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8 Chords You Must Know

In this lesson, I’m going to teach you eight chords you must know if you’re a guitar player. Even if you already know these chords, you can still stick around since I’ll be giving you some tips to make your chords sound clean and your transitions sound smooth. If you want to learn to use these chords to play popular songs, check out these guitar lessons for beginners.

It’s said that the great Chet Atkins once said ‘I never make a dime above five.” He was referring to the fifth fret and open chords. Being the virtuoso that he was, hearing those words come from him shows you how important these open chords are. Learning the chords in this lesson will be really important for your career as a guitarist.

The eight chords we’re going to look at in this lesson are G major, C major, D major, F major, E major, A major, E minor, and A minor. Now, you might be thinking that there’s no way you can remember these chords in one lesson, but don’t worry about that. You can space these out over a few weeks or a few months and take them on at your own pace.

G Major, C Major, D Major, F Major, E Major, A Major, E Minor, and A Minor Open Chords

Let’s start with the G major chord. First bring your hand up to the guitar and pretend you’re holding something shaped like an apple, which helps you with your posture when making chords. Put your thumb on the back of the guitar, and make sure to relax and release any extra tension you may have.

When you’re making the G major chord, you can use your first, second, and third fingers, or you can use your second, third, and fourth fingers. I encourage you to start with your second, third, and fourth fingers, and I’ll show you why in a bit. Try it, and if you find it’s too hard for you now, you can always switch.

Put your third finger on the third fret of the low E string, and be sure to come down on the very tip of your finger. Don’t let your fingers get lazy and accidentally brush against any other strings. You also want to make sure that your fingers are placed right behind the fret.

For the second note of the G major chord, place you’re second finger on the second fret of the A string. To finish the chord, place your fourth finger on the third fret of the high E string, and then strum all six strings. If this is feeling uncomfortable, you can make this shape with your first, second, and third fingers, but I really encourage you to use your second, third, and fourth fingers if you can.

Let’s move on now to the C major chord, and another tip I want to give you here is not to bend your wrist too far forward, because that can hurt after a while. The shape for this chord is great for letting you know if you’re coming down on the tips of your fingers.

Place your third finger on the third fret of the A string, your second finger on the second fret of the D string, and your first finger on the first fret of the B string. When you strum, leave the low E string out and just strum the top five strings.

As I strum that chord in the video, you can hear that it sounds good with clear notes and no buzzing. If I slightly adjust my fingers though, moving off the tips of my fingers, you can hear that all the notes in the chord disappeared because my fingers were accidentally muting them. The C major chord will always be a good way to check if you’re on the tips of your fingers enough.

Now the reason I wanted you to make your G chord with your second, third, and fourth fingers is because you’ll be switching between a G and a C chord a lot when you play. You can see in the video that making the change with my second, third, and fourth fingers is a pretty quick, close change. Using my first, second, and third fingers though makes it much harder to switch between the two.

The next chord we’ll look at it the D major, and another tip I have for you here is to cut your fingernails. If you keep your fingernails short, it’s much easier to come down on the tips of your fingers. A lot of new guitar players can have trouble memorizing chords, so after I teach you this chord, I’ll show you some easy ways to remember chords.

Put your first finger on the second fret of the G string, your third finger on the third fret of the B string, and your second finger on the second fret of the high E string. When you strum, leave the low E and A out, and just strum the top four strings.

In the video, you can see that my fingers aren’t coming perpendicular to the strings, but they are coming on a slight angle. That can help you get your fingers in the tiny space of the D chord shape.

When it comes to memorizing guitar chord shapes, there are two things you can do to help you memorize chord shapes faster. The first one is to look at the chord when you make it and memorize what it looks like. You’ll probably be looking at the chord shape diagrams on paper or on the computer, but looking at the chord shape as you make it is a great way to help remember it.

The second tip is to memorize how the chord shape feels. Look away from the chord shape and think about how the shape feels. If you try to memorize the chord shapes in a few different ways, you’ll have a better chance at remembering them.

Now let’s look at an F major chord. Some people are scared of the F major chord because many beginners learn it as a bar chord. The F major chord you’ll learn today is much easier because it is only a three-note chord. Place your third finger on the third fret of the D string, second finger on the second fret of the G string, and first finger on the first fret of the B string. When you strum, just hit those three strings.

Next I’ll show you an E major chord, and I’ll teach you some tips to make your chord transitions smooth. One of the biggest problems for newer guitar players is that they try to switch between chords before they know the individual chord shapes very well. I’ll show you the E major chord, and then show you tips for solidifying the chord in your head.

Place your second finger on the second fret of the A string, third finger on the second fret of the D string, and first finger on the first fret of the G string. Remember to come right down on the tips of your fingers and as close behind the frets as you can. For this chord, strum all six strings.

When people try to transition between chords before really knowing them well, it makes the challenge of changing chords smoothly a lot harder. Make sure you have a chord learned really well trying to transition between that chord and another one. To help solidify the chord in your mind, make the chord shape and leave it on the fretboard for at least thirty seconds. Shake your hand out, make the shape again for thirty seconds, and repeat this process several times. It may take a few days or a few weeks, but once you can get to that chord right away, then you know you can start working on transitions.

Let’s work on an A major chord next. Put your first finger on the second fret of the D string, your second finger on the second fret of the G string, and your third finger on the second fret of the B string. This chord might be challenging because you have to place your fingers in a small area on the second fret. When you strum this chord, leave the low E string out and strum just the top five strings.

You’ll notice that we’re breaking a rule here because our first and second fingers aren’t right behind the fret, but that can’t really be helped in this chord shape. To help you learn this chord, don’t forget to try making the shape for thirty seconds, shaking it out, and trying that a few times. Once you have this chord down solid, you can try switching between the A major and E major.

This brings us to our two minor chords, and they’re pretty easy. Start with the E minor chord by making the E major chord shape, and then simply take your index finger off. That’s all you have to do to make your E minor chord.

The last chord we’ll look at is an A minor, and this one is neat because it feels like an E major chord that’s just been moved over a string set. Place your second finger on the second fret of D string, third finger on the second fret of the G string, and first finger on the first fret of the B string. Strum the top five strings, leaving the low E string out. Now you can see how this chord shape looks just like the E major shape, but on different strings.

These are some of the most important chords you’ll learn as a guitarist. While bar chords and power chords are important too, it’s these open chords that are your moneymakers. As you work on each of these chords, remember to apply all the tips I gave you about making clean sounding chords and smooth transitions.