Guitar Chords for Beginners

If you are relatively new to guitar, getting started playing your favorite songs can feel intimidating and a long way off. Most beginners want to start playing without getting too bogged down in all that music theory. To help with that, we have compiled some of the best guitar chords for beginners that will enable you to begin playing, even if you are just starting out.

Even as a beginner, a few of the right guitar chords for can go a long way.

In fact, you don’t need an exhaustive chord vocabulary to play a lot of the music you likely hear on a regular basis.

That’s why it benefits the beginner to learn the chords that will be the most reusable and that will show up more often than others. In other words, we should look to learn the chords that have the broadest application.

We can save the more complex chords for later in the learning process.

But if we want to start on those easier and more broadly applicable chords, which ones are they? And how do we learn them?

Before we list the chords, let’s take a moment to look at some best practices for learning chords.

How to Learn These Chords

Keep in mind that no one knows how you learn better than you do. So don’t assume that you need to push yourself into a certain method of absorbing information.

Everybody figures things out a bit differently.

So use these as helpful suggestions, not rugged protocol.

  1. Identify the root note and intervals of the chord.
  2. Pick through each note, one-by-one.
  3. Fret the root note first.
  4. Fret each following note one at a time.
  5. Play the full chord until it comes out clean.
If you have other methods or learning techniques that work for you, feel free to use those also. Just make sure you have a learning plan established.

Let’s get to our chords.

We’ll start with open chords first, then cover some basic dyads and triads.

Open Chords

1. A Major

https://www.guitartricks.com/chords/A-chord/maj

In this case our root note is simple, as it falls to the open-A string (the fifth string) with three other notes that make up the rest of the chord.

You can either barre these three notes or play them with three individual fingers.

The three intervals I list correspond to the notes that you fret to create the chord. The order is from top to bottom, meaning the perfect fifth is on the fourth string, octave is on the third string and major third is on the second string.

Intervals: Perfect 5th / Octave / Major 3rd

2. A Minor

https://www.guitartricks.com/chords/A-chord/min

To get an A Minor chord we simply drop the last interval of the A Major chord (the major 3rd) down on semitone (one fret) making it a minor third, thereby giving the chord its minor quality.

Notice the numbers on the dots used in the chart.

These stand for the fingers that are recommended for fretting each individual note. In this case, 1 is referring to your pointer finger, 2 to your middle finger and so on in that order.

Intervals: Perfect 5th / Octave / Minor 3rd

3. C Major

https://www.guitartricks.com/chords/C-chord/maj

The C Major is, arguably, one of the most basic and familiar chords in existence.

Most will grab the root note (on the third fret) with their ring finger and curl their other two fingers underneath to pickup the two intervals.

Be careful here to watch for the open G note coming from the third string. It’s easy to bump inadvertently and cause buzzing.

You’ll also need to be cautious about muting the sixth string, which can be tricky if your habit is to strum through all six. With this chord you’ll need to begin strumming on your root note, which now falls on the fifth string, just like the two previous A chords.

Intervals: Major 3rd / Octave

4. D Major

https://www.guitartricks.com/chords/D-chord/maj

The D Major chord is fairly easy, since you have an open root note (open fourth string) and what many would consider an optional third interval.

If you play the formal version of the chord, all three notes would be required, but omitting the last note on the first string (the high E) doesn’t alter the chord quality. However, in an informal setting it’s fine to avoid it.

Intervals: Perfect 5th / Octave / Major 3rd

5. E Major

https://www.guitartricks.com/chords/E-chord/maj

There are no muted notes to worry about here.

Instead, you have the ease of being able to strum through all six strings without batting an eye. Again, your root note is open as the sixth string is your low E.

You then have two intervals that essentially form a power chord, before the last one gives this chord its major tone quality and sound.

We begin to see that the perfect 5th, octave and major 3rd interval combo is fairly common.

Intervals: Perfect 5th / Octave / Major 3rd

6. E Minor

https://www.guitartricks.com/chords/E-chord/min

E Minor gets even simpler, as we can drop the third fretted interval entirely, in favor of the open note (G). That leaves us with only two notes that need to be addressed.

Intervals: Perfect 5th / Octave / Minor 3rd (open)

7. G Major

https://www.guitartricks.com/chords/G-chord/maj

The most common G chord is the open major variation that you see picture here. And while there are a number of ways to play it, this is the one you’ll most often encounter.

Your root note and interval combination is simple without any mutes to worry about.

Intervals: Major 3rd / Octave (high E - third fret)

Common Dyads and Triads

Dyads and triads (particularly triads) have theoretical definitions and implications that breach the scope of this article. This means that if you were to study them in a formal sense, there’s more to it then what you’ll see here.

However, they also serve to represent some basic definitions of chord categories, namely:

Dyads: Chords comprised of two notes - a root and one interval.

Triads: Chords comprised of three notes - a root and two intervals.

In music theory, a triad is a set of three notes that can be stacked in third intervals. However, its definition was expanded in the twentieth-century to encompass any three notes, particularly those that formed a harmonious chord.

That’s the definition we’ll focus on here.

These chords are extremely useful and always moveable, which means they can be played anywhere on the fretboard, and will change keys based on where the root note is played.

They make perfect guitar chords for beginners to start out with.

Let’s begin with a dyad that also happens to be the most basic form of a power chord.

8. Power Chord Dyad

E|-----
B|-----
G|-----
D|-----
A|--5--
E|--3--

Our root note (G in this case) sits at the third fret while our interval - a perfect fifth - falls on the fifth fret. If you move the root note, the interval moves with it.

9. Power Chord Triad (added octave)

E|-----
B|-----
G|-----
D|--5--
A|--5--
E|--3--

The triadic version of the same power chord sounds identical, aside from having slightly more weight and thickness, thanks to the addition of a third note.

That note is an octave that, in this case, falls comfortably on the fifth fret.

10. Power Chord (major 3rd)

E|-----
B|-----
G|-----
D|-----
A|--2--
E|--3--

This power chord variation moves our interval to give us a distinctly major chord with only two notes. I recommend playing the note on the second fret with your pointer finger, while using your middle ring finger to grab the root G.

11. High Root Major Dyads

E|-----
B|--8--
G|--5--
D|-----
A|-----
E|-----

This chord shape is useful for lead guitar and short fills, as its root note is found on the third string.

You can then drop the interval (the note you see at the eighth fret) down to the sixth and fifth frets for other chord configurations.

For example:


E|-----------
B|--8--6--5--
G|--5--5--5--
D|-----------
A|-----------
E|-----------

Each one is its own dyadic chord.

We can then use these shapes to come up with similar triads.

12. High Root Major Triads

E|-----
B|--8--
G|--5--
D|--5--
A|-----
E|-----

E|-----------
B|--8--6--5--
G|--5--5--5--
D|--5--5--5--
A|-----------
E|-----------

Our chord quality basically stays the same, since all we’re doing is adding a lower root note.

That root note could also be treated as an interval, since these notes are all high enough to be melodic and don’t necessarily need to be explicitly defined as a chord’s root.

Take the following shape, for example:

E|-----
B|--5--
G|--5--
D|--5--
A|-----
E|-----

The lowest note is the G at the D-string, but what if we were playing a C in the bass?

These three notes are actually part of the following common C major chord:

E|------
B|--5---
G|--5---
D|--5---
A|-(3)--
E|------

That means that our root note for this triadic chord could, theoretically, be either C or D, depending on what’s being played in the bass.

For more on chords check out the Guitar Tricks chord chart.