One of the best things about learning to play guitar is you can learn just a few chords and then be able to play hundreds of the best songs that were ever written. In this lesson, I’ll teach you four chords and ten songs you can play with those chords. For a more in-depth guide, check out these guitar lessons for beginners.
First, I’ll teach you the chords we’re going to use in this lesson. We’re going to use G major, C major, D major, and E minor. Starting with the G major, place your third finger on the third fret of the low E string, second finger on the second fret of the A string, and your fourth finger on the third fret of the high E string. For the G major chord, you can strum all six strings.
One thing to remember when you’re making chords is to come right down on the tips of your fingers and to place your fingers right behind the frets. This will help you get a clean sound without any buzzing.
The next chord I’ll show you is a C major. Place your third finger on the third fret of the A string, second finger on the second fret of the D string, and first finger on the first fret of the B string. For the C major chord, strum just the top five strings, leaving the low E out.
Be sure to use the tips of your fingers for this chord, or you’ll get a buzzy, unclear sound. In the video, you can see that if I am lazy with my fingers at all, the chord doesn’t sound very good.
I’ll show you the D major chord next. Place your first finger on the second fret of the G string, third finger on the third fret of the B string, and second finger on the second fret of the high E string. For the D major chord, leave the low E and A strings out, strumming just the top four strings.
The last chord I’ll teach you is an open E minor. Place your second finger on the second fret of the A string and your third finger on the second fret of the D string. For this chord, you can strum all six strings again.
The first song we’ll learn is “Let It Be” by the Beatles. We’ll keep the strumming simple so you can focus on learning the songs and making smooth chord changes in each song. As we learn the song, I’m going to show you in groups of two strums. For the verse, start by strumming G major twice, move to D major, E minor, and then go to C major. Continuing to strum twice for each chord, move back to G major, D major, C major, and then back to G major again.
For the entire verse, play through that progression twice. In the video, you can hear me play through “Let It Be” so you know what it sounds like.
The chorus of “Let It Be” starts with E minor, moves to D major, C major, and then G major. Stay on G major for another set of two strums, go to D major, C major, and then end on G major again. In the video, you can hear me play the chorus as well.
As you can see, you can get through this entire song using just the four chords you’ve learned today. There are some walk-downs in this song, but for today we’re keeping it simple for you.
Another song that uses these four chords is “If I Were a Boy” by Beyoncé. It starts with E minor, and continues with C major, G major, and D major. There’s an A minor played during the bridge, otherwise the rest of the song is just those four main chords.
Now, you may already know that not all of these songs are in the key of G major. “Let It Be” is actually in the key of C major, so to play it, you’ll need to use a capo. Put your capo on the fifth fret, and then you can play the same chord shapes but in the key of C. The capo is like a movable nut for the guitar, so when I put it on the fifth fret and play the G chord shape, it becomes a C chord. Now you can listen to me play “Let It Be” with the capo on, in the key it was written in.
This shows you how valuable these four chords are, and how important it is to know how to use a capo too. Now, I’ll go through the rest of the ten songs and play the choruses so you know what they sound like. On-screen, you’ll see the name of the artist, the title of the song, what key the song is in, what fret to put your capo on, and the main chord progression for the chorus. You’ll be able to play the chorus for these songs, and for some, you’ll be able to play the entire song with just these four chords.
Going through these ten songs, hopefully you can see how valuable these four chords are, along with using a capo. Note that the chords in the progressions listed on-screen were the names of the chord shapes you need to make, not the actual name of the chord once played with a capo.
Being able to play this many songs is great motivation because you can play real music, and it provides some great practice for you to work on your chord transitions too. Out of these ten songs, pick a few of your favorites, and go back to those songs. Pause the video and write down the chord progressions along with the placement of the capo. Put these songs into your practice time and work on getting your chord transitions smooth.