How to Play a Chord: absolute beginners tips

Added on Tuesday 5 Jul 2011

Chords are the basic building blocks of songs. You can play a chord (the simultaneous sounding of three or more notes) several ways on the guitar — by strumming (dragging a pick or the back of your fingernails across the strings in a single, quick motion), plucking (with the individual right-hand fingers), or even smacking the strings with your open hand or fist. (Okay, that’s rare, unless you’re in a heavy metal band.) But you can’t just strike any group of notes; you must play a group of notes organized in some musically meaningful arrangement. For the guitarist, that means learning some left-hand chord forms.

Fingering a chord

Your best bet in learning to play the guitar is to just jump right in and play your first chord. We suggest that you start with E major, because it’s a particularly guitar-friendly chord and one that you use a lot.

After you get the hang of playing chords, you eventually find that you can move several fingers into position simultaneously.

1. Place your first (index) finger on the 3rd string, first fret (actually between the nut and first fret wire but closer to the fret wire). Don’t press down hard until you have your other fingers in place. Apply just enough pressure to keep your finger from moving off the string.

2. Place your second (middle) finger on the 5th string (skipping over the 4th string), second fret. Again, apply just enough pressure to keep your fingers in place. You now have two fingers on the guitar, on the 3rd and 5th strings, with an as-yet unfretted string (the 4th) in between.

3. Place your third (ring) finger on the 4th string, second fret. You may need to wriggle your ring finger a bit to get it to fit in there between the first and second fingers and below the fret wire.

Now that your fingers are in position, strike all six strings with your right hand to hear your first chord, E.

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