When you first start learning how to play the guitar, it’s tempting to rush into your favorite songs and riffs, but beginning with the basics – like guitar chord progressions – can make a huge difference in your progress.
In this article, we’ll help you master four easy guitar chord progressions. But first let’s look at a couple important chords you’ll need to learn in order to play these progressions.
Learning Guitar Chord Progressions: Step 1
Once your guitar is in tune, start out by learning “first position” or “open chords.” These chords are played close to the nut and utilize a number of open strings. The best chords to start learning are Em, C, G, and D.
Em is the first chord you should learn on the guitar. Here’s how to play this commonly used chord:
The next chord you should learn is C, or C major. For this chord, you only need to strum the top five, highest-sounding strings.
As you practice these guitar chords, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- Play the notes of the chord individually, making sure that all the notes are sounding loud and clear.
- Practice switching between different chords and keeping a steady beat. Try not to stop – the goal is to switch between chords, getting the best sound possible.
Now you’re ready to learn some easy guitar chord progressions. (Keep reading to learn the fingerings for the G and D chords, too!)
SEE ALSO: How to Play the F Chord on Guitar
4 Easy Guitar Chord Progressions for Beginners
Basic Guitar Chord Progression #1
Play these two measures four times. Once you’ve mastered this progression, you’re ready to add in the G chord. For the G chord, there are two fingerings shown below.
The one in red should be avoided if at all possible because it’s more difficult when you are switching between a G and a C chord. The one in black may seem awkward at first because you are using your fourth finger, which is your weakest finger, but keep practicing and it’ll get easier!
Basic Guitar Chord Progression #2
Play this guitar chord progression four times. With the addition of the D chord, shown below, you can play thousands of songs! The biggest problem encountered with this chord is getting the first string to sound. Make sure that your third finger is not touching the first string. Here is the fingering:
Basic Guitar Chord Progression #3
Now that you know both G and D, play this progression four times for even more practice.
Basic Guitar Chord Progression #4
Play the first four measures shown above two times, then end on G.
There are a lot more chords to learn and also different versions of these particular chords. But knowing these guitar chord progressions is a great start because they will allow you to play thousands of songs.
Want to switch it up and do more with these chords? Try the following exercise for each chord progression:
- Strum only on beat 1 of each measure. This gives you plenty of time to get to the next chord.
- Next, try strumming only on beats 1 and 3.
- Finally, strum on all 4 beats.
By now you should be very familiar with some basic guitar chord progressions. To advance even more in your skills, consider working with a guitar teacher. An experienced teacher can help propel you to the next stage of mastering the guitar. Best of luck on your musical journey!
Matt B. teaches guitar to students of all ages in Pacifica, CA. Matt joined the TakeLessons team in October 2012, with over 40 years of experience teaching music. His specialties include pop, jazz, folk, and rock guitar styles. Learn more about Matt, or search for a teacher near you!
Photo by Amy Willard