Guitar Chords for Beginners: 5 Essential and Easy Chords to Learn on Guitar

In this lesson we will start to get to grips with 5 of the most common beginner guitar chords. These easy guitar chords are used in countless pieces of music from across the world, in every sort of style and genre.

The chords we will learn are all ‘Open’ chords, and they are the most basic variations or ‘voicings’ of each type of chord that use open strings to form the chord. They are the best type of chord for beginner guitarists to learn if you want to start playing along to some of your favourite songs.

Major and Minor Chords

Guitar chords can be split into two distinct groups - Major and Minor.

Most songs will use a combination of Major and Minor chords, but it’s worth learning how each type sounds so you can identify the correct type of chords to play and how they are formed.

Major chords tend to sound ‘happy’, compared to Minor chords which are often described as ‘sad’.

Whilst Minor chords will usually be referred to by their type - for example, A Minor or Am - Major chords will sometimes simply be referred to by their name - so an A Major chord will often be notated just as ‘A’.

Chord Diagrams

In this lesson you will see chords drawn out on a fretboard, allowing you to see which strings to push down on which fret. Each finger is assigned a number between 1 and 4, allowing you to see exactly how to shape your hand in order to fret the chords.

These are known as a chord diagrams or chord charts. They help you to learn easy beginner guitar chords by showing you exactly where to place your fingers on the fretboard.

The numbers correspond as follows:

  • 1 is your index finger
  • 2 is your middle finger
  • 3 is your ring finger
  • 4 is your pinky finger

Learning to read guitar chord charts in this way will help you to visualise how a chord is formed and play it immediately, but you will also improve your ear by memorising the names and shapes of the chords.

So let’s start with the A Major chord..

How to Play an A Chord 

A Major Chord

To form an A Major chord, place your fingers as follows:

  • 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the D string
  • 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the G string
  • 3rd finger on the 2nd fret of the B string

To play this chord, strum from the A string through to the high E string. The low E string should not be played for a standard open A chord.

You might need to readjust or angle your hand in order to play the high E string - sometimes it can be muted if the position of the fretting hand is not perfect. Try to make sure your thumb is placed comfortably behind the neck whilst you are still pushing down firmly on the frets, and practice strumming the chord until each of the strings can be heard.

How to Play a C Chord

C Major Chord

The open C chord is played by positioning your fingers like this:

  • 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the A string
  • 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the D string
  • 1st finger on the 1st fret of the B string

Once again you should avoid playing the low E string with this chord, strumming from the A string all the way to the high E string.

Practice playing the chords slowly, one string at a time - this will allow you to ensure each note is fretted correctly, and finding the best position for your hand will be easier.

Playing a chord one-note-at-a-time is called an arpeggio.

How to Play a D Chord

D Major Chord

To play a D chord fret the following notes:

  • 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the G string
  • 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the B string
  • 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the high E string

With the open D chord you will play only the D, G, B, and high E string - the low E and A strings should not be played.

How to Play a G Chord

G Major Chord

The G chord is formed by placing your:

  • 2nd finger on the 3rd fret of the low E string
  • 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the A string
  • 3rd/4th finger on the 3rd fret of the high E string

For this chord you will need to ensure that every string is played and can be heard. You can choose to use either your ring finger or your pinky when fretting the high E string.

Sometimes a G chord is played with an addition of the 3rd fret on the B string. If you choose to play it this way, it will be easiest to use your 3rd finger on the B string and your 4th finger on the high E string.

How to Play an E Minor Chord

E Minor Chord

To play an Em chord you only need to fret two notes:

  • 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the A string
  • 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the D string

Once again you will be playing each and every string across the neck, so make sure you get your hand into a comfortable position that allows every note to ring out.

This is the only Minor chord in this lesson - try to think about how it sounds different to the Major chords, and if you think it seems ‘sad’ in comparison.

How to Change Between Chords on Guitar

When you are comfortable playing these chords, try to move between them - playing a G chord followed by a C chord will help you get used to moving your fingers between different frets, and eventually playing full songs.

No matter how good you get at guitar, you'll always use these simple open chords - so make sure you keep practicing them.

Click below to check out our Easy Guitar Riffs for Beginners lesson, or go back to master the Notes On The Fretboard!