Guitar Basics – The 15 “Must-Know” Guitar Chords
The following beginner guitar chords are used in every style of music. These are essential if you want to learn the guitar basics and seriously want to learn to play the guitar. Most of them are easy to learn. A few of these guitar chords are a little more difficult. To learn the guitar it is best to pay close attention to which fingers to use and place your thumb at the back of the neck of the guitar. However before you try these basic guitar chords…
Is Your Guitar In Tune?
When you purchased your guitar, it should have left the store in tune. However, variances in humidity and temperature and simply moving your guitar to a new location can cause the tuners to move and put your guitar slightly out of tune.
If you have a piano or keyboard available, the strings are tuned to E (thinnest), B, G, D, A, E (thickest). Tuning is a learned skill. As you gain experience, your ears will become more sensitive to recognizing when you are in tune. The best and easiest solution is a guitar tuner.
A guitar tuner is a small battery operated device that “hears” each string of the guitar and then indicates whether the string is either sharp or flat. They can be purchased for about $20.00 – $30.00 and up.
For more information on tuning your guitar click on this link: Guitar Basics – Tuning Your Guitar
If you would like to download an online guitar tuner, this is the best one. Guitar Basics – The Best Online Guitar Tuner
Using A Guitar Tuner
Have the tuner as close to the guitar as possible if you are using an acoustic guitar (hollow body). Electric guitars can plug directly into the tuner. Play each string one at a time. Let it ring to allow the tuner to get a reading.
If your tuner’s indicator (either a needle or LED’s) reads that the string is flat, you’ll need to tighten the string. If it indicates sharp, loosen the string. When it is in tune the needle will be straight up and down or the LED’s will have the center lit.
Understanding The Chord Diagrams
Chord diagrams are displayed vertically. The thicker black horizontal rectangle along the top is the nut. The other horizontal lines below the nut represent the frets (usually only 3 or 4 frets are displayed). The 6 strings are the vertical lines with the thinnest (the 1st string) always on the right.
- Chord diagrams mark which finger to use by using a number. Number 1 indicates the index or pointing finger, number 2 is the middle finger, number 3 is the ring finger and number 4 is the baby or small finger.
- The thumb is not used to play any chords.
- An “x” above the string in a chord diagram means that you don’t play that string. It’s not part of the chord.
- An “o” above the string means that the string is strummed and is to ring with the other strings.
- The 1st string (the thinnest) is actually called the top string because it is the highest sounding string. The 6th string (the thickest) is called the bottom string because it has the lowest sound. This sounds a little confusing but just remember that the reference is strictly referring to how high the notes sound.
It’s very important to remember that the 1st string is the thinnest string. When you break a string (and you will), knowing this will ensure that you’ll get the correct replacement string from the music store.
The normal and best position for your thumb is as in the photo on the back of the guitar neck. Although it looks as if players are gripping the guitar, with your thumb in this position your fingers are are actually squeezing the notes.
Use the recommended finger patterns. The reasons will become apparent as you learn. Press the strings with your fingertips. There are a few exceptions such as the F chord. With the F chord you use the inside of your 1st finger to cover both the 1st and 2nd strings. You then use your fingertips to press the rest of the strings.
Strumming The Guitar
Hold the pick between your thumb and index finger as in the photo.
When strumming down strum all of the strings (except those marked with an “x”) When your rhythm has an up-strum, lightly play only the 1st or 1st and 2nd strings.
A common strumming pattern is:
The 15 “Must Know” Chords
Alternate Finger Positions
There are some alternate positions for your fingers that are considered perfectly acceptable. Use these positions if you if you having trouble getting your chords to sound clear.
Am is not modified.
B7 is not modified.
C7 is not modified
D, D7 and Dm are not modified
E, E7 and Em are not modified.
*** You will see people play the Em chord with their 1st and 2nd fingers instead of their 2nd and 3rd fingers (as above). Look at the E chord and notice that if you simply lift off your 1st finger, the chord will become Em. The position that uses the 2nd and 3rd fingers is the best way to play Em. This is why there is no alternate position is listed.
G7 is not modified