Ultimate Guide for Tuning Guitars

How to Tune a Guitar – Easy Tricks and Pro Tips

Ultimate Guide for Tuning Guitars

What’s the first thing you should do every time you pick up a guitar? Resist the urge to shred for a moment, and make sure you’re in tune.

If you’re just beginning to play the guitar, an out-of-tune instrument can be incredibly frustrating and make every note sound like a mistake. Knowing how to tune a guitar properly will ensure that you always sound your best when you play.

This guide will teach you exactly how to tune a guitar using several different methods so that you can play like a pro.

How to Tune a Guitar

The mechanics of tuning a guitar are simple. To adjust the pitch of a string, turn the string’s corresponding tuning key on the head of the guitar. (Hint: here’s our guide to the parts of a guitar).

Turning the tuning key away from you will tighten the string and raise its pitch. Conversely, turning the tuning key toward you will loosen the string and lower its pitch.

How to Tune Using Standard Guitar Tuning

Most guitarists tune their instruments to “standard tuning.” If you’re just beginning to play and aren’t sure which tuning to use, you should stick with standard tuning for now. As you get more comfortable with your instrument, feel free to experiment with other tunings to achieve different sounds with the guitar.

The strings on the guitar are numbered one through six, starting with the highest string.

Guitar String Tuning Notes

You’ll commonly name the strings in ascending order, starting with string six: E, A, D, G, B, E. Take a look at the following image to see to which note each string should be tuned. Note that your highest and lowest strings are both E, the same note spaced two octaves apart.

Each note corresponds to the pitch your string should produce when played open, without holding down any of the frets. When you’re tuning, it’s best to start with the sixth string and work your way down.

How to Tune Guitar with a Chromatic or Pitch Tuner

When you’re learning how to tune a guitar, it’s very important to have a reliable method of finding the right pitch for each string. Most guitarists either use an electronic tuner, app, or another instrument. Each method comes with pros and cons.

For most beginners, using a tuner is the simplest way to find the right pitch for your guitar. Tuners come in a few different varieties. Chromatic tuners “hear” the note you’re playing and display the pitch your string is currently tuned to. You will be able to see if your guitar is sharp or flat, and also see when you’ve adjusted the string to the correct note. Here’s a video to show what this process looks like:

Pitch tuners play the pitch for each string, and you must match each note by ear. You can also get a tuning fork, which you strike to produce the correct pitch for your guitar string. If you happen to be near your computer when the need to tune arises, it’s easy to find a free online guitar tuner, such as this one by Fender. There are also plenty of “tune my guitar” apps available on your smartphone.

If you do decide to invest in a tuner or tuning fork, ask yourself if you’re a more visual person or if you’ve developed an “ear” for musical notes and intervals. Visual people and beginning musicians will benefit greatly from the use of a chromatic tuner, and over time may begin to develop a better ear for music by using a tuner as a guide.

If you feel confident in your ability to hear and distinguish pitch (or if you like a challenge), you might be happier with a tuning fork or a tuner that plays pitch.

SEE ALSO: 5 Basic Guitar Chords and 20 Easy Songs for Beginners

How to Tune a Guitar Without a Pitch Tuner

If you find yourself playing solo without a tuner, you can make a guitar sound decent by tuning it “to itself.” Check out this helpful tutorial or follow the steps below.

Start with your sixth string held down on the fifth fret. You’re now playing an A on your E string. Adjust your fifth string, the A string, until your A string played open matches the pitch of the E string played on the fifth fret. It can be helpful to hum the correct note as you tune your open string, so you can hear if the string is tuned too tight or loose.

Next, tune your D string to match the pitch of your A string played on the fifth fret. You can continue tuning each string to the fifth fret of the string above it, except for the B string. To tune your B string, hold the G string down on the fourth fret. If each string is tuned to the correct interval from the next string, your guitar will sound fine by itself.

How to Tune a Guitar by Matching Pitch with a Keyboard

If you don’t have a guitar tuner handy, but you do have access to a piano, you can use the piano to find the correct pitch for your guitar. Tuning to a piano or keyboard is a great way to get the right pitch for your guitar, and is especially useful if you will be playing along with a pianist or other instrument.

Just tune your sixth string to the E two octaves below middle C. From there, you can tune your guitar to itself or continue to match each pitch to the right notes as you go up the keyboard. As a bonus, tuning this way can help you develop your note-seeking skills on the piano!

Alternate Guitar Tunings

What do Joni Mitchell and Black Sabbath have in common? It’s all in the tuning! Both artists often used alternate tunings to get unique sounds from their guitars. Once you have a good grasp of standard guitar tuning, it can be a lot of fun to experiment with alternate guitar tunings. There are hundreds of possible alternate tunings for the guitar, but two of the most common alternate tunings are Drop D and Open G.

Drop D Tuning

Tuning your guitar to Drop D is pretty simple. Start with your guitar in standard tuning, and just tune your sixth string down a full step from E to D. You can also tune down the E string until it matches the same pitch as the D string, but an octave lower. Famous songs in Drop D tuning include the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence”, Foo Fighters’ “Everlong”, and Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.”

Open G Tuning

If you love Keith Richards’ guitar playing in the Rolling Stones, you’re already a fan of Open G tuning. In Open G, your guitar strings are tuned to the notes of the G chord, so when you strum open, you’re already playing a complete chord. Starting from the sixth string, tune to the following notes: D-G-D-G-B-D. This is a great tuning to explore if you’re interested in bluesy slide guitar!


This is another open tuning that is popular in blues music. Instead of tuning to a G chord like with Open G, DADFAD tunes your guitar to an open D minor chord. To change this tuning to a D major chord, simply tune the F note up to F# – you’ll then have DADF#AD. This tuning sounds great with open strings, so it’s a good option for those who don’t know any chords yet but still want to produce a powerful sound. If you know a child that likes to bang on the open strings, tune the guitar to DADFAD first!

How Often Should I Tune a Guitar?

Guitars are sensitive instruments. The wood in your guitar expands and contracts slightly due to changes in temperature and humidity. In turn, it can change the tension in the strings and cause them to go out of tune. You might notice your guitar going out of tune as you play it, if you tend to play very hard or frequently bend pitches.

Due to the guitar’s sensitivity, it’s best to tune at the start of your practice, and again any time you sense that it doesn’t sound right. You will notice that even professional musicians occasionally need to take some time during performances to tune a guitar. New strings will also need to be tuned more frequently until they break in.

How Can I Make My Guitar Stay in Tune Longer?

Keep your guitar in tune longer by changing your strings regularly. Depending on how often you play, you might want to change your strings anywhere from once a month to once a week. When you’re not playing, store your guitar in a hard case in a cool, dry place to avoid changes in heat and humidity. It’s also a good idea to wipe your strings down with a clean, dry cloth when you’re done playing to keep your finger oils from corroding the strings.

If you follow these tips but still have issues with your guitar going out of tune, there may be an issue with your instrument’s intonation. Intonation refers to your instrument’s ability to hold pitch up and down the fretboard. The most common example of bad intonation is when the open strings on your guitar sound in tune but fretted notes sound out of tune.

Intonation may be affected by wear and tear as you play your guitar or by the way your guitar was manufactured. Visit a guitar shop and ask them to take a look at your guitar’s intonation. They will be able to help you find the right solution to your tuning woes.

how to tune a guitar infographic

How to Tune a Guitar Step-by-Step:

  • Step 1: Start by tuning the low E String.
  • Step 2: Next, tune the A String.
  • Step 3: Tune the D String.
  • Step 4: Tune the G String.
  • Step 5: Tune the B String.
  • Step 6: Tune the High E String.
  • Step 7: Play a chord to check that all of the strings are in tune.
  • Step 8: If any strings sound off, retune them.

Free Online Guitar Tuners

There are several free online guitar tuners you can use to help you tune your guitar. Here are a few of our favorites: – You can use this tuner to hear the correct pitch, or activate your computer’s microphone to enable pitch detection.

JamPlay – This free online guitar tuner from JamPlay also allows you to tune by ear or use your computer’s microphone for pitch detection.

TrueFire – TrueFire makes a great free guitar tuner you can use on your computer in addition to their fantastic Pro Guitar Tuner app.

GuitarTricks – This tuner uses real guitar tones so you can match your instrument to its sounds.

Now that you know how to tune a guitar, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals on the instrument. If you’re serious about taking your guitar skills to the next level, there’s no better way than with private lessons. The online guitar classes at TakeLessons Live make it easy to improve your playing from the comfort of your own home.

Whether you work with a teacher online or in person, the first part of the lesson will always be to tune up. You’ll then be ready to learn how to play different chords, new strumming patterns, and some of your favorite songs!

Interested in Private Lessons?

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How to Read Guitar Tabs

How to Read Guitar Tabs Like a Pro

How to Read Guitar Tabs

Want to learn how to read guitar tabs? You’ve come to the right place.

The traditional method of learning guitar involves scales, reading music, and other music theory skills. It’s a time-honored process that takes practice and intense study. Tablature is a popular alternative way for guitar players to read music.

Think of guitar tabs as the Cliffs Notes version of guitar playing. Guitar tabs offer a brief and swift way to learn how to play songs. You’ll learn where to position your fingers to play notes, but you won’t be able to see rhythm, timing, or other musical information. This makes learning guitar tabs much easier than traditional music reading.

Neither method of guitar playing is wrong. If possible, it’s best to learn both methods to become the most well-rounded musician you can be. However, if there is a song you need to know quickly, then guitar tabs are probably the fastest way to learn it. In this guide, we show you how to read tabs, so you can start playing your favorite riffs today. 

Guitar Lessons

How to Read Guitar Tabs: The Ultimate Guide


An Introduction to Guitar Tabs

Let’s start with the basics of how to read guitar tabs. There are six strings on a guitar and a tab is written using six horizontal lines, each representing a string.

how-to-read-guitar-tabsThe bottom line is meant to be your thickest string (low E), and the top line is your thinnest string (high E). The lines in between are the rest of your strings. The six horizontal lines are as follows, top to bottom: high E, B, G, D, A, low E.

To learn guitar tabs, you’ll need to first become familiar with the parts of your guitar. This is essential for understanding some of the lingo that goes along with learning tabs. You’ll want to know what a fret is and which one is closest to the headstock.

For guitar tabs, the fret closest to the headstock will be 1. The frets are numbered 1,2,3,4 and so on as you move toward the body.

If the number is 0, you will be playing an open string (no finger on it).

Although guitar tabs are a quicker method for learning how to play the guitar, it still takes some time and practice to master. It’s important to realize that your fingers will still bear the brunt of learning.

Each day you should spend some time playing and giving your fingers, hands, and brain some exercise. There will be some pain as your fingertips toughen up. The more effort you put into it, the easier it will get. Picking up the guitar for a little bit each day is the best way to progress.

Start off slow. Remember when your heart is begging you to attempt Jimi Hendrix, you’re probably better off starting with “Happy Birthday.” Put in the practice time, but don’t overdo it! If your playing muscles are yelling, “Stop!” listen to them and take a break.

Reading Guitar Tabs

How to Read Guitar Tabs and Play Them

Here are a few key pointers for reading and playing guitar tabs.

  • Read from left to right, just like you would read a book. Once you’ve gotten to the end of the “line,” you’ll move to the next line, starting again left to right.
  • Single notes will be represented by one number on one string. If you see stacked numbers, you’ll play them at the same time—it’s a chord.
  • You can find full guides to guitar tabs using apps like Songsterr, or by searching the web. As you advance, you’ll need guidance for terminology and keys to decoding guitar tab symbols.

The rest is practice and more practice, and maybe even some guitar lessons. It’s also helpful to understand the basics of rhythm.

To become really proficient in playing guitar with the guitar tab method, you’ll need to understand technique. Study fingerpicking, which you’ll use to play single notes. Focus on firmly holding the string down to get the best sound from your guitar. Watch others play to see what they do.

Read Guitar Tabs for Chords

How to Read Guitar Tabs for Chords

After you’ve mastered single notes, it’s time to move forward and try guitar chords. In tab, chords are written as shown in the diagram below, with all the notes of the chord stacked directly on top of each other.


Begin with simple chords. One of the most challenging aspects of chords as a beginner is finger placement. It can feel awkward, especially at first. What takes more time to learn is switching from one chord to the next.

Again, practice will become your best weapon to push through the awkwardness.

A few tips that will help you play chords more cleanly are:

  • Square up your fingers. This is an important skill—it keeps you from hitting and muffling other strings.
  • Understand ideal fret location. The ideal spot is three-quarters of the way toward the next fret (in-between the two frets). In other words, don’t actually land your finger on the fret itself.
  • Place enough pressure on the string with all fingers. With whatever chord you’re playing, make sure all the fingers in use are pressing the string firmly enough. If you have a weak or muffled sound, check your fingers to make sure they are all held down securely.

Although there are general finger placements for each chord, variations aren’t unheard of. In the end, what works best for you and allows you to easily move from one chord to another is most important.

Reading guitar tabs for riffs

How to Read Guitar Tabs for Riffs

A guitar riff is a series of notes that is repeated throughout a song. Many catchy guitar riffs are instantly recognizable, and luckily for beginning guitarists, they can be very easy to play too.


Riffs in a guitar tab will look like the tab shown above. Start from the left and work your way to the right, playing each note.

If you’re just getting started with guitar, don’t get frustrated if it takes you more than a couple tries to sound as good as the Beatles. Feel free to go slow and understand that mistakes are OK.

Again, guitar tabs only show you the order of the notes; they do not show rhythm. To get a feel for the rhythm of a song, you should always listen to the music while you look over the tab.

other symbols in guitar tabs

Other Symbols in Guitar Tabs

As you learn how to read guitar tabs, you might start to come across letters and symbols in addition to numbers.

These letters and symbols are there to let you know about some special guitar techniques. Below are a few of the most common symbols you’ll come across and what to do when you see them.

Hammer Ons

You might see the letter H pop up between two numbers, something like this: 5-H-7. This represents a technique known as a “hammer on.”

For this example, you would play the fifth fret note and while it is still ringing out, use another finger to press down the seventh fret on the same string. This technique results in a quick change between notes and is popular in guitar solos.

Pull Offs

Very similar to a hammer on, a pull off is notated with a P between two notes, like this: 7-P-5. To play the pull off in the example, play a note on the seventh fret.

While you play the seventh fret, place another finger on the fifth fret and pull your finger off the seventh fret.


Slides are represented with a forward-slash or backslash between two notes, like this: 5/7 or 75. Basically, you hold down a note with one finger and while you’re playing the note, slide your finger up or down the neck of your guitar to the other note. A forward-slash indicates that you need to slide up the neck, while a backslash is used to represent a slide down.


Bends are another popular technique used in many guitar solos. They are represented in guitar tabs like this: 5-B-7. To play a bend, hold the note on the fifth fret and as you play, push with your left hand finger to bend the string until the pitch changes to match the pitch the same string normally has on the seventh fret.


Vibrato, or a quavering effect, is achieved by rapidly bending and releasing the bend, a kind of vibration of your finger on the fret. When a piece calls for vibrato, you’ll see this symbol on the tab: ~

Muted Notes

In guitar tabs, when you see an x over a string, this indicates a muted note. To get this sound, hold your finger on the string without pressing down a fret. This creates a soft, “muted” sound.

As always, when you come across a special symbol in a guitar tab, listen to a recording of the song as you practice the technique. If you have trouble with any of these techniques, a qualified guitar teacher can help you master them and incorporate new sounds into your repertoire.


Reading Bass Guitar Tabs

Bass Guitar Tabs

The bass guitar rarely uses chords, making it easier to pick up. However, there are musicians who have taken the bass from ordinary to extraordinary. Musical genres like funk, soul and progressive rock often give bassists solo lines.

The bass guitar has four strings. The tablature is similar to the guitar, and again the horizontal lines are the thinnest string on the top, with the thickest string on the bottom. The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up a bass is that the strings are much thicker than a guitar. Because of this, it may take a bit more strength to hold down a string on the bass.

In this case, the strings are (from highest to lowest) G, D, A, E. The frets are numbered the same, with 1 near the head of the instrument, and the fret numbers getting higher as you move toward the body. Zero will represent an open string.

Since bass is usually used alongside the drums as a rhythm instrument, timing and groove are of utmost importance. On the bass, having a great sense of rhythm is more critical than knowing flashy solo licks (although those are cool, too). Find some drum backing tracks to play along with, and take the time to get your rhythm right when you work with bass tabs. Putting one note in the right place is better than putting a dozen where they don’t belong!

Lessons on the bass guitar can be beneficial to learn some of the basic techniques. Some of the techniques you’ll learn about when you first pick up the bass are:

  • Playing with the fingers vs. a pick
  • Slapping and popping
  • Fretting techniques such as slides, hammer ons/pull offs, and vibrato
  • Finding the “pocket” — the perfect sense of timing
  • Reading and playing along with chord charts

Your bass teacher will walk you through techniques like these, so you can master them as efficiently as possible. Jamming with other musicians is also a great way to develop your bass skills.

Apps for reading guitar tabs

Best Apps for Learning How to Read Guitar Tabs

Before you start the hunt for the perfect tablature resources, you should know that not all tabs are created equal. Since anyone can upload a tab to the internet, there may be some wrong notes in the mix. Fortunately, many people also provide corrections and improvements on previous tabs. When you search for a popular song tab, chances are there will be several versions, so check out the reviews to determine which one is the best.

  • Ultimate Guitar TabsOften considered the number one app for guitar tabs, Ultimate Guitar Tabs stands out with its option to go pro.” The app is easy to navigate, and users have the ability to search for songs, plus, there is a large community of people who upload and correct songs. The app has other interesting features, like tempo control, audio track accompaniment, and scrolling playback.
  • GuitarTabGuitarTab allows you to search for videos, filter by guitar tablature style, query band and song info and have access to more than 500,000 guitar tabs and chords. It’s well-liked among users, and matches up well against the competition for a slightly lower price.
  • Guitar Pro – One unique part of Guitar Pro is having traditional notation along with the tabs. As a tab learning app, it is straightforward, with tabs played in real time as it moves across the screen.
  • Guitar Chords and Tabs – Easy to search and free, this is a popular Android app offers a large library of songs.
  • Songsterr – This app has a selection of 500,000 tabs, making it one of the top apps for tab-lovers. The tempo feature for Songsterr is among the best, and the appealing interface will is popular with users. Getting the monthly subscription is a worthwhile investment.

Resources for reading guitar tabs

Even More Resources to Learn How to Read Guitar Tabs

Beyond essential one-on-one instruction, where you can ask questions and get instant feedback, the internet provides access to numerous songs, tutorials, and skill-building applications.

Whether you’re looking for free guitar tabs or an app for your phone, there is something out there on the web that will fit the bill. The top sites are continuously changing, but some favorites for guitar tabs include Guitar Tab Universe, Songsterr, and Ultimate Guitar Tabs.

Ultimate Guitar is a good place to learn some of the terms and techniques for playing guitar tabs, and Education Reference Desk has a list of 100 sites for teaching yourself the guitar (both regular and bass). Check out this additional article for easy guitar tabs to play now.

Some of the attributes you’ll need to become the best guitarist you can be are patience, persistence, and a willingness to work hard every day. If you plan on learning how to read guitar tabs and play them, be ready to work hard and enjoy the process. Most of all, remember to have some fun!

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How to Play Acoustic Guitar

5 Easy Acoustic Guitar Chords & 20 Basic Songs for Beginners

How to Play Acoustic Guitar

One of the best things about the guitar is that you only need a handful of chords to unlock an impressive repertoire of songs. Open-string basic 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 easy acoustic guitar chords is a must.

It takes some practice to be able to memorize chord shapes and switch between them quickly enough to play a song. The good news is that once you have just 5 basic chords down, you can play along with dozens of your favorite tunes.

In this post, you’ll learn how to read guitar chord grids along with 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 songs that use these basic chords, so you can strum along!

How to Play 20 Guitar Songs with 5 Basic Chords

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 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. Even five minutes a day for a couple of weeks will make a huge difference!

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 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. Remember, the notation is just a means to an end, and just another way to learn something you’ll play on your guitar.

basic guitar chord gridWith 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.

5 Open-String, Easy Guitar Chords for Beginners

A, C, D, Em, G 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

guitar chord progressions

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 easy 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. 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 chords.

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)

5. Clementine 

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 these 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. Taking guitar lessons is a great way to ensure that you’re building your skills on a solid foundation. Now go have fun rocking out!

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Photo by BrianYuen
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11 Quick and Easy Tips for Reading Guitar Chord Charts

11 Quick and Easy Tips for Reading Guitar Chord Charts

While it’s true that you don’t need to read music to play the guitar, you should learn how to read guitar chord charts. A guitar chord chart is a visual representation of a chord.

This helpful visual is a little like music-by-numbers; it tells you which finger goes where and on what string, so in case you come across a chord you don’t know, you’ll be able to play it. Here’s an example of a guitar chord chart, also known as a guitar chord diagram:

Guitar Fingering Diagram E minor

Guitar chord charts are a cinch to read once you learn what all the lines, numbers, and circles mean. Are you ready to start learning how to play songs on the guitar? Here are 11 things you need to read guitar fingering charts.

11 Tips for Reading a Guitar Chord Chart


The grid of six vertical and five horizontal lines represents the guitar fretboard. If you’re having trouble understanding the basic layout of the image above, hold your guitar in front of you so that the strings are facing you and the headstock is pointing up.

The image of the guitar chord chart represents this same view of your guitar, with strings running vertically and frets horizontally.

Which End Is Up?

Guitar chord charts are more commonly situated vertically (like above) rather than horizontally, especially in songbooks. It’s good to learn to interpret both vertical and horizontal grids though.

Righty or Lefty?

Since guitar chord charts are typically written for right-handed guitarists, they provide a challenge to left-handed players, who have to do a bit of re-visualization by flipping the chart around. If a given source doesn’t provide a left-handed version, you can download left-handed guitar chord charts online.

Chord Name

The letter at the top of the chart is the name of the chord.

RELATED: 20 Easy Songs with Basic Guitar Chords

Vertical Lines

The vertical lines on a guitar fingering chart represent the six strings of the guitar. The low E string (the thickest one) is on the left of the diagram, followed by the A, D, G, B and high E string, which is on the right of the diagram.

The string names are sometimes noted at the bottom of the guitar chord chart.

Horizontal Lines

The horizontal lines on the chart represent the metal frets on the neck of the guitar. The top line will generally be bolded or marked by a double line, which indicates the guitar’s nut. Fret numbers are sometimes noted to the left of the sixth string.

Chords Beyond the 4th Fret

If the guitar fingering chart is depicting frets higher than the fourth fret, the top line on the chart will not be bolded (or doubled) and fret numbers will be shown, either to the left of the sixth string or to the right of the first string, to help orient you on the fretboard.

SEE ALSO: How to Read Guitar Tabs

Black Dots

The black (or red) dots on the diagram tell you which frets and strings to place your fingers on. The numbers inside the dots indicate which fingers to use on each of the frets. They correspond to the four fingers of the fretting hand.

Number 1 is the index finger, 2 is the middle finger, 3 is the ring finger, and 4 is your pinky. You don’t use the thumb to fret, except in certain unusual circumstances. In those cases there would be a “T” inside the black dot.

Fingerings can also sometimes be found written along the bottom of the strings of a chord chart, or between the nut mark and the chord name instead of inside the dots.

X’s and O’s

An “X” above the bolded nut mark indicates a string you don’t pick or strum. An “O” in the same location means to play the string open.

Alternate Fingerings

You may come across a suggested chord fingering that you simply cannot contort your fingers to play. In this case try experimenting with alternate fingerings. The most commonly used chord fingerings, however, will work for most guitarists.

How a Barre Chord Is Charted

As you probably already know, barre chords are chords that involve using one finger, usually your index finger, to hold down multiple strings in a single fret simultaneously.

A barre is noted on a guitar chord diagram by a curved or solid line running through a fret from the first note to the last note of the chord, or by a series of dots in the same fret that all bear the same number.

Ready to give it a shot? Check out this infographic from Guitar Domination to learn 32 essential chords. [Preview below]

Learn to Read an Acoustic Guitar Chord Diagram


About The Author is an online subscription service that has provided video guitar lessons for beginners and advanced players since 1998. The site has more than 11,000 video lessons and 600+ song tutorials. Learn more about the site with this Guitar Tricks Review.

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10 Easy Guitar Chords for Beginners

10 Easy Chords for Guitar Beginners

So you have a new guitar and you’re excited to learn some easy guitar chords for beginners. If you started by looking through a chord book or at chord diagrams online, you probably found yourself completely overwhelmed. There are hundreds of possible guitar chords!

Even if we simplify it down to just the major and minor chords, we still have 24 chords and some of these are difficult for a beginner to play.

Let’s make this much easier. Learn the following 10 easy guitar chords in a variety of keys and you can play almost any song.

All you need to know is how to read a guitar chord diagram. If you then learn how to use a capo, you will be able to play almost any song in any key! Let’s get started.

Easy Guitar Chords for Beginners: Key of C

Key of C Chord

These first four easy guitar chords will allow you to play most songs that are in the key of C. The C chord is the main chord in the key:C ChordNext, the F chord can be played in one of two ways. This is the hardest of all 10 chords on this list because it requires the use of a barre.

If you have trouble doing a full barre, you might find the first version listed below easier to play. Here are two forms of the F chord:Easy F Chord Partial BarreF Chord Full BarreThe G chord is typically played using the following form:G ChordLast but not least, the Am chord adds a little color to any chord progression:Am Chord

Once you’ve learned these four chords you can play most songs that are in the key of C, and with the use of a capo you can play many other songs. That wasn’t too hard, was it? Only four chords and you are already well on your way to playing most popular songs.

Here is a simple chord pattern in C that uses all four chords so you can get some practice in.

Key of C chord pattern example

SEE ALSO: A Roadmap of the Notes on a Guitar

Easy Guitar Chords for Beginners: Key of G

Key of G Chord

You have already learned the G and C chord so now you only need to learn two more chords to be able to play songs in the key of G.

As a bonus, you already know one other chord in the key of G – the Am chord. So learn these two chords and you will be able to play five chords in the key of G!

Here is how to play the D chord in the key of G:D ChordNext, the Em chord is one of the most easy guitar chords to play because it only uses two fingers.Em Chord

Here is a chord pattern in the key of G that uses all five chords. Make this a part of your practice sessions to get comfortable with the feel of these common chords.

Key of G chord pattern example

Easy Guitar Chords for Beginners: Key of D

Key of D Chord

Once more we only need to learn two more chords to play in the key of D. The first one is the A chord: A ChordNext up is the Bm7 chord. The Bm7 is easier to play then the Bm chord and it can be used just about anywhere you see a Bm chord.Bm7 Chord

Here is a chord pattern you can practice in the key of D that uses all five chords.

Key of D chord pattern example

SEE ALSO: The Big List of Easy Guitar Songs

Easy Guitar Chords for Beginners: Key of A

Key of A Chord

And finally, adding two more chords will allow you to play in the key of A. The first one is the E chord:E ChordThe F#m7 chord is easier to play than the F#m chord and it can be used almost anywhere you find the F#m chord in a song.F#m7 chord

Here is a chord pattern to get practice playing all across the fretboard in the key of A.

Key of A chord pattern example

Tips & Tricks for Playing These Chords

  • Play along with the video tutorial below, which combines a few of the chords you just learned!

  • Remember that any time you see a chord with a 7 or 9 after it, you can simply play the easier version. For instance, a G7 chord can be played as a G chord without any problems. So until you learn the extended version, just use the simple version.
  • Most minor chords can be played either with or without the 7. The extended version has a little more color but will usually work fine in the place of the regular chord. For example, if you see an Bm chord, you can usually play a Bm7 chord.
  • A suspended chord, written as a sus or sus4, can usually be replaced by the regular chord without the suspension, but only if everyone playing makes that change. Sometimes, the suspension is necessary to fit with the melody line, so the substitution is not always effective.

If you remember these simple rules you will find that all you need to play most music are these 10 guitar chords for beginners and a capo.

A Am Bm7 C D E Em F F#m7 G Guitar Chords for Beginners

Take it to the Next Level

For an extra challenge, learn the suspended chords for G, D, A, and E, and you will find that you can play almost every chord in songs from the key of C, G, D, and A.

Almost all of these guitar chords for beginners are simple chords that any new guitarist can learn!

What do you want to learn on the guitar next? Share your goals in the comments below.

JerryPost Author: Jerry W.
Jerry W. teaches classical guitar in Grosse Pointe, MI. He received his Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition from Cornerstone University and went on to receive his Masters and PhD in Music Composition from Michigan State. Jerry has been making music and teaching for over 30 years.

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One Thing Guitarists Must Know About Chords (But Most Probably Don’t)

One Thing Guitarists Must Know About Chords (But Most Probably Don't)

Chords are the foundation of all of those guitar riffs you love so much. Here, guitar teacher Kirk R. walks you through the basics of guitar chords and the importance of knowing how they’re constructed…

Guitar is an amazing instrument, not only because of all that it can do, but also because of how great it can sound when not doing much at all. One of the ways that guitar is most often heard is by strumming the standard chords that beginner guitarists learn.

However, I often interact with guitarists who don’t realize how many other possibilities exist on the instrument. Today, we’re going to look at just one small idea that you can use to stretch basic chords and better understand why we play the chord shapes that we do.

What Does It Mean When We See a Chord Symbol?

Let’s start with a very basic question: what is a chord? A chord is three or more different notes played together. That means that technically a power chord is not a chord at all, because there are only two different notes…but they sound good, so let’s keep using them!

Notice that there was no mention of strings, frets, or guitar in that definition? That’s because when we play a G chord on the guitar, we’re playing the same three notes as when a G chord is played on a piano, by an orchestra, or in production software. 

Let’s take a look at this three note chord idea. If you play a G chord on your guitar like this:

1 G Chord

You’re playing (from low to high) G-B-D-G-B-G. Yes, despite all that stretching and playing all six strings, you end up with just three notes! So when the bass in a band plays a B, the lead singer sings a G, and the tuba player plays a D, what chord do you hear?

That’s right, a G chord!

What does that mean for us guitarists? If I’m noodling my way up the neck and then quickly have to play a G chord, jumping all the way down to the 3rd fret might not be an option. However, if I can find some combination of G, B, and D near where I’m already at, I don’t need to. How about something like this:

2 G Chord

There are tons of options that open up when you realize that every time you see a G printed over the lyrics, you don’t have to do the same chord. Of course, the usual G shape wouldn’t get used so much if we didn’t like the sound, so if it’s convenient to get to and you like the sound, use it by all means!

How to Build Guitar Chords

Now that you know a little bit about how a chord works, let’s talk about how we build chords from scratch. This can get a little complicated, but stick with me – I’ll keep it simple to begin with.

The usual major and minor chords (if it’s just a letter without an “m,” it’s major) are built of just three notes like we’ve seen. Notice that in the G chord they’re also just two letters apart:


Luckily, this pattern works for all chords within a key. Let’s take a look at the key of C, so we don’t have to worry about sharps or flats. So what notes would we use to build a C chord? Let’s take a look:


So we now have our three notes, C, E and G for the C chord that we can play anywhere on the guitar. If we want to play an Am chord along with it, we can use the same pattern:

C D E F G A C 

…uh oh, we ran out of letters. Let’s just rearrange a little bit:

F G A C E 

So now we end up with A, C, and E to play anywhere we like.

Here are a few examples of different sounds you can get from the Am chord:

A Chords

What Difference Does It Make?

Hopefully you can now add a little extra flair to some songs in which the guitar part might have seemed a little boring at first glance. Perhaps you’ve run into this chord progression before:

C G Am G C

Here are a few ways that I might have improvised the chord voicings (depending on style and context) if I were to see a progression like this. Some are faster than others, but they’re all fairly simple if you know the basics of how to build chords on the guitar.

Below are a few options for C and G chords that you could use in this progression. Remember the point isn’t so much to memorize all the shapes, but to understand how these chords work so that you can find the notes of the chord anywhere that you need them.

C Chords


Now it’s your turn to take a few minutes, go back to a song that you thought sounded too boring, and add some pizzazz! Chords are so easy and versatile that you can transform any song.

If you have questions after reading this, or you’re not sure where to go next, click on the “Ask A Question” button on my profile!


Kirk RPost Author: Kirk R.
Kirk is a classical, bass, and acoustic guitar instructor in Denver, CO. He earned a bachelors of music in Guitar performance at The College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and he is currently pursuing a masters degree in performance.  Learn more about Kirk here!


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The F Chord: Guitar Chord Misconceptions and Beginner Tips

The F Chord on the Guitar

If you follow our blog, then you’ve already seen the best tips and tricks for learning guitar chords, but what about playing the infamous F chord on guitar? In this blog post, we’ll address common myths about the F chord and give you some helpful advice that will make playing it more easy.

Misconceptions About the F Chord

The six-string F chord is one of the hardest standard chord shape to play on the guitar. When many people try to play the F chord on guitar (and often succeed) it’s with far too much struggle and effort than is actually necessary. Even extremely influential guitarists can have a hard time with barre chords.

There are plenty of guitarists who can play the F chord without keeping the following points in mind, but for everyone else, here are a few misconceptions to watch out for as you practice F chords (and many other six-string barre chords).

F Chord question about barres

1. Barre chords are too hard. Can’t I just play a different F shape?

This is a good point, and to be honest, sometimes you shouldn’t bother with all six strings. Maybe three or four notes are plenty for the sound you’re looking for.

But there are other times that you really need a full six-string sound, or perhaps you need the low F to keep the bassline across the chords shaped the way you want.

In case you don’t want or need all six strings, below are a couple other options. Included are the six-string F shape, two Fs with fewer strings, and a common chord that is often played when guitarists don’t want to play the full F chord.

Beware, this last example is actually an Fmaj7 chord (notice the open E on the first string). 

F Chord 1 F Chord 2 F Chord 3 F Chord 4

F Chord question about finger position

2) Do I have to press down all six strings with one finger?

No. This is where many people struggle when first learning the F chord. If you look carefully at the chart above, you’ll notice that there are only three strings with dots on the first fret.

This means that you can hold down the low F (first fret, sixth string) with the tip of your index, and curve your finger slightly above the center strings and press the two highest strings with the base of your curved index finger. You only have to press down half the number of strings as most people think! It may take some time practicing but it will save you a lot of energy. 

Once this technique is mastered, it’s possible to actually cover all six strings gently (muting them all) and then while strumming, isolate specific strings to press down one at a time with the same finger position muting the rest. It sounds tricky, but it can definitely be done!

F Chord question

3) If I can’t make all the notes play, I should just squeeze the neck more, right?

Another big misconception among guitarists is that barre chords, like the F chord, require lots of pressure from the thumb pressing forward on the neck. This often works, but takes much more energy than players usually realize.

Because of this, after a few measures of a barre, beginning guitarists often complain of pain or cramping in the thumb or wrist.

The pressure you put on the back of the neck works against your fingers pressing on the strings. Because of our natural reflexes, our body tells our fingers to press extra hard, so the notes tend to ring but with lots of extra work on our part.

Resist this urge when practicing and playing the F chord. Many guitarists can play barres without their thumb touching the neck at all! 


Now that we’ve proved wrong some of the common myths about the F chord, have fun practicing it! Keep in mind that it will take a lot of time and effort to comfortably play the F chord without thinking about it too much. A good guitar teacher can show you every variation of the F chord, so if you have any problems with the normal F chord, you’ll be set up for success.

If you’re just starting out as a guitar player, check out the 5 basic guitar chords for beginners. Share about your previous experiences with the F chord and other barre chords in the comments below!

Kirk RPost Author: Kirk R.
Kirk is a classical, bass, and acoustic guitar instructor in Denver, CO. He earned a bachelors of music in Guitar Performance at The College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and he is currently pursuing a masters degree in performance.  Learn more about Kirk here!

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easy guitar songs fun to play

5 Easy Guitar Songs That are Fun to Play

easy guitar songs fun to playWho says easy guitar songs are boring? There are hundreds of simple songs that are easy to master, which is great news if you’re just beginning to learn how to play the guitar!

In this guide, we’ll share five easy guitar songs as well as how to play basic chords, and even more tips for learning new music.

5 Easy Guitar Songs

Each song consists of distinct parts such as the intro, the verse, and the chorus. The way these parts are arranged constitutes the song’s structure. Understanding song structure helps you learn new songs quicker because you anticipate the part that’s coming up next.

As you learn new songs, or even as you listen to music, pay attention to how the parts of a song are arranged. A typical pop song might look like this: intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus.

Here are five of our favorite YouTube videos of easy guitar songs for beginners. Make sure to tune your guitar before getting started!

1. “Stand By Me”

If you are looking for easy guitar songs to impress your sweetheart, this classic tune should work like a charm. Originally recorded in 1961 by Ben E. King, this classic ballad uses just 4 chords: G, Em, C, and D. In the video below, you’ll learn how to play the chord progression and R&B strum pattern for “Stand By Me.”

2. “Ho Hey”

Looking for something a little more contemporary? This 2012 hit by The Lumineers should be right up your alley. Below, guitar teacher Dustin B. teaches a slight variation on the C chord for the intro, then shows you the simple chord progressions for the verse and chorus.

3. “Close”

“Close” by Nick Jonas has become a new pop favorite, and it’s one of the songs any beginner can play with a capo. In this tutorial, beginning guitarists will learn the chord progression and strum pattern to this catchy beat.

4. “Royals”

This is one of our favorite easy guitar songs. Teen pop queen Lorde’s catchy songs have an effortless cool that have generated a lot of buzz. Her breakthrough hit “Royals”  is sure to be a favorite among beginning guitarists too, since it contains only three easy chords: D, C, and G.

5. “Same Old Love”

This tutorial makes a popular hit by Selena Gomez a breeze to play. You’ll be forming a few common chords in this song, as well as individual notes. Just be sure to have a capo before getting started, as you’ll need one to make this song even easier.

How to Play Easy Guitar Songs

To play any of these easy guitar songs, you must have a solid knowledge of some basic guitar chords. Chords are three or more guitar notes that when played together create a harmony. If you haven’t yet mastered reading sheet music for guitar, chord charts are an easier way to learn how to play chords.

easy guitar chord This chart shows you how to play an A chord. Each of the six vertical lines represents one of the six strings on your guitar. Each horizontal line represents a fret. On chord charts, the line furthest to the left always corresponds to your sixth (or low E) string. The line furthest to the right represents your first (or high E) string. From left to right, the string names are E-A-D-G-B-E.

Your left-hand fingers are numbers one through four, starting with your index finger. According to this chart, you should play the A chord by placing your middle finger on the second fret of the D string, your ring finger on the second fret of the G string, and your pinkie finger on the second fret of the B string.

You’ll notice there are also Xs and Os at the top of the chart. The X represents a string that is not played. So when you strum your A chord, start from the fifth string down. The strings with Os at the top of the chart are played open, which means you should still strum this string but you do not need to hold down a fret with your left hand.

Now that you know how to read a chord chart, here are a few more basic chords you’ll need to learn in order to start playing easy guitar songs:

guitar chords chart

When you’re playing a song, you will need to be able to transition smoothly from one chord to the next. If you would like to practice changing chords before getting started with songs, try playing each chord above for four counts and then transition smoothly to the next chord.

Once you’re comfortable with these basic chords, it’s time to start putting them together and playing some easy guitar songs!

More Tips for Learning Easy Guitar Songs

It’s always best to start slow. Use a metronome and practice playing each part of the song slowly and in time. As your playing improves, pick up the pace until you are playing at the same tempo as the song. If you like, you can even play along with a recording of the song to give you a better feel for the rhythm.

For beginners, it is often very helpful to practice each part of the song separately before putting the whole thing together. Start with the verse, and once you feel comfortable playing that chord progression, move on to the chorus. When you feel confident playing each part separately, it’s time to put the whole song together.

No matter what song you’d like to play, odds are someone has already posted a YouTube video or a chord chart online. One of our favorite sites for free chord charts and guitar tabs is Ultimate Guitar. All of their arrangements are user-submitted, however, so be warned that you might sometimes come across a transcription of a song that doesn’t sound quite right.

Always remember to keep a positive attitude and have fun with your guitar! Learning to play these easy guitar songs might take some time at first, but you will only get better the more you practice. For more help learning how to play the guitar, sign up for lessons with a private guitar teacher. Your guitar teacher will help you avoid poor technique and bad playing habits. Search for a guitar teacher now!

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 Photo thumbnail by Rebekka