The 8 Most Important Beginner Guitar Chords

When you are first starting out learning how to play the guitar, it is important to learn beginner guitar chords. These chords will form the foundation for everything else that you learn in the future. There are 8 basic guitar chords for beginners. These chords are essential for playing popular songs and can be used in a variety of different musical styles.

Beginner Guitar Chords

8 Essential Beginner Guitar Chords

The first step of any journey sets the tone for the rest of the trip. The same goes for learning guitar chords. It is important to start off with the most essential chords so that you can quickly start playing popular songs and progress in your skill level. Here are the top eight chords every beginner should learn:

  • A major (A)
  • C major (C)
  • D major (D)
  • E major (E)
  • G major (G)
  • A minor (Am)
  • D minor (Dm)
  • E minor (Em)

If you’re wondering why these 8 chords are the most important for beginners, it’s because they are the chords which can be played in the open position (meaning, the chords can be played without having to use fretting hand finger positioning on the guitar’s neck). This is especially beneficial to beginners because it makes strumming and switching between chords easier.

How to Play Each Chord

If you want to play chords, there are two things you need: knowing how to form the chords and strumming.

Guitar Open Chords

The ability to play each chord well will allow you to produce a clean, smooth sound. You need both hands working together in order for this to happen. You can’t just learn one technique and expect it to work wonders on your entire song!

To start off learning how to play these chords, focus on the proper hand positioning and finger placement for forming the chord shape. Once you have the shape down, practice strumming with a steady rhythm.

1. Chord Formation

Let’s start with the fretting hand, which is the hand that forms the chord on the guitar’s neck. Each finger should be positioned on a specific fret, pressing down only on the string indicated for that particular chord formation.

It is important to know the string numbers and finger names before you start forming chords.

Open Chords
  • E –  6th string, the lowest note and the thickest string
  • A – 5th string
  • D – 4th string
  • G – 3rd string
  • B – 2nd string
  • e – 1st string, the highest note and the thinnest string

If you hold the guitar in an upward position, the order of the strings from lowest to highest note is EADGBe.

The finger names and numbers for the fretting hand are:

  • Index finger, 1st finger
  • Middle finger, 2nd finger
  • Ring finger, 3rd finger
  • Pinky finger, 4th finger

A Major (A) – X02220

  • Place your 1st finger on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 3th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/2nd fret
  • Play strings 5 and 1 open (with the 5th string as your bass note, A)
  • Do not play the 6th string, (X)

C Major (C) – X32010

  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd string/1st fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 5th string/3rd fret (this is your bass note, C)
  • Play strings 3 and 1 open
  • Do not play the 6th string, (X)

D Major (D) –  XX0232

  • Place your 1st finger on the 3rd string/2nd fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 1st string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/3rd fret 
  • Play string 4 open (this is your bass note, D)
  • Do not play 6th and 5th string, (X)

E Major (E) –  022100

  • Place your 1st finger on the 3rd string/1st fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 5th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 4th string/2nd fret 
  • Play strings 6, 2 and 1 open (with the 6th open string as your bass note, E)

G Major (G) –  320003

  • Place your 1st finger on the 5th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 6th string/3rd fret (this is your bass note, G)
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 1st string/3rd fret 
  • Play strings 4, 3 and 2 open

A minor (Am) –  X02210

  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd string/1st fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 4th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 3rd string/2nd fret
  • Play string 5 open (this is your bass note, A)
  • Do not play the 6th string, (X)

D minor (Dm) –  XX0231

  • Place your 1st finger on the 1st string/1st fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 3rd string/2nd fret
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd string/3rd fret 
  • Play string 4 open (this is your bass note, D)
  • Do not play 6th and 5th string, (X)

E minor (E) –  022000

  • Place your 1st finger on the 5th string/2nd fret
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 4th string/2nd fret 
  • Play string 6, 3, 2 and 1 open (with the 6th open string as your bass note, E)

If you’re playing an A major (A) or E minor (Em), fretting with your 2nd and 3rd fingers will also work. This is simpler when trying to switch chords quickly.

2. Easy Strumming

Now for the strumming hand, make sure you are holding the pick firmly between your thumb and index finger. Use a fluid motion to strum all of the strings in the chord formation, striking them from low to high or vice versa. It’s important not to hit any strings that are not included in the chord formation, as this will produce a harsh, dissonant sound.

Here are some easy ways to strum your chords:

Down Strokes

  • Part 1: Strumming on beat 1 per measure.
  • Part 2: Strumming on beat 1 and 3.

If you’re already able to fret and switch chords quickly, then experiment with adding an upstroke and try different strumming patterns.

Major and Minor Chords

The four main types of chords are major, minor, augmented, and diminished. However, you’ll hear major and minor chords the most often. Most beginner songs use major chords, but it’s important to learn minor chords as well to add diversity in your playing.

Major chords have a happier, brighter sound while minor chords have a sadder sound.

To form a major chord, you simply use the root note, third and fifth notes of the major scale. For example, in the key of C major, the notes are C (root, 1st), E (3rd) and G (5th).

To form a minor chord, use the root note, flatted third and fifth notes of the major scale. In the key of C, this would be C (root, 1st), E flat (flatted 3rd) and G (5th).

Chord Progressions Using Open Guitar Chords

Now that you’ve learned how to play the individual chords, it’s time to put them together and create a chord progression.

Chord progressions are sequences of chords played in a specific order, often repeated throughout a song. Most songs are played using these simple chord combinations, so learning them first sets you up for success in playing a variety of songs. Here are some common chord progressions using the open chords we learned above:

KeyChord Progressions
A major (A)A–D; D–A; D–E; A–D–E; A–E–D; D–A–E; E–A–D
C major (A)C–G; G–C; Dm–C; Em–C; Am–C; Am–C–G
D major (D)D–G; G–D; G–A–D; D–A–G; D–A–G–A
E major (E)E–A
G major (G)C–D; Am–C–D; G–Em–C–D; G–D–Em–C; G–D–C–D

You noticed that the chords are arranged in a specific order, and can be rearranged to create different chord progressions. You will find loads of easy, popular songs using these progressions. Thus, familiarize yourself with them and practice switching chords quickly.

Some Tips for Playing Each Chord

In order to play each chord cleanly, make sure you’re using the proper fretting and strumming technique. Get started with these tips:

– Make sure your fingers are pressing down on the correct strings and in the right spots on the fretboard.

– Keep your wrist loose and avoid tension in your hand or forearm.

– As you strum, make sure all of the notes ring out clearly.

– Take your time when first learning the chords and practice switching between them slowly, until you can confidently play them without any buzzing or muted strings.

– Practice with a metronome to improve your rhythm and timing.

– Always warm up before practicing with stretches for your hands and wrists.

Practice Tips for Beginners

Start by practicing one chord at a time until you’re able to switch between them fluidly without stopping or pausing. Then try playing simple chord progressions using the chords you’ve learned.

Don’t get discouraged if it takes some time for your fingers to become comfortable with forming the chord shapes and switching between them. It’s important to focus on proper hand positioning and technique in order for progress to be made efficiently.

When practicing, try not to rush through or play too quickly at first. Focus on playing each chord and transition cleanly and accurately. As you continue to practice, gradually increase the speed at which you play until you’re able to comfortably play at the desired tempo.

Remember to have patience and perseverance as you learn these chords.

Play More Songs!

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the most important beginner guitar chords. These eight chords will get you started playing a variety of songs. Be sure to practice them regularly and soon you’ll be able to play along with your favorite songs.

Remember to use the proper technique and be patient while you learn and improve. Practice safely and always warm up before playing. Take breaks as needed to avoid injury.

Ready for more? Check out our other lessons on how to play the guitar.

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