Are you ready to learn 5 basic guitar chords that are the basis of dozens of easy songs? In this blog post, we’ll take a look at a few simple open-string chords on the guitar that you can use to play many beginner guitar songs.
You’ll learn how to read guitar chord grids and tips for memorizing these 5 important guitar chord shapes. We’ll also take a look at a chord-change exercise that will help you get your chord playing skills up to speed in no time.
How to Play 20 Guitar Songs with 5 Easy Guitar Chords
Understanding Chord-Grid Notation
Along with guitar tablature (or “tabs), chord grids are an important shorthand method of notating guitar music. Although it is important for all guitar students to eventually learn to read music notation, tablature and chord grids are usually a better option for beginners who just want to learn simple rock, pop, or folk songs quickly. Remember, the notation is just a means to an end, and just another way to learn something you’ll play on your guitar.
With chord-grids, you are looking at a simple diagram, or snapshot, of the guitar neck. The guitar is oriented so that the headstock is pointing upward, horizontal lines represent the fret-wires that separate the frets (spaces), and the vertical lines are strings.
Dots inside the diagram represent left-hand fingers, which are placed over the string inside the indicated fret. For the ‘A’ chord pictured here, all three fingers sit inside the second fret. Set your fourth (pinky) finger on the 2nd string, your third (ring) finger on the 3rd string, and your second (middle) finger on the 4th string.
Often the left-hand thumb will stay anchored on top of the neck to deaden the sixth string. This is called a flesh mute and allows the guitarist to strum all six strings so that only five strings are heard.
5 Open-String, Basic Guitar Chords for Beginners
Once you understand the notation, the next step is to get the chords down by memory. In some cases, these basic guitar chords can be remembered easily by comparing them to geometric shapes. If you connect the dots inside each grid, you’ll see that the ‘A’ is a straight line, the ‘C’ is a diagonal line, the ‘D’ is an equilateral triangle, and the ‘G’ chord forms an isosceles triangle.
After you have the chords memorized, it’s time to check each chord string-by-string to ensure all the notes are sounding. Pick through each string going downward from the bass strings to the treble strings. Listen closely to verify each note. If a string is muted, try resetting the fingers so they sit higher on the fingertips. Make sure the fingers do not touch against any open strings, thereby dampening them.
Chord Change Drills
Practice changing between any two chords using this simple drill. Play each chord on beats 1 & 3, lift the fingers completely on beats 2 & 4, and repeat. Make sure to set and remove all the fingers together (simultaneously). By doing this for a few minutes each day, you will learn to do fast and clean chord changes in the left hand, which is key to being able to play songs well.
20 Beginner Guitar Songs Using Only A, C, D, Em, and G Chords
Now that you’ve mastered the basic guitar chords for beginners, you can move on to learning dozens of new songs. Here’s a list of 20 easy guitar songs that use only these five chords:
1. Bad Moon Rising (Credence Clearwater Revival)
2. Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles)
3. Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)
4. Catch the Wind (Donovan)
6. Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
7. Lightly Row
8. Amazing Grace
9. Time of Your Life (Green Day)
10. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
11. Heart of Gold (Neil Young)
12. Old MacDonald
13. Story of My Life (Social Distortion)
14. Louie, Louie (The Kingsmen)
15. What I Got (Sublime)
16. Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty)
17. Anything, Anything (Dramarama)
18. Rockin’ in the Free World (Neil Young)
19. Mary Had a Little Lamb
20. Viva la Vida (Coldplay)
These songs are just the beginning! If you need help mastering the chords, or adding more difficult chords such as the F Chord, to your repertoire, try working with a guitar teacher near you, or find one online. Taking guitar lessons is a great way to ensure you’re building your skills on a solid foundation. Now go have fun rocking out!