chord charts are a fundamental tool for learning new songs, a great way to learn new chords and expand your guitar repertoire. We’ll take a comprehensive look at the basics of reading chord charts.
Chord Name and Symbol
The first thing you’ll notice on a guitar chord chart is the name and symbol of the chord. The chord name is usually written at the top of the chart, while the guitar chord diagram is typically located below.
These chord name symbols include:
- The letters A-G, which represent the notes of the musical scale
- Symbols such as “b” and “#” which indicate whether a note should be played flat or sharp
- Symbols such as “m” and “aug” which indicate the type of chord being played
So, for example, a chord chart might show an E guitar chord. This guitar chord chart tells us that we’re looking at an E major chord. The name of the chord is written at the top (E), while the guitar chord diagram is located below. The guitar chord diagram tells us which frets and strings to press in order to create the E major chord.
Guitar chord chart consists of six vertical lines, called strings. The low E string is on the far left, while the high E string is on the far right. Each string is represented by a number:
- Low E (string #06)
- A (string #05)
- D (string #04)
- G (string #03)
- B (string #02)
- High E (string #01)
X’s and O’s
You’ll notice X’s and O’s on top of the vertical lines when you look at the guitar chord chart. These symbols represent the strings that you’ll need to strum (or not strum) when playing the chord.
The X represents a string that should not be played or muted, while the O represents a string that should be played open (without fretting any notes).
Nut and Fretboard
The guitar chord chart shows an accurate illustration of the nut and fretboard. The nut is located at the top of the guitar neck, where the strings connect to the headstock. It is the thickest fret on the guitar, and is usually made of plastic or bone. This is usually depicted by the thickest horizontal line at the top of the chart.
The fretboard is the long, thin strip of wood that runs along the neck of the guitar. It’s where your fingers press down on the strings to create notes and chords. Each fret is represented by a horizontal line on the guitar chord chart. This chart is a picture of your fretboard without the dots, numbers and letters.
The horizontal lines on the guitar chord chart represent the frets. The space between the nut (the white plastic thing at the top of the guitar neck) and the first fret is considered to be fret #0.
So, the first horizontal line on the guitar chord chart would represent fret #01, the second horizontal line would represent fret #02, and so on.
Frets are the metal strips that run perpendicular to the strings. They’re located on the guitar neck and are used to create different notes.
The guitar chord chart is full of dots! These represent the guitar frets and the notes that you’ll need to press down with your fingers in order to create the chord.
If there are more than three dots aligned in one fret with the same number in them, you should bar it with your index finger. For example, if there are four dots in a row on the second fret with the number “01” written inside of them, it means that you should use your index finger to press down on all four strings at the second fret. This is called barring.
Numbers on the Lines or Finger Placement
The numbers on the guitar chord chart represent the fingers that you’ll use to fret the strings. In standard guitar notation,
- Finger #01 is your index finger
- Finger #02 is your middle finger
- Finger #03 is your ring finger
- Finger #04 is your pinky (little) finger
Sometimes, you’ll also see the thumb represented by the symbol T.
The numbers are usually written inside of the dots. So, if the guitar chord chart shows a dot on the third fret of the low E string, and the number “02” is written inside of that dot, it means that you should use your middle finger to fret that note.
8 Steps to Master Guitar Chord Chart
Getting the most out of your guitar chord charts means more than just being able to read the symbols. You must also understand how these things are formed.
Let’s take a look at the eight steps to master the guitar chord chart effectively.
Step One: Start by Learning the Basic Symbols
The first step is to familiarize yourself with the basic symbols used in chord charts. We’ve gone over how to read a chord chart, make sure you understand all the guitar chord chart symbols before moving on.
Step Two: Pay Attention to the Root Note
When reading a chord chart, it’s important to pay attention to the root note. The root note is the note that gives the chord its name. This is one of the topics we may learn in music theory, which allows us to better comprehend the guitar chart.
Step Three: Be aware of the Chord Triads
Most guitar chords are triads, which means they are made up of three notes. The root note, the third, and the fifth. The third is what gives the chord its quality (major, minor, etc), while the fifth is an extension of the chord. You’ll be surprised to find that, even though you are playing more than three notes on the fretboard, these are generally made up of triads.
Step Four: Learn the Basic Chords
The next step is to learn the basic chords. Start by learning the E Chord, then move on to the A chord, D chord, G chord, and C chord. These five chords are all you need to get started playing guitar.
Step Five: Learn Barre Chords
Barre chords are guitar chords that use the same fingering as open chords, but they are played in a different position on the guitar neck. Barre chords are essential for playing guitar because they allow you to play any chord in any key.
Step Six: Discover the Many Movable Chord Shapes
There may be a lot of chords in the chart, but you’ll be surprised at how they combine to form patterns, making it simple to recall how to play them. Movable chord shapes are guitar chords that can be played in different positions on the guitar neck. Barre chords are a type of movable chord, and you’ll see them used a lot in guitar chord charts.
Step Seven: Learn the Scales
If you’re wondering how to smoothly move up and down the fretboard with your movable shapes, learning a scale is an excellent starting point. By learning how scale is formed, you can better determine the distance between notes in your musical alphabet.
Scales are groups of notes that are played in a specific order. There are two basic types of scales: major and minor. Major scales have a happy sound, while minor scales have a sad sound.
With your scale, you’ll be able to determine which notes go well together and use that knowledge in your guitar playing. This is especially helpful in knowing family chords.
Step Eight: Practice, Practice, Practice
The only way to get good at anything is to practice, and guitar is no different. The more you play, the better you’ll get at reading guitar chord charts and understanding how they work.
Start by picking a song that you want to learn and finding the guitar chords for that song. Then, practice playing the chords in time with the song. As you get better, you’ll be able to move on to more complex songs with more difficult guitar chords.
Take what you learned here and see how it can help your guitar playing. Remember, practice is the key to mastery!