Guitar chords are the building blocks for playing music on your acoustic or electric guitar. Chords are simply groups of notes played simultaneously.
Most guitar chords are easy when you know a few basic techniques. But when you’re starting out, they can feel anything but easy! (And other chords, like barre chords, certainly do take more practice and expertise.)
In this article, you’ll learn how to easily play guitar chords when you’re new to the instrument. Reminding yourself of these pointers will serve you well throughout your entire time playing guitar.
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Playing Chords Made Simple
Learning how to play chords correctly and consistently is the fastest way to progress your playing and grow the number of songs you can play or write.
Here are our top tips to make all your guitar chords easy:
Know which chords to learn first
We recommend new guitar players start by learning these 7 chords:
Their simpler shapes and open strings will allow you to quickly start playing a wide variety of songs sooner.
Memorize the chords
Over time your fingers will know where to go but at first you need to train them and build that muscle memory. Memorizing the chords will help. One way to make it more fun and easy is to download and print our free guitar chord flashcards.
By remembering the chords, you’ll save time not needed to look up the chord shapes each time. This gives you more time to practice and allows you to keep learning new and more advanced chords over time.
Practice chords regularly
To learn them quickly, practice the 7 chords above (and any others from songs you’re learning) as often as you can. A short 10 minute practice session daily will yield faster results than a longer session once a week.
There are two things to practice: making the correct chord shape and changing between chords. To practice making the right shape, try pulling your fingers off the fretboard and putting them back on in the proper alignment. You don’t even need to strum, just repeat the process of taking your fingers off and on several times to teach your brain that this is the way to make a certain chord.
The next step is to get good at moving between chords. For example, you might practice changing from a G major to D major in order to play “Happy Birthday” on your guitar. There is no magic bullet here, the best approach is to set aside 2 minutes of focused practice just switching back and forth from G to D. You’ll find that over time this movement becomes second nature.
Use good posture and form
Are your strings buzzing or muffled? Proper technique can help you solve many problems you may be having playing chords:
- Sit up straight in your chair, making sure your arms have room to move freely
- Use the very tips of your fingers to press down the strings
- Press down as close to the fret (metal bar) as you can
- Place your thumb about halfway down the neck for support
Using these tips and some practice, all of your chords will ring out beautifully every time.
Build Basic Chord Progressions
What’s next? Once you feel comfortable with the five open chord shapes C major, A major, G major, E major, and D major, you can start to build them into progressions. The cool thing about chord progressions is they can be just about anything! You can combine any two chords together and you have a chord progression!
However, there are some basic chord progressions that we see all the time in music. For example, progressions like C major to G major, G major to D major, D major to A major or E major to A major happen all the time. Mastering these common movements will make learning songs so much easier!
Once you start learning songs, you will often find that many popular songs have identical chord progressions. For example, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day and “Wonderwall” by Oasis share a nearly identical chord progression – but the songs could hardly be more different! Learning to identify these types of patterns will help you unlock the secrets of music.
Pick the Right Beginner Songs
What’s the best part of playing guitar? Learning your favorite songs!
But we recommend you don’t just dive in to any songs – some are too advanced for new players and you will likely get frustrated. Instead, look for beginner-friendly songs that use fewer chords, a slower tempo, and focuses on open chords.
Here’s our recommendations for 10 guitar songs perfect for beginners. You’ll see that by knowing a few chords and allowing time to practice, you’ll be picking up a wide range of songs quickly.