Learn How to Play Guitar Chords

For the majority of songs you’ll play (I’d say all of them unless you’re a lead guitarist,) you’ll need to learn how to play guitar chords. I’m going to guide you through the most common guitar chords you’ll come across, which is a selection of the Open Major, Minor, Seventh, and Barre chords.

If you’ve never picked up a guitar before, and have no idea where to start, check out my guide on Easy guitar chords for beginners. Then come back here and learn all the major, minor, 7ths, and Barre chords, equip yourself with all the tools you’ll need to play those guitar songs.

After mastering these basics, or even before, you might want to check out my power chords guide, I’ll even teach you how to play the main riff out of “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton, Mint!

If you’re not quite sure how to read the chord diagrams check out the beginner guitar chord lesson for a quick guide.

How to Play the Major Guitar Chords

The open major guitar chords available to you are the A, C, D, E, F and G chords.

“Hey! What happened to the B Chord!?”

I’m getting to that… well kind of. It’s an interesting subject and you may want to sidetrack and quickly check out my blog post on the B Chord Guitar.

Anyway… Major chords are made up of 3 notes, specifically the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes from the major scale. For example the A Major Chord has the A note at the 1st position in the A Major Scale. A C# (C-Sharp) at the 3rd position and an E at the 5th position.

We say the A Major Chord is made up of A, C# and E notes.

Now we want to find a way to play these notes easily on the guitar. It turns out the second string on the guitar is the A string, so when you play it as an open string you’re creating an A note.

So that’s the first piece of the puzzle, now for the C# and E.

The next string down is the D, if you place your first finger on the second fret you’ll be playing an E note, the next string down again is the G, and on the second fret you’ll find another A note, then comes the B string, the second fret will produce a C# and the bottom string can be played open because it’s an E… which fits nicely into the notes for our A major chord.

Pretty simple, huh?

A Major

The A Guitar Chord is relatively easy to play, but quite hard to switch to from other chords for the beginner guitarist.

The A and Asus4 are used as the primary chords for April Sun in Cuba, by Dragon. A fantastic track with an easy but distinctive strumming pattern.

And as we discovered it’s made up from the A, C# and E notes.

 

C Major

Remember we’re looking for the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes in the Major scale for the Key, in this case C, which gives us the C, E and G notes in the chord.

 

D Major

The D Major chord has the notes D, F#, and A in it.

Probably most famously used on Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin, flitting between the D Major and Dsus4 just before the solo. Magic!

 

E Major

E Major is made up of the notes E, G#, and B

Hey Joe by Jimi Hendrix used the E Major chord as the anchoring point after the intro, the same shape is then used 4 frets up, then 3 before returning to the Open position, then another little lick and into the C, G, D, A chord progression.

 

F Major

The notes in the F Major Chord are F, A, and C

This is probably the hardest chord for new guitarist. It leads on to the idea of using one finger to “barre” more than one string, so your other fingers are free to play a selection of other notes.

It’s called the F chord for a reason.

 

G Major

The G Major chord is made up of the notes: G, B, and D.

Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd uses the notes from the G chord during the intro to great effect.

 

Learn the Minor Guitar Chords

The three minor chords you’ll use most often are E minor (Em), D minor (Dm) and A minor (Am).

A Minor Chord is created by taking the 3rd note of the Major Scale and taking it down a semi-tone, this is called the flat note.

For example in the E minor we take the 1st note, which is the E, the third note (G#) is taken down a semi-tone to G and we complete it with the B. So E, G and B.

Here’s the chord diagrams for the three minor chords you should learn how to play.

A minor (Am)

D minor (Dm)

E minor (Em)

 

Open 7th Guitar Chords

7th chords are creating by bringing in the note in the 7th position of the scale, and bringing it down a semi-tone. The Major Scale ends with a half-semitone so it’s easy to work out the 7th note, just go one step below the Key you’re in.

For example in the key of A you’d come down to a G#, then take that down to G, add in the other 2 notes (3rd and 5th position) to get A, C#, E and G.

Oh, and by the way these are called Dominant 7ths, here’s the chord diagrams for the 7th chords you should learn how to play.


A7

B7

C7

D7

E7

G7

How to Play Barre Chords on Guitar

Barre chords are almost like the cheats way to play any chord on the guitar without having to remember all those different fingerings in the open position. The hard part however is getting used to using your index finger to press down on all the strings… forming a bar…

Trust me, once you learn this you will have opened up a whole field of guitar playing you never knew existed.

You can play barre chords using either the 6th string, or 5th string as the root note. They each have different shapes so I’ll run through the 6th string barre shapes and then the 5th.

The chord you’re playing is determined by the root note (where your index finger is on the 5th or 6th string) and the shape of the chord you’re forming with the rest of your fingers.

Here we go…

6th String Barre Chords

The 6th string barre chords use the E shape, so you remember the E Major, E Minor, E7 from above?

You now want to learn how to play all of those using your 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers, see below for some diagrams, and remember if you’re barring the 3rd fret at the 6th string, you’re at G.

So you’ll play a G Major by using the E Major chord shape, a G Minor by using the E Minor chord shape, etc…

Major Shape

Minor Shape

Dominant 7th

 

5th String Barre Chords

The same theory applies to the 5th string barre chords, however they use the A shape chords, check these out:

Major Shape

Minor Shape

Dominant 7th

 

Hope you enjoyed my guide on learning how to play guitar chords, it’s sure been fun writing it,

Head back to my guide on learning how to play guitar, keep on track, keep up the practice and most of all have FUN playing your guitar!

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