Essential Easy Guitar Chords for Beginners

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Intro

Let’s start with “what are easy guitar chords?” It’s a combination of 2 or more notes played together. Whether you strum or pluck all the notes simultaneously, or play each note one after the other, in any sequence, it’s still a chord.

Chords form the basis of guitar music of any style. Understand a few simple chords and you are well on your way to learning the guitar. Some chords are complex and difficult to play, some have long technical names, but many are simple.

We’ll start here with the simplest chords. All of the examples we have are around the same key so if you learn to play them in sequence, they won’t sound out of place. Playing chords in sequence are what makes each piece of music unique and special. There are also a series of well-known sequences that are common across many styles of music.

Sounding a chord

When you play a chord on the guitar, concentrate on making the sound clean and lasting. For example, if you pluck (or pick) the G (3rd string) with no fingers touching the frets, you’ll hear a nice long clear sound. When you put a finger on to the G  string at the 2nd fret (to play an A), you’re trying to make the sound as clear and as long as it was when you played it open. Concentrate on getting that clean sound.

0-finger Chords

Yes there are some! Isn’t playing the guitar easy?

Simple Em7 sus4

OK, it’s a bit of cheat, this chord. And it has a sort of made-up name. It can also be called an Am13, but you don’t need any fingers on the fretboard to play it. It’s rare. But you can use it from time to time!

Simple Em

In this version of E Minor, you’re only sounding 4 of the strings, leave the other 2 alone.

If you’re plucking with your fingers, pluck string 6 with your thumb and use fingers 1,2 and 3 to pluck strings 3, 2 and 1 respectively.

If you’re playing with a plectrum, pick the 6th string, then the first 3 strings together at the same time – um-ching style.

1-finger Chords

Now we start to get serious!

Simple G Major

G Major is a very common chord to play on the guitar. This is a really easy way to play it. Put your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the first string. Sound only the first four strings.

For plectrum, pick the 4th string then the top 3 together.

Simple C Major

Again, this is a very common guitar chord. This is the simplest way to play it. It’s a little more tricky because you have to make sure you don’t accidentally interfere with the 1st string. Use your first finger to stop the 2nd string at fret 1. Sound the 6th string and the first 3 strings to make the chord.

2 -finger Chords

Moving along, we can introduce a more complicated E Minor and C Major along with 2 new chords.

E Minor

All minor chords have that element of longing and sadness to their sound. Modern pop music uses this chord frequently in various subtle shades of tone. This is a classic shape to play the chord 2nd finger on 5th string at fret 2, 3rd finger on 4th string at fret 2. Again, you’re looking to make this a nice, clean sound: no fingers fouling other strings.

C Major

Another one of the basic chord shapes, but in a slightly simplified form.

A Minor

A Minor has a sound very close to C Major. It is the related minor chord.

F Major

This shape introduces a little barré (properly pronounced as bar-ray). The barré is a key element to use when playing guitar. Bar (or barré) chords will allow you to play the same shape but at different positions on the fretboard to give you a range of chords. Really useful for fast chord changes. This example needs you to lay your first finger down across the first 2 string at fret 1. As usual, you’re looking for a nice, clean consistent sound.

Power Chords

At the heart of modern guitar-driven rock music you’ll find “power chords”. But they aren’t just for heavy metal! Used sparingly, they can complement any style of song. As with the range of barré chords, the same shape can be moved up and down the fretboard to give different chords.

C5

Here is the first of our power chord examples: simplified. First finger on 5th string at 3rd fret  is the starting point. Your 3rd and 4th fingers then go on the 4th and 3rd strings at fret 5. It takes some getting used to, but you’ll soon see the power as you use this shape more. In this shape, just sound the three strings you are pressing to the fretboard: 5th, 4th and 3rd.

A5

Just like A Minor is linked with C Major, A5 and C5 go well together. Try to use your 3rd and 4th fingers to press the 4th and 3rd string at fret 2. When sounding the chord, try just three strings: 5th, 4th and 3rd. The limited number of strings sounded help give the characteristic emptiness of the power chord. Technically, power chords are a “triad without the 3rd“.

G5

Take the shape you have for C5, add a bass note by dropping your first finger onto the 6th string and you make a G5 power chord.

E5

For a power chord related to G5, try E5. Use your 3rd and 4th fingers to press the 5th and 4th strings at fret 2 to make this sound.

Outro

As you play the guitar more, you’ll find that every chord can be played in many different ways. There are also subtle variations as extra notes can be added to the basic sound to colour and shade. There are some really simple shapes in the list above that can supplement your playing and learning. Don’t be shy of using them. Even the most sophisticated player will occasionally use a 1-finger chord as they move up and down the fretboard!


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