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Easy Guitar Chords for Beginners

When first learning how to play the guitar, it’s important to learn actual songs as early on as possible. This keeps the learning experience fun and exciting. For this reason, you’ll want to learn some easy guitar chords. So in this lesson we’re going to explore some basic open guitar chords that are perfect for beginners to learn and will propel you into learning actual songs.

What is a guitar chord?

Guitar chords are when three or more notes are played together at the same time. A chord may have multiple occurrences of a given note. For instance, the open G major chord contains three G notes (3rd fret of the 6th string, 3rd string open, and the 3rd fret of the 1st string).

The notes that make up a chord come from the scale from which the chord is derived. Chords are derived from the root, 3rd, and 5th degrees of a scale. To learn more about building chords and chord formulas, check out the following lessons:

With a basic understanding of chord structure, let’s take a look the essential beginner chords. Before we do, however, if you’re not familiar with chord diagrams, check out How to Read Guitar Chord Diagrams to get up to speed.

Basic Guitar Chords

Open guitar chords are the ideal place to start for new guitar players. There are 8 basic open guitar chords that beginners need to learn: G, A, Am, C, D, Dm, E, Em

8 easy guitar chords for beginners

If the notation is unfamiliar to you, the naming convention is as follows:

  • Single capital letter = Major chord
  • Capital letter followed by a lowercase m = Minor chord

There are far more conventions than this, but for the purpose of this lesson these will do.

When played in the open position, these 8 basic guitar chords are the easiest guitar chords to play and perfect for the beginner guitarist who has yet to build up strength in his/her fretting hand. These chords are also used in a ton of songs, so they’re perfect

The diagrams for each chord give you the notes of the chord, the intervals of the chord, and the recommended fingering for each chord. If you’re not familiar with intervals, check out this lesson to get up to speed: Intervals on Guitar

G Major Chord

The G major chord is made up of the following notes and intervals:

Notes: G – B – D
Intervals: 1 – 3 – 5

G major open chord - notes, intervals, fingering

The G major chord in the open position is typically fingered with the 2nd finger on the 3rd fret of the 6th string, index finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string, and pinky on the 3rd fret of the 1st string. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings are played open.

You may also see variations that have the 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string instead of playing the 2nd string open. This is still a G major chord. The only difference is this version contains two D notes instead of two B notes. In this case, only the 3rd and 4th strings are played open.

A Major Chord

The A major chord is made up of the following notes and interval:

Notes: A – C# – E
Intervals: 1 – 3 – 5

A major open chord - notes, intervals, fingering

To play all of the notes cleanly, you finger the A major chord with the index finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string, the middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string, and the ring finger on the 2nd fret of the 2nd string. The 1st and 5th strings are played open.

However, a really common alternative is to use the index finger to barre across the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings and omit the open 1st string from the chord.

Am Chord

The A minor chord is made up of the following notes and intervals:

Notes: A – C – E
Intervals: 1 – ♭3 – 5

A minor open chord - notes, intervals, fingering

The Am chord is fingered with the 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string, the 3rd finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string and the index finger on the 1st fret of the 2nd string. Strings 1 and 5 are played open.

C Major Chord

The C major chord is made up of the following notes and intervals:

Notes: C – E – G
Intervals: 1 – 3 – 5

C major open chord - notes, intervals, fingering

The fingering for the C major chord is the ring finger on the 3rd fret of the 5th string, middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string, and the index finger on the 1st fret of the 2nd string. Strings 1 and 3 are played open.

D Major Chord

The D major chord is made up of the following notes and intervals:

Notes: D – F# – A
Intervals: 1 – 3 – 5

D major open chord - notes, intervals, fingering

This one can be a little strange to play at first. The D major chord is fingered with the index finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string, ring finger on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string, and the middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 1st string. The 4th string is played open.

Dm Chord

The Dm chord is made up of the following notes and intervals:

Notes: D – F – A
Intervals: 1 – ♭3 – 5

D minor open chord - notes, intervals, fingering

The Dm chord is fingered with the middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string, ring finger on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string, and index finger on the 1st fret of the 1st string. The

E Major Chord

The E major chord is made up of the following notes and intervals:

Notes: E – G# – B
Intervals: 1 – 3 – 5

E major open chord - notes, intervals, fingering

The E major chord is fingered similarly to the Am chord, only it’s moved over one string. The fingering for this chord is the middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string, ring finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string, and index finger on the 1st fret of the 3rd string. The 1st, 2nd, and 6th strings are played open.

Em Chord

The E minor chord is made up of the following notes and intervals:

Notes: E – G – B
Intervals: 1 – ♭3 – 5

E minor open chord - notes, intervals, fingering

To finger the Em chord, you only need to remove your index finger from the E major chord fingering. The Em chord is fingered with the middle finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string and ring finger on the 2nd fret of the 4th string. All other strings are played open.

Practice Tips for Learning to Play Chords

When first learning guitar chords, trying to get your fingers to go where you want them can be a little frustrating. It feels awkward and you really have to concentrate to get your fingers in position. Over time, however, it’ll smoothen out and you won’t have to think about where your fingers are going, they’ll just go there. But here are a few practice tips to help you get there:

  • In order to play the chords cleanly, focus on using your finger tips only to fret the notes. Using anything but your finger tips will cause your fingers to flatten across the strings and end up touching other strings and prevent them from vibrating cleanly.
  • When practicing fingering, hold the chord position for a few seconds, remove your hand from the fretboard and repeat the process. This will help you learn to fret the chord a bit quicker than holding the position for longer periods of time.
  • Once you learn a couple of chords and have them down, practice moving between them. Strum one chord a couple of times then move to the second chord and do the same. Then move back to the first chord and repeat the process. When you’re comfortable with two chords, switch it up and play through three or four chords. The point of this exercise is to get used to finding the fingering for the chord and get comfortable with switching between chords.

Once you have some chords down, you should start learning some easy beginner guitar songs. Learning songs will further your knowledge of guitar chords, expose you to a multitude of chord voicings and strumming patterns, and improve your overall playing.

Wrap Up

When starting out on the guitar, I’m a big believer in easy wins to help keep you motivated while learning. Focusing on these basic guitar chords helps lay the foundation and gives you plenty to work with in terms of learning real songs.

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