So, you’ve bought your child their very first guitar. Let’s get them started right away by teaching them a few easy beginner guitar chords which they can use to learn some of their favorite songs.
This page features 14 essential beginner guitar chords which shouldn’t take too long to learn, and as a bonus you can click on each chord to hear exactly how they should sound. If you’re a little confused with how to read the diagrams, head to the bottom of the page for a quick explanation.
If the chords are a little cramped on your mobile device, try rotating to landscape mode to make sure that everything has enough space.
Guitar Chord Chart for Beginners
If you’d prefer, I’ve put together a handy beginner guitar chord chart featuring all of the chords on this page which you can download and/or print. Click here to save a copy, or click on the image link below.
Beginner Guitar Chords
Out of the 14 chords laid out below, there are 8 key chords that should be learned first. Why? Because once you’ve mastered these simple chords you’ll possess the tools to play literally millions of songs. Here are the chords you’ll want to concentrate on:
C Major – A Major – G Major – E Major – D Major – A Minor – E Minor – D Minor
How to Read Guitar Chords
If you’ve made your way to this page it’s incredibly likely that you are a brand new player, probably confused with how to actually read the chord charts. Let’s briefly clue you in on how to read these beginner guitar chords.
Firstly, the charts represent your guitar as if you were holding it in front of you, with the fingerboard pointed towards you. In the case of all of the chords on this page, the diagrams show the first five frets on your guitar.
The purple line you’ll see at the top of each diagram is the ‘nut‘, which is the thin piece of plastic which holds your strings in place beside the headstock.
The strings are arranged thickest to thinnest from left to right. They’re tuned E-A-D-G-B-E, but you knew that, right?
The most important part of the diagrams are the numbered purple circles – these show you exactly where to place your fingers, and also which fingers to use. When reading chord charts, your fingers are numbered in the following fashion:
So for example, a purple circle with a ‘2’ on the 3rd fret, 4th string indicates that you should place your middle finger on the 3rd fret, 4th string. Easy, right?
Finally, you’ll notice Os and Xs above the nut on certain chords. An ‘O’ means that the string should be played without fretting any notes, i.e. it should be played ‘open’. If you see an ‘X’ over the string, this simply means that you shouldn’t play that string at all.
So let’s put all of this into practice, shall we? Take a look at the first chord in the chart above (A Major). To play an A Major is as follows:
1st String (thinnest) : Open
2nd String : Pinky finger on 2nd fret
3rd String : Ring finger on 2nd fret
4th String : Middle finger on 2nd fret
5th String : Open
6th String : Do not play
Do not feel as if these fingerings are set in stone however. If you find that an alternative fingering is more comfortable for you, then by all means give it a go. For example, you can also play the A Major chord using index, middle and ring fingers. Or, you could even ‘bar’ the whole chord with just one finger…
Guitar Bar Chords
You might be a little confused by the chords on this page which feature a long line (a bar!) which runs along multiple frets. These are known as bar chords, and are a little trickier to play when compared to the other chords in the chart. So leave them until last!
The basic idea is that you take your finger (generally the index finger), and lay it across multiple strings on the same fret. This enables you to play multiple notes within one fret with a single finger. At first this will be really awkward (and it’ll hurt like hell!), but persevere and eventually you’ll be rewarded.
Bar chords which bar an entire fret are great, because your finger is essentially acting as a new ‘nut’. This means that you can slide the shape up and down the fretboard to easily play the chord in any key. Handy! We’ll cover these in a future lesson.
Learning Guitar Chords Hints and Tips
Where To Place Your Fingers. Although you may naturally want to position your fingers in the middle of each fret, this should be avoided from the start. Fingers should be placed just behind the fretwire. The further back you finger a note, the more likely the string is going to be to buzz against the metal frets. Try to fret each note with your fingertips, rather than the soft, fleshy pads.
How Hard to Press? The most efficient way to play guitar is to finger chords and notes with the lightest touch possible. Pressing down too hard will result in producing a note which is slightly sharp, making your chord sound out of tune. The lightest touch possible is the point at which you obtain a clear note without being light enough to cause fret buzzing. Playing with a light touch will also help to reduce sore fingers.
Pick Each Individual String. When first learning to play beginner guitar chords, don’t just strum them and assume everything is ok. It’s very likely that at first you will get a dead note or two due to untrained fingers accidentally muting adjacent strings. When strumming a chord you might not notice this. So make sure to pluck each individual string one at a time, and listen out for any muted notes. Adjust you finger position until all strings are ringing true and clear.
Smooth Transitions. Try and master just one of these chords at a time to avoid information overload. Once you have at least a couple under your fingers, practice transitioning between them. Practice slowly and smoothly until the transitions almost become a subconscious movement.
A Note About Fingertip Soreness. There’s not a lot you can do about it unfortunately. When you first begin to play guitar (or even later on when you learn new techniques), your fingertips will become sore from pressing down strings. But don’t worry about it! In a week or two, calluses will develop and the pain will vanish. This might mean that practice sessions are limited for the first week or two depending on your pain threshold. If you take on board my tip above about playing with a light touch, soreness will be minimized.
Tune Your Guitar Before EVERY Practice Session. Give your guitar a quick tune every day, so that you know any bum notes are a result of you and not the instrument. If you don’t already have one, I recommend an inexpensive clip-on headstock tuner, which you can read about in my accessories guide.