One of the best things about the guitar is that you only need a handful of chords to unlock an impressive repertoire of songs; you don’t actually need to memorize all the guitar chords possible. Open-string basic guitar chords are where everybody starts when they first pick up the instrument, so whether you’re looking to learn classic songs or write material of your own, knowing these guitar chords for beginners is a must. These are the “easy” chords that anyone can play!
In this post, you’ll learn how to play guitar chords by learning how to read guitar chord grids, and the 5 important guitar chord shapes. We’ll take a look at one chord-change exercise that will help you get your chord playing skills up to speed in no time. And we’ll review some of the most popular guitar songs for beginners that use these easy guitar chords, so you can strum along!
What is a Guitar Chord?
A guitar chord refers to the sound of several notes played together. To play a chord, you will play several notes at once instead of one individual note at a time. This involves placing your fingers in specific spots on frets across different strings and strumming all–or some of–the strings at once. Knowing how to play just a few basic guitar chords can open up a world of musical opportunities. There are several ways to familiarize yourself with easy guitar chords. Here, you’ll find step-by-step instructions for how to play chords on guitar.
What Are the 5 Most Important Basic Guitar Chords to Learn?
The most important basic guitar chords to learn are A, C, D, Em, and G. That’s because these 5 chords make up a huge portion of music played on the guitar. Here’s what those chords look like:
It takes some practice to be able to memorize chord shapes and switch between them quickly enough to play a song. But don’t get discouraged. As long as you commit to practicing, you can become a pro at your chord progressions in less time than you might think. And the good news is that once you have these main 5 basic chords down, you can play along with dozens of your favorite tunes.
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. The more you practice these chords on a guitar for beginners, the easier it will be to commit them to memory.
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 that 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). You may find it awkward at first as you consciously place each finger, but you’ll get smoother and more efficient at it as you practice. It’ll become muscle memory in no time! 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.
How to Play Guitar Chords: Easy Tips
1. Understand 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 learn to read music notation eventually, tablature and chord grids are usually a better option for beginners who just want to learn simple rock, pop, or folk songs quickly.
Unlike music notation, guitar tabs do not provide the rhythm, so it’s best to use these when you are already familiar with the tune. If you already know the song by heart, all you need to do is master the finger placements. Remember, the notation is just a means to an end; it’s 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. Alternatively, the edge of a fretting finger can be used to mute an adjacent string. This is called a flesh mute and allows the guitarist to strum all six strings so that only five strings are heard.
2. Memorize the Shapes
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.
- The more you practice these guitar chords for songs for beginners, the easier it will be to commit them to memory.
3. Perfect Your Sound
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 that they sit higher on the fingertips. Make sure the fingers do not touch against any open strings, thereby dampening them. Chord Change Drills
4. Practice Chord Changes
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). You may find it awkward at first as you consciously place each finger, but you’ll get smoother and more efficient at it as you practice.
- It’ll become muscle memory in no time! 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.
5. Smart Practicing
If you’re just starting out on the guitar, it’s good to be aware of some of the challenges that every new player faces. The fact is that everyone’s fingers feel awkward the first time they try to learn the guitar, but it’s important to stick it out at least until you have the basic guitar chords down.
- Your fingers need to develop some strength and dexterity in order to switch between chords quickly, and the only way to do this is to keep on playing.
You won’t become a guitar pro overnight, but with some time, practice, and dedication, you’ll be well on your way to mastering this instrument. Even five minutes a day for a couple of weeks will make a huge difference!
20 Beginner Guitar Songs Using Only A, C, D, Em, and G Chords
Ready to start jamming out? It’s time to discover easy guitar chords for songs that you’ve always wanted to play. From nursery songs to iconic rock songs, here’s a list of 20 of the easiest guitar songs to play that use only these five chords. Master these songs, and you’ll be unstoppable with what you can achieve on your musical journey.
Here’s a list of 20 easy songs to play on guitar for beginners 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 Guitar Chords are Just the Beginning!
Now that you’ve mastered these guitar chords for beginners, you can move on to learning dozens of new songs. When taking on a new number, start slowly and work your way up to the tempo of the song. Be patient and take your time. Once you’ve got it down, try playing along with the recording or grab friends and ask them to sing along! Many songs will have small variations in how the chords are played, and you can explore that after you’ve got a grip on the basic guitar chords.
Don’t stop once you’ve mastered these 20 tunes. These simple guitar songs are just the beginning! If you need help learning how to play guitar chords or want to add more difficult chords (such as the F Chord) to your repertoire, the best way is to work with a guitar teacher near you, whether you’re learning how to play acoustic guitar or electric guitar. Taking guitar lessons is a great way to ensure that you’re building your skills on a solid foundation. What’s more, you can even sign up for online guitar lessons, which let you learn anywhere and anytime you like. As long as you have an internet connection, you can connect with your private guitar instructor whenever is most convenient for you. Sign up for lessons today, work your way through our list of songs with guitar chords for beginners, explore even more chords, and be sure to have fun rocking out!
Photo by BrianYuen
40 thoughts on “5 Basic Guitar Chords You Can Master Right Now”
i finished my fingering part before many days but i m now interested to learn chord part…how i can getting start????
I would love to be able to play the guitar better for my own enjoyment at home. Took lessons many many years ago lol. I remember a lot of the chords but can’t really recall the ethos by which I actually learned to play a few songs. I have the guitar that belonged to my dad and basically interested in folk songs and easy listening. Thank you
Hi Sheila! Playing guitar is a fantastic way to relax and have fun at home. Are you interested in trying guitar lessons again? A good teacher can help you learn the songs you want to play and you might find yourself playing even better than you had hoped!
I recommend ‘Fire Away’ by Niall Horan. Easy strumming and simple chords!
Also, you can just search a tutorial on YouTube. The one I found was extremely helpful.
Great lessons! As I learn to play again these are great! Thanks
Thanks Tom, so glad we can be helpful! What kind of music do you most want to play on the guitar?
Great job Van Morrison .. taught me a few tweaks on rhythm. Would love to see more training in rhythm.. Thank you
Thanks John! Any specific artists or techniques you’re interested in? I’ll see if we have any more articles you might like and send you the links.
these songs are just the beginning! Keep practicing these easy guitar chords ok
Hi i look ever where so far you are Good thanks for all the help
Wow, there’s hope for me to enjoy at age 65
Marty Schwartz is awesome.
Thanks Steve! Hope it was helpful 🙂
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Thanks for the first lesson I really appreciate that man so much! I am really interested in more lesson and would love to have the free copy of your disk. Thanks man and God bless!!
Decided at 70 years old to learn to play the guitar and have looked all over the net for the easiest lesson site and have found your site to be the best for me. I have smaller hands and find that the simple chords that you teach to be very helpful to me to play some of my favorite songs. Thanks keep it up!
That’s fantastic, and we’re so glad we can help! If there’s anything specific you’d like to see, please let us know!
Thanks for this,JUST WHAT I NEEDED IN THIS TIME OF LIFE
Learning to play.
Your lessons are awesome!!
Thank you, Gina! We’re happy to help. If there’s anything specific you’re working on, let us know!
Great inspiration. Love the videos. Hoping that my 45 year dream will finally be realized
This is my submittal to win Marty Swartz’s free bundle of beginning guitar materials.
I like Marty’s simple instructions
Hey marty schewartz my name is vinny..i am from india..so i knw it will not possible to dend me that dvds……but thnks fr teaching in such a easy way….its really helpfull..may God bless you
This is awesome guy thank you so much
You’re welcome! We’re glad you found it helpful.
I’m counting on you to teach old dog new tricks. Purchasing a acoustic guitar 35 years ago thinking one of my three kids would love it. Not a chance that’s when I realized it was not for them it’s for me. Now at 75 I am ready to learn. Thank you, Grandma Betty
Nice way to teach Bad Moon Rising
I am a beginner but you make it so easy is great. I am sure i will learn very quick .
Thank you very much
Good blog post. I absolutely appreciate this site. Thanks!
Took lessons years ago but the tutor guy never.let me learn songs. Then about two years ago I googled guitar songs and I can play it’s great .Not a day goes by when I’m playing.steve.North Yorkshire
Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer. This is the first time i am reading your post and admire that you posted article which gives users lot of information regarding particular topic thanks for this share.
This is a very good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
Simple but very precise info… Thanks for sharing this one.
A must read post!
I stopped playing years a go, Due to cut off finger tip’s from a table saw…But now I need to start playing again, at 66. i started when i was in 5th grade..The 60’s ! I miss playing. I really would like to learn how to play lead , a little,,, OH,, and re-learn how to just play ! LOL
Tommi Iommi of Black Sabbath is missing the end of two fingers, and he did quite well. He was inspired by Django Reinhardt, who played with two fingers, and was arguably one of the best jazz guitar players ever.
Hi! Jessica. I read your blog it is very intriguing and accommodating for the tenderfoots to learn and rehearse the chords in the easy way. With these 5 basic chords any fundamental student can learn and play them in all respects effectively.