Your first steps on the guitar are an incredibly fun and exciting time, learning how to play your first songs, discovering all the cool techniques we use on the instrument to create music. But there are aspects of being new that can be a source of frustration, hearing people talk about confusing theory topics such as triads, 7th chords, transposition, and not understanding what it all means.
So today we’re going to walk through some absolute basics with 12 chords every beginner must know, as well as some helpful facts and terminology about them that will ease you along your first steps into the world of music theory.
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- So why are these chords so ‘essential’?
- Chords charts and how to read them
- 12 EASY chords:
- Seventh chords:
- Transposable chords:
- Final thoughts on Easy Chords For Beginners On Guitar
So why are these chords so ‘essential’?
You may have heard people talk about how styles such as pop music all use the same few chords over and over. Well, that’s not a joke. By just learning these easy chords you’ll be able to play literally thousands of songs on the guitar over a myriad of genres.
Sometimes chords just sound great, are common in catchy and effective chord progressions, and are pretty easy to hold. So you’re undoubtedly going to see them crop up often!
Chords charts and how to read them
In the guitar world, we like things to be easy. Which is why we like tabs instead of sheet music, and easy to understand pictures to show us how to play chords.
Let’s take a look at an example chord chart and its anatomy:
Firstly, at the very top, we have the name of the chord, in this case, E. If it’s a minor chord (we’ll cover what that is in a bit) it’ll have a lower case ‘m’ next to it such as ‘Em’, and if it’s a 7th chord it’ll have a 7 by it, such as ‘E7’.
The picture itself is essentially the guitar neck which has been turned upright, the thick black horizontal line is the nut of the guitar, and the thinner horizontal lines are the frets.
The vertical lines are the strings, with your low E (thickest) string on the left and high E (thinner) on the right. With us so far?
The black circles are the notes you’re actually going to hold with your fingers, and within them is a number which refers to which finger you need to hold that note down with. 1 is your index finger, 2 is your middle finger, 3 is your ring finger and 4 is your pinky finger.
The last thing to note is the circles above the nut (thicker line), these indicate whether you will let that string ring out or not, essentially asking you to play a ‘0’ and leave that string open. So in this case we can see we need to play all 6 strings. If there is a string you’re supposed to avoid hitting, the ‘0’ will be replaced with an X’.
12 EASY chords:
While won’t be going into too much depth about the theory behind how these chords are constructed and how are they used within scales today, but if you are interested in learning the more technical side of things we have an in-depth article covers the scales already:
Chord 1: Emajor
One of the most common chords you can play, and a really easy one.
You’ll be playing every string in this chord starting with an open top E string, then holding the second fret with your middle finger for the A string, then the second fret with your ring finger for the D string, the first fret of the G string with your index finger, and finally letting the last 2 strings ring out.
If you are going to swap to this chord, try to place your middle finger down on that A string first as that’s the first one your pick is going to hit, this gives you a little breathing space to get the other two fingers down.
Chord 2: E minor
I like to show this one next because it demonstrates just how easy it is to turn any major chord into a minor one.
Hopefully, you’ve noticed the only difference between this and the E major chord is the first fret on the G string has been lowered by one and become an open note.
Without going too in depth into chord construction, this is basically the ‘major 3rd’ of the chord which has been lowered to a ‘minor 3rd’ by lowering the note by 1 fret. This simple theory idea works with any chord!
Chord 3: A Major
Another very common chord you’ll be using a lot. The first thing to note here is that you’ll not need to play the first string of the guitar, as indicated by the ‘X’ above the guitar nut line. So moving down, next we’ll be playing the open A string (our root note), the second fret of the D string with our middle finger, the second fret of the G string with our ring finger, the second fret of the B string with our pinky, and the high E is left open.
Chord 4: A Minor
Once again we can see that the only difference between A minor and A major is that 1 note (the 3rd) has been lowered by 1 fret. However, this also means we need to change how we hold the chord.
So here we’ll play the open A, the second fret of the D string with our middle finger, the second fret of the G string with our ring finger, the first fret of the B string string with our index, and finally that high E is left open.
Chord 5: C major
Another easy major chord where we will be ignoring the low E string. So here we’ll be playing the 3rd fret of the A string with our ring finger, the second fret of the D string with our middle finger, and the first fret of the B string with our pinky. The G and high E strings are left open.
Chord 6: G Major
I’m sure this one looks a little intimidating at first. But don’t worry! It’s far easier to hold than it looks and you can rest assured that if it was uncomfortable to play, we guitarists just wouldn’t use it.
So here you’ll be playing all 6 strings, with your middle finger on the first fret of the E string, your index on the second fret of the A string, and your 3rd and fourth fingers on the 3rd frets of the B and E strings respectively. Then the middle strings are just left open. Try to ensure you leave enough room for those open strings to vibrate as they can be easy to accidentally choke.
Chord 7: D major
For this chord we’ll be ignoring both the low E and A strings, playing the 3rd D string as an open note. Then we have our index finger on the second fret of the fourth string, our ring finger on the 3rd fret of the B string, and our middle finger on the second fret of the high E string.
Chord 8: D Minor
Hopefully by now, you’ve figured out how this is different from D major, with just that 1 note being lowered by 1 fret we convert the D major chord to D minor.
However, because of how the notes fall on the fretboard we can’t use the same fingerings as D major.
So this time we’ll again be ignoring the two lowest strings, playing our 3rd (D) string as open, then the second fret of the G string with our middle finger, the third fret of the B string with our ring finger, and lastly that minor third on the first fret of the high E string with our index finger.
That about does it for regular major and minor chords. Now we will cover 4 more chords which are known as ‘seventh’ chords. Again, we won’t go into the nitty-gritty of how seventh chords are constructed. You can just think of them as slightly more colorful or flavorful ways of playing the chords we’ve already covered.
By now you should be able to read the chord charts well enough, so once you’ve mastered the 8 chords above try your hand at these next 4:
Chord 9: E7
Chord 10: D7
Chord 11: A7
Chord 12: C7
One of the things that makes these chords so powerful and allows you to get so much mileage out of them is because many of them are what we call ‘transposable’ chords. This means that we can take the core shape that we’ve learned, and simply move it around the neck to create new chords.
In guitar, we have a system designed specifically to take you from playing these beginner friendly, simple open chord shapes to playing them all over the fretboard.
We call this the CAGED system and encourage you to look into this once you have learned these chords to help you expand your knowledge and guitar vocabulary.
Final thoughts on Easy Chords For Beginners On Guitar
We hope this has served as a place that can ease you into guitar chords easily, without bogging you down too much with the theory behind things such as chord construction.
But of course, it’s worth mentioning that the world of guitar chords is a big one, and it can become a much more complicated topic than what we’ve covered today. So always try to keep learning, expanding your knowledge, but most importantly, keep it fun!