First guitar chords and simple sequences
Chords form the backbone of all music. As soon as you've mastered a few chord shapes you'll be well on the road to
music-making. The really great thing about chords is that once you've learnt them they'll last you a lifetime: you'll
still be using any chord you learn today 20 years from now.
There are two main types of chords that form the core of most popular music, major chords' and minor chords'.
1 The chord symbol that tells you when to play a major chord is simply the letter name of the chord written as a capital.
For example, the chord symbol for the G major chord is G' and the chord symbol for the D major chord is 'D'.
Major chords have a bright strong sound.
2. Minor chord symbols consist of the capital letter of the chord name followed by a lowercase 'm'. For example,
the chord symbol for the E minor chord is 'Em' and the chord symbol for the A minor chord Is 'Am'. Minor chords
have a mellow, sombre sound.
img - chords images
Chord Name Chord Symbol
G major G
D major D
E minor Em
A minor Am
Begin with E minor, as this involves only two fretted notes and uses plenty of open strings. Place your fingers on
the strings, pressing lightly yet securely with the fingertips, and then strum across all six string. Once you’re
familiar with this chord, move your two fretting fingers from E minor on to the adjacent higher strings, and add
the first finger on the first fret of the B string - this is A minor. Notice that the low E string should be
omitted when you strum A minor.
Next try some major chords. If G major seems like too much of a stretch between the second and third fingers, allow
your thumb to move down to the centre of the back of the guitar neck until the chord feels comfortable. Notice that
only the top four strings should be strummed when playing D major.
Guitar chord fingerings are written in diagrams known as 'fretboxes'. These indicate the strings and frets that are
used for the chord, and which fingers should be used for fretting the notes.
1. In this book, fretboxes are written with vertical lines representing the strings: the low E string is represented
by the line on the far left and the high E string by the line on the far right
2. The thick line at the top of the fretbox represents the nut of the guitar, and the remaining horizontal lines
represent the frets.
3. The recommended fret-hand fingering is shown in numbers: 1 = the index finger and 4 = the little finger.
4. An 0 above a string line means this string should be played open (unfretted).
5. An X above a string line means this string should not be played
Simple Chord Sequences
Many songs consist of a short chord sequence that is repeated throughout Once you have learnt a couple of basic chord
shapes you can start playing a chord sequence by changing from one chord to another. It's then only a short step before
you can play the chords to a complete song.
Begin by strumming downwards four times on an E minor chord, then without stopping change to A minor and play another
four strums, keeping the same tempo. Without stopping or hesitating, move your fingers back to E minor and continuing
strumming so that the whole sequence begins again.
Notice the similarity of the E minor and A minor chord shapes: the second and third fingers are used at the second fret
in both chords, the only difference being that they move from the A and D strings in E minor to the adjacent D and G
strings in A minor. Try to keep this in mind when you change between these chords, so that you can minimize the amount
of finger movement you make - this will make changing between the chords easier and quicker.
Begin by playing four downstrums on a G major chord then, without stopping, move your fingers to D major and play another
four strums. Repeat the sequence from the beginning by changing back to G major. Try to keep an even tempo throughout and
practise slowly until you are able to change between the chords without pausing or hesitating
Notice how the third finger stays at the third fret for both G and D major. Use this as a pivot point to lead the chord
change. Try to move all three fretting fingers as one shape when changing chord, rather than placing the fingers on one
at a time; this will make the chord changes smoother.
| | G | Em | Am | D | |
Once you feel fully familiar with the four chord shapes, try and combine them in this four-chord sequence, playing four downstrums for each chord.
1. Look for any links between the different chord fingerings so that you can minimize the amount of finger movement you need to make.
2. Remember to place the fingers for each complete chord shape on the fretboard together, rather than finger by finger.
3. Practise very slowly so that you don't develop a habit of slowing down or stopping between chord changes.