The Ultimate Guitar Chord Chart for Beginners
32 Essential Chord Shapes Every Guitarist Should Know
Dear guitarist, here is quite possibly the only guitar chord chart you will ever need. These beginner guitar chords are perfect for novices and more experienced guitarists looking to reach the intermediate level.
In this post, you will also learn how to read the diagrams, play the chords so they sound clean every time, discover powerful chord-changing tips, and learn three of my favourite chord progressions using these beginner chords. I’ll even split the list of chords up into “levels” showing you the exact order in which you should learn them. Keep reading to download your free chord chart featuring 32 key chord shapes that, in my experience, all guitarists should know!
Searching for a good guitar chord finder online can feel like hitting your head against a brick wall.
That’s because most people teach crazy chords that aren’t very relevant to those of you looking to play real songs. Chord books can be worse. In fact, if you’ve ever come across a chord book for the guitar with something crazy like 54,123 chords (or something like that) it can be infuriating! I mean, who’s gonna use all of those chords anyway? And don’t get me started on trying to play them!
So, today we’re keeping things simple…
This post is an extension of my 27 tips on how to play guitar post so do check out that first if you need to. All 32 chords in this post will last you a lifetime and they are all relevant whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced guitarist. The chord chart combined with the tips I’ll share will help you play an endless number of songs that will last you a lifetime, whether you’re an electric or acoustic guitarist. 🎶🎸
❓ “Do I Need to Learn These Chords All at Once?” ❓
Of course not!
Not all guitar chords are easy, and some can be tricky. So take your time and learn them in the “levels” I teach them.
The order the chords are laid out in is based on my experience of teaching 10,000+ hours of lessons to real students just like you – both in my teaching studio and around the world. 🌍
…But before we dive in, let’s make sure you’re happy with the fundamentals, and this brings me to the next question you may have…
❓ “How Do I Read Chord Charts?” ❓
Well, first up, here’s a quick guide to reading chord charts…
How to Read Beginner Guitar Chord Diagrams
Unlocking the Code: let’s unravel the secrets of reading chord charts once and for all so you can use this guide with clarity and confidence. Check out this image below:
🔤 Understanding the Guitar Chord Names 🔤
At the top of a chord chart, you’ll find the chord name. For instance, “C,” “G,” “Dm,” or “Am.” If it just says “C” that means a C Major chord. If it says “Am” that means the chord is an A minor chord.
🪕 String Representation 🪕
The horizontal lines in the chart represent the guitar strings, with the thickest string (the “low E string” also called the “6th string”) at the bottom and the thinnest string (the “high E string” or “1st string”) at the top.
🔢 Fret Numbers 🔢
The vertical lines on the chart indicate the frets of the guitar. Simply count down from the top to see which fret you are playing. In the above example, two notes are played on the 2nd fret and the other note is to be played on the 1st fret.
🔳 Fingering Indicators 🔳
The numbers inside circles or dots on the chart tell you which fingers to use for each fretted note. “1” refers to your index finger, “2” to your middle finger, “3” to your ring finger, and “4” to your pinky. If you see an “X” above a string, that means you don’t play that string at all.
See this photo of me playing the A minor chord.
Can you see how the illustrated chord chart shown previously and the photograph compare?
Now, one final question I get a lot…
❓ “I Play Left-Handed. How Do I Read These Chord Charts?” ❓
🤚🎸 Left-handed guitarists, fear not! Reading chord charts doesn’t have to be a mirror-image mystery. The key for lefties is to simply reverse what you see like so:
🔄 Flipping the Chart 🔄
If you’re left-handed, flip the chord chart horizontally to match your left-handed guitar setup. The thickest string should be on the top, and the thinnest on the bottom.
- Don’t fret about the frets! The fret numbers on the chord chart remain the same for left-handed players. I.e. fret 2 is still fret 2 for both right- and left-handed players.
- Left-Hand Finger Indicators – If a chord chart shows specific finger numbers (1, 2, 3, 4) inside circles or dots, apply them to your left hand accordingly.
That’s it. As a left-handed guitarist, you might face some unique challenges, but remember – Jimi Hendrix was a lefty too, and he did pretty well! 😎🎸
Now let’s go through the order in which I recommend you learn the fundamental chords on the guitar. This is the order of chords I teach my private students on a daily basis.
I use the following chord chart as part of the big picture of learning guitar and it’s something I use as part of my checklist to ensure my students are progressing smoothly. You can use this chord chart the same way too.
That being said, let’s get right into the chord chart…
The Simple List of Beginner Guitar Chords and How to Use This Guitar Chord Chart…
Start by mastering the level 1 chords shown below. Practise them until you feel confident, and then move on to learn the level 2 chords.
After you’ve learnt all the chords in the 10 levels, you’ll find valuable advice on playing them all smoothly, changing chords quickly, and creating some wonderful chord progressions.
Keep in mind that there are no genuinely easy guitar chords for beginners; they all require time and practice. Building up your brain and fingers’ muscle memory is essential. 💭💪
Remember, learning lots of chords is not the only focus. Chords are just one part of the bigger picture of guitar playing, and this includes things such as strumming, fingerpicking, rhythm, learning real songs, and developing great technique (among other things).
So, take your time, practise diligently, and soon you’ll unlock the beauty of playing the guitar! 🤗🎶🎸
Level 1 – G D C – The Basic Guitar Chords for Beginners
These level 1 chords are the first three chords I like to get students to learn. They are not easy (no chords are super easy for beginners) but these three chords will set you up for a lifetime of guitar playing fun.
- Armed with these three chords and a capo (more on this later) you will be able to play countless songs. 🎵🎸 Be very patient with these and read the rest of this article for some very simple and powerful tips on playing them with perfection every time. 📚🎉
- How to check your chords are clear – When checking the clarity of each chord, it is best to pick each string in the chord rather than strum. That’s because picking will highlight any “dead” notes in the chord.
- I call this version of the G Major chord, the “folk” version simply because it sounds folkier – you can do what I call the “Cat Stevens trick” and play this chord with your middle, ring, and pinkie. That can make changing to the C chord from the G easier for some. It’s not easy, but that little trick can help you if you’re a more experienced guitarist.
- G chord guitar – find out more about G chords with super fun post here.
Key Takeaway – Take your time with these three chords and master them one at a time if you’re a beginner. Try to play each chord five times in a row with perfect clarity.
Level 2 – Em, Am, G
These next two chords can be technically a little easier to play than the Level 1 chords BUT they don’t get as much use in real songs. That’s why they are level 2 chords.
- Begin with the E minor chord. If you struggle with chords, you might want to begin with the easiest chord of the lot, which is the Em chord.
- The Am and this “rock” version of G are a little trickier but both are very useful and both are used in plenty of songs (just not as many as the level 1 chords).
- The level 1 and 2 chords should be the first five you spend time learning. These chords work together in the key of G Major (which is a super popular key on the guitar). I’ll explain more about the theory later, but note that these five chords are not just random chords. They all fit perfectly, like a hand in a glove.
- A good chord-changing habit – when placing your fingers on each chord, try to get in the habit of landing the fingers at the same time. If you get into the bad habit of placing one finger on at a time now, it will trip you up when it comes to your chord changes at a later date (read on for more about chord changes).
Key Takeaway – Choose the easiest chord so far. Perfect it by ensuring every note is clear and try to land your fingers on the chord at the same time. Then, “rinse and repeat” for each of the five chords so far.
Level 3 – The A Major and E Major (More Easy Guitar Chords for Beginners)
The A Major and E Major chords are great chords to learn. They are not used with the level 1 or 2 chords that often, apart from the D Major chord, but they are still super useful chords and you will find plenty of songs use these.
- Jam the E, A, and D chords all together. There are loads of classic songs by the likes of Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and many more 50s and 60s classics that use just these three chords. Here’s a classic by The Troggs and it’s one you may recognise called “Wild Thing”.
- Don’t spend all your time learning these chords – instead, go get learning guitar riffs. Riffs/melodies are lots of fun to learn alongside chords. With your guitar playing, you want to be like a decathlete and have a rounded skill set. Just playing chords is like sprinting to 100m – don’t forget about all your other skills!
Key Takeaway: Take your time with these chords. Remember to jam the A, E, and D chords together and get learning some real riffs, melodies, and songs.
Level 4 – Bm, Dm, F
Now then, we are getting to some chords that are also super useful… BUT these are ones you should avoid like a bass player avoids showers (I’m kidding bass players) until you get the level 1,2, and 3 chords clear.
- The D minor is an awkward little one but sounds powerful. Listen to ‘Drive’ by R.E.M. to hear great use of this chord.
- The Bm guitar chord on the guitar is super useful
- The F chord on the guitar can be tricky, but it is essential.
Key Takeaway: Remember, it’s far better to learn a handful of chords and play them smoothly than it is to learn dozens and not be able to play them very well! That’s the equivalent of owning a Ferrari but not being able to get out of first gear!
Level 5 – Fmaj7 and Fadd9
These two variations of F Major are really fun to play. I put them as level 5 chords because combining them with the F chord will give you a mouth-watering taste of the art of embellishing chords.
- To embellish a chord such as F... simply play the normal version (as seen in level 4) and then as you’re strumming or picking the chord, add or remove your fingers so that you play the Fmaj7 or Fadd 9.
- Do this during each bar or at the end of each bar and you will add a bit of a chord melody to a piece. Start slowly with this idea and then build up from there. Give it a go.
Go here for more about guitar strum patterns
Key Takeaway – Enjoy playing around with these super slick sounding chords and enjoy the world of embellishments!
Level 6 – The Dominant 7th Chords (D7, E7, A7)
Now we are looking at the soulful and lush-sounding dominant 7th chords.
- Dominant 7th chords can sound a little old-fashioned or tense for some people – but when used well, they will spice up any song. Blues players tend to use these style chords a lot, and so do old-school songwriters such as Paul McCarney, Paul Simon and many others (note: not all are called Paul) but even modern bands such as Foo Fighters and Oasis like to use these too.
- These chords work really well when used as the fifth chord in a key. I won’t bog you down with theory but when in the key of G (which we will talk about later), the D7 chord often replaces the D Major chord – this can add some lovely tension to a piece which resolves nicely when you go back to the G Major chord.
Key Takeaway: Although dominant 7th chords can sound a little unusual to some people, when used in the right context, they sound wonderful. They’re often used in music, including in classical music and blues as well as in rock and pop.
Level 7 – Esus4, Asus2, Asus4, Dsus2, Asus4
Suspended chords (or “sus” for short) sound wonderful. They can add some real drama to any piece of music and there are loads of great songs that use these types of chords.
Many of these songs are built around the sus chord and the interplay between it and the Major or minor chord. One example is “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen. Check out this video to hear how if you were to play the normal Major chord instead of the sus version, it would no longer sound like the song.
Key Takeaway: Theory alert – a ‘sus’ chord is neither Major nor minor and that can give it a more ambiguous but very cool sound.
Level 8 – More Dominant Chords (G7, C7, B7)
Here are some more dominant 7th chords. This time we have three trickier ones. Be patient with these!
- Many a classic song uses these chords. This ranges from Mozart’s Piano Sonata in C to Roy Orbison’s “Oh Pretty, Woman” and many more!
- The theory of dominant 7th chords is interesting! If you like a little bit of music theory, this Wikipedia article might interest you.
- Try playing the G7, C7, and D7 and you will get a bluesy jam on the go. Of course, it’s not just the chords you play, but it’s what you do with them that counts.
Key Takeaway: The 7th chord will open up more options in your playing that are not possible without them!
Level 9 – The Major 7th Chords (Cmaj7, Gmaj7, Amaj7, Emaj7, Dmaj7)
Now we have some lovely sounding Major 7 chords.
- Major 7th chords can add a slightly jazzy sound to a piece which I really love. Instead of playing a C Major chord, you can sometimes play a C Major 7 chord…
- …Or you can switch between the Major and Major 7th during a bar. Play the C Major for part of a bar and then remove your index finger to play the C Major 7. Listen to songs such as “Dust in the Wind” to hear this in action.
…But to hear more Major 7th chords and watch me teach a stunning tune, check out this video tutorial for Amy Winehouse’s“Love Is a Losing Game”
Key Takeaway: Major 7ths are lush!
Level 10 – The Minor 7ths (Amin7, Emin7, Dmin7)
Finally, we have the soulful ‘minor 7’ chords.
- Just like the Major 7th chords, these can add a new texture to a chord. Instead of an ordinary A minor chord, you can swap it out and play the A minor 7 instead for a slightly more subtle/sophisticated sound.
- To hear frequent use of the minor 7th chord check out these artists… Sting, Doobie Brothers, Paul Weller, B.B. King, and Roberta Flack’s classic “Killing Me Softly” to hear these in action.
Key Takeaway: Although you won’t use them all the time, minor 7ths can add some subtle sophistication to any minor chord. Simply play an Am7 instead of an Am for a soulful sound!
Why This Exact Order for All Guitar Chords in This Chart?
When creating this list of chords for beginner guitarists, I used two criteria to determine the order (in general) in which a new student should learn them.
The criteria are:
- Real World Use – This is the main criteria I used. Some chords are incredibly easy to play and use just 1 finger… But often those super simple chords can sound pretty awful and are never used in songs. I’ve left those types of chords out completely. This list of chords features popular chords that are used in the real world on a day-to-day basis and are chords you really must know, especially as you develop your playing.
- Ease of playability – In general, the chords start off easy and get harder as we go along. There are obvious exceptions, however, the exceptions relate to real-world use as described above. For example, a Dsus2 chord is easier to play than a D chord but is less commonly used; therefore, it is further down the list. In general, though, the chords do get harder to play as we go through the list.
These are not the only chords you should ever learn – far from it. Once you’ve learnt these chords, you may want to learn how to play barre chords
How to Play Guitar Chords Cleanly and Accurately… Every Time
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned strummer seeking perfection, one thing’s for certain – crystal-clear guitar chords can make your music ‘shine like a diamond’ (to quote Rihanna). Buzzing chords can kill your musicality faster than a rip-roaring Santana guitar solo.
So, if your chords don’t sound clear, let’s fix that right now.
The ‘chord playing times are a-changing’ (now I’m paraphrasing Bob Dylan. Stop me!) and here are some little secrets on playing guitar chords with clarity and precision:
🎸🎶 Finger Placement: The Key to Clarity ✋🎵
Achieving clear chords begins with proper finger placement on the fretboard. Make sure each finger presses down the string right behind the fret without touching neighbouring strings. Keep those fingertips arched and relaxed to avoid unwanted muffled sounds.
📏 “Under Pressure” 📏
Here’s the golden rule – you don’t need Hulk-like strength to play clear chords! Apply just enough pressure to create a clean sound without straining your fingers. Remember, it’s about finesse, not force.
📐 Posture Up With the Classical Position 🌟🎶
To help with the above tip, try sitting in the classical position. In this position, the angle of the neck is in a more upright way. This allows your fretting hand to get under the neck of the guitar so they can get on their fingertips with more ease. I get all my students to sit in what I call the Classical With A Strap position. Some find sitting like this can be a little tricky at first, but nearly all my students eventually prefer it, with a little practice.
🎸🤘 “The Elbow/Shoulder Axis”🌟🎶
Want to know a little secret to playing chords I’ve never heard anyone else talk about? It’s this… You MUST relax your fretting hand’s shoulder and elbow. Most guitarists keep the shoulder and elbow in a bad position. If they’re tense, you can’t move them. Relax the shoulder and let the elbow “swing” as you play. This means you’ll be able to get more on your fingertips and stop straining to play your chords cleanly and without buzzing!
🎛️ Amp Up the Action 🎛️
If your guitar has adjustable string action, find the sweet spot that suits your playing style. Higher action can reduce string buzz, while lower action might be more comfortable for faster chord transitions. Experiment and find the balance that works best for you.
🔧 Tune Up, Buttercup! 🔧
Let’s not forget the obvious… Ensure your guitar is in tune. A well-tuned guitar won’t necessarily make you play the chords better, but it will make the chords sound better. Invest in a reliable tuner or use a guitar tuning app to get those strings perfectly pitched. Trust me, your ears will thank you!
…And here’s another powerful tip for making your chords in this chart easier to play:
Discover How the Magic of Capos Can Make Your Chords Easier to Play!
In case you don’t know, a guitar capo is a small device placed on the guitar’s neck that allows you to change the pitch without altering your chord shapes. This means you can play familiar chords in new keys with ease…BUT a rarely talked about benefit of capos is that they can also help make playing chords easier.
- If you struggle with a chord, place a capo on fret 5 and perfect it there.
- This can make playing chords easier because the frets are closer together the higher you move up the fretboard.
- When you get good at playing a chord with the capo on fret 5, move the capo down one fret at a time (e.g. to fret 4, then fret 3, etc.) to gradually make the chord harder to play.
This is one of my secrets for helping students improve their chords faster and here’s…
What to Do If You Still Struggle to Play Chords Cleanly?
If you still struggle to play the chords cleanly and they buzz, try this… It’s what I call “Fake Ukulele Chords”.
🎵 “Fake Ukulele Chords” 🎵
As you may know, the ukulele only has four strings. That makes chords on the ukulele much easier to play. We can use this concept on the guitar too.
Instead of playing a big tough six-string G Major chord, you can play a four-string version (much like ukulele players have to do).
…And instead of playing a challenging five-string C Major chord, you can play a simpler four-string version.
Try it. Anytime a chord is challenging and your fingers struggle to stretch to play them, strip the chord back to its four-string version. Of course, the D Major chord is already a four-string chord – we can’t simply do that (darn it!), but at least this idea can work for most other chords out there!
Practise, Practise, Practise – Last but not least, the golden key to clarity is consistent practice using the above advice. As you build muscle memory and refine your technique, your chords will ring out with clarity.
As we develop further through this article, we will talk more about fingerpicking patterns, strumming patterns, some wonderful chord progression, and much more, so you can get the best out of these chords.
…But it’s not just about playing chords cleanly, it’s all about learning how to change chords quickly too…
Because if you can play dozens of chords but struggle to change between them…
…Then your chords will be as useful as a chocolate teapot!
4 Powerful Tips for Changing Chords Faster!
To level up your chord changes, I’ve got a powerful “4-Step Method” for you. These are based on good technique, heaps of repetition, the blast method, and a trusty metronome (aka the click). These four steps work wonders for smooth chord transitions.
🎸🎶 Land Your Fingers Together! 🌟🤚
Here’s a nifty tip: when you switch between chords, aim to land all your fingers at the same time. Developing this habit will save you from future frustrations.
If you form the bad habit of placing one finger on at a time now, it’ll come back to haunt you during chord changes later on (trust me, it happens sooner than you think, especially when playing a song). So, make it a priority to land those fingers at the same time when practising any chord. It’s not easy, but this will set you up for smoother transitions down the musical road!
💥The “Blast” Method 💥
Changing chords like a pro takes practice – approximately 5000 times of going back and forth between two chords. That might sound like a lot, but be patient! Take your time and switch between the chords repeatedly without rushing.
Count your repetitions per minute and challenge yourself daily. In a few months or less, you’ll reach that magic 5000! Remember to maintain solid fretting hand technique.
🎵🕺Practise With a Metronome 🎵🕺
When you’ve mastered slow chord changes, the metronome becomes your speed booster! Set it between 40 to 60 bpm or any comfortable tempo for you.
Start with two chords – let’s say C Major and G Major (or E minor and A minor for a more gentle start). Strum each chord and switch every four clicks. Gradually increase the tempo, pushing yourself a bit more each time.
Once you’ve conquered that, slow it back down and challenge yourself further! Strum and change every two beats, then every one beat!
⛔ Avoid “Double Movements” ⛔
Steer clear of what I call “double movements” when changing chords. Each finger should move steadily, precisely, and simultaneously to its desired position. No hesitations or unnecessary extra moves! 🚀
Practise this slowly and repeatedly, letting your muscles remember the way. Relax and focus, and soon, you’ll nail those swift chord changes!
With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to faster, smoother chord changes. Keep practising, stay focused, and remember – every strum brings you closer to becoming a true chord ninja! 🎸🌟🎶
What to do with these chords?
Right, so now that we have talked about the chords, the 10 levels of learning them, and I’ve shared some important tips on playing them…
In this section, you will learn how to strum the chords, fingerpick them, some powerful chord progressions, and more incredibly useful pointers (if I may say so myself!).
Three Exciting Guitar Chord Progressions Using This Chart
Let’s take a quick look at the fascinating world of chord progressions.
A chord progression is simply a sequence of chords arranged in a specific way.
The beauty of a good chord progression is the diversity of emotions it can evoke. From the warm embrace of a soulful ballad to the raw power of a rock anthem, each progression carries its unique vibe and tale. Ah, behold the mighty chord progressions, the backbone of any unforgettable tune…
The order of these chords depends on precisely what emotions the songwriter is trying to create in the song. For instance, let me ask these questions:
- Did Paul McCartney want a soulful sound when he wrote “Let It Be”?
- Did Buddy Holly want an upbeat, energetic flavour for his hit song, “Peggy Sue”?
- Did Frank Sintra want a jazzy, sweet, and loving sound for this classic song, “The Way You Look Tonight”?
Of course, the answer to all of the above is “YES”.
…And guess what?
Chord progressions are the cornerstone of these songs and are what creates the feel for the song itself.
Let’s look at three common chord progressions right now with examples of how you can use the chart to create the above distinctive sounds. These chord progressions are all based on the Nashville method of naming chords which derives from using Roman numerals. Don’t worry too much about this right now (we will talk more about the theory in a little while).
For now, let’s venture into the land of musical enchantment by exploring some classic progressions that have graced legendary tunes throughout the ages:
🎵 The Heartfelt “I – V – vi – IV” Pop Sensation:
When it comes to crafting those heartstring-tugging ballads and catchy pop anthems, the “I – V – vi – IV” progression reigns supreme! Feel the emotions flow as you strum or fingerpick this progression – a winning combination that’s fuelled countless chart-toppers. From tear-jerkers to dancefloor fillers, this one’s a good banker of a chord progression you can use anytime.
Check out this wonderful video by ‘Axis Of Awesome’ to see plenty of songs with the same chord progression.
Songs that use this chord progression include hits such as “Someone Like You” (Adele), “No Woman No Cry” (Bob Marley), “With Or Without You” (U2), “I’m Yours” (Jason Mraz), “Wherever You Will Go” (The Calling), and of course, “Let It Be” (The Beatles).
Examples from our guitar chord chart:
- C – G – Am – F
- G – D – Em – C
For more on what to actually play with this chord progression, read on for the later section on strumming and fingerpicking. For now, get playing around with this chord progression.
As touched on earlier, the 5th chord in these keys can be swapped from a Major to a dominant 5th. This means in the key of G Major, you can play the G-D7-Em-C chord progression and in C Major, this would be C- G7-Am-F.
🎵 The Evergreen “I – IV – V” Chord Progression:
Ah, the timeless charm of the “I – IV – V” – this is one of my favourite folk chord progressions that is also the heart and soul of many blues and rock ‘n’ roll classics! Picture yourself strumming those open chords like “A,” “D,” and “E,” and you’ll find yourself jamming like a seasoned pop, rock, or blues virtuoso.
This progression boasts an irresistible rhythmic groove that’ll get your audience swaying like there’s no tomorrow!
Songs that use this chord progression include hits such as “Twist and Shout” (The Beatles), “Johnny B. Goode” (Chuck Berry), “Louie Louie” (The Kingsmen), and hundreds more!
Examples from our chord chart:
- G – C – D
- A – D – E
Feel free to experiment with the order of the chords in this progression. There are only three chords but you can do a lot with them! Many great hits use one of these chord progressions, but throughout the song, they often change up the order of chords. (E.g. G – G – C – D – might be followed up with C – G -D – C for a specific part of the song.)
🎵 The Enigmatic “ii – V – I” Jazz Chord Progression:
Step into the jazzy wonderland of the “ii – V – I” progression – a playground for sophisticated chords and smooth transitions. Jazz cats everywhere swear by this sequence. This chord progression features chords like “Dm7,” “G7,” and “Cmaj7.”
It’s like sipping on musical honey, and once you master it, you’ll be dishing out mesmerising jazz standards like a cool cat.
For this chord progression, you do NOT play the standard Major or minor chords but you play the 7th chord versions instead, as you will see below. The “ii” is a minor 7th chord, the “V” is a dominant 7th chord, and the “I” is a Major 7th chord.
Songs that use this chord progression include the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves” and songs such as “So What” (Miles Davis), “There Will Never Be Another You” (Harry Warren and Mack Gordon), “Just the Way You Are” (Billy Joel), and strangely, even the super poppy tune “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor!
Examples from our chart:
- Am7 – D7 – Gmaj7
- Dm7 – G7 – Cmaj7
…And there you have it, my fellow chord adventurers – just a taste of the vast universe of chord progressions waiting to be explored! So, whether you’re a budding musician or a seasoned shredder, remember this: with chord progressions, you hold the power to create musical magic like no other.
How to Create Chord Progressions for Yourself…
There are no rules when it comes to creating your own chord progressions.
A good place to start is by taking the chord progression from above and trying to swap a chord.
For example, you could take the I-V-vi-IV.
- In the key of G Major, this would be G-D-Em-C.
- Why not try swapping the C for an Fmaj7 or swapping the D for an Am?
- Start by swapping one at a time and listen closely to which version you like the sound of. Many a classic song has been written this way. Experiment, play around, and let your creativity soar like an eagle soaring in the wind.
You can just take any random 4 shapes from the chord chart and see what you come up with…
E.g. D Major 7, E Major, Dsus4, Esus4
I created that chord progression by googling an online random number generator and getting four numbers from 1 to 32. The numbers were 29, 8, 21, and 17, and the above chords are the ones ordered by those numbers.
Try this method if you like – I guarantee you’ll likely end up with a very unique chord progression of your own (it is pot luck what you’ll end up with so don’t blame me if it sounds bad).
You might create a truly unique chord progression that has never been used before, especially if you create a chord progression that is 8 or more bars long!
Remember, a good chord progression has a way of tugging at your heartstrings and making your soul sing. It’s like crafting a story with musical notes, starting from the opening verse, building up the excitement in the chorus, and finally landing on a satisfying resolution in the sweet embrace of the bridge.
Now, it’s time to look at playing some strumming and fingerpicking with these progressions and the chord chart itself.
Strumming Joy: Mastering a Simple Strumming Pattern!
Ready to add some rhythm and groove to your guitar playing? Let’s dive into a simple yet powerful strumming pattern that will get you tapping your foot and swaying to the music in no time!
🎵 The Magic of “Down, Down, Up, Up, Down, Up” 🎵
Our go-to strumming pattern is as easy as it gets: “Down, Down, Up, Up, Down, Up”
This is a classic strumming pattern I call the ‘Ultimate’ Strumming pattern, but it goes by many names. Once you get good at playing this rhythm, try tapping your foot to the beat to keep a solid groove and stop yourself from speeding up or slowing down.
🪶 Strumming Feather-Light 🪶
Strumming with a light touch will bring out the clarity in your chords. Avoid heavy-handed strumming, as it can lead to excessive vibrations and interfere with the clean sound you’re aiming for. Think of your pick as a feather caressing the strings.
🎶🎸Apply This Strumming Pattern to a Chord Progression 🎶🎸
Let’s take the I-V-vi-IV chord progression and practise this strumming pattern with these chords. We are doing this in the key of G. Give this a go…
💡 Spice It Up 💡
Once you’ve mastered the basics, experiment with variations. Add pauses, accent certain strums, or change the order of the strums to create your unique flair. The possibilities are endless, and that’s the beauty of playing the guitar! For more on this, you may want to check out my book, The Ultimate Guide to Strumming.
Next up, let’s look at fingerpicking the chords…
Discover the Magic of Fingerpicking Patterns!
Fingerpicking is a timeless technique that weaves intricate melodies and captivating rhythms on the guitar. It’s like having a symphony at your fingertips! Whether you’re strumming chords or fingerpicking, each technique opens a world of musical possibilities. But let’s dive deeper into the enchanting world of fingerpicking patterns.
👉 The Classic “Outwards” Pattern
As a perfect starting point, embrace the timeless “Outwards” pattern which uses the Thumb, Index, Middle, and Ring fingers. With this method, each finger plays a specific string, creating a harmonious dance of notes.
- Start with a G Major (choose either the “folk” or “rock” version)
- Begin with your thumb – plucking the low E string. Aim for a deep and resonant pluck.
- Next, let your index finger pick the G string, infusing the melody with a bright and crisp sound.
- The middle finger then takes charge of the B string, adding a touch of sweetness to the melody.
- Lastly, the ring finger picks the high E string, delivering a sparkling touch to the musical tapestry.
Count out loud to keep yourself in time. Gradually speed up as you feel more comfortable, and soon, this fingerpicking pattern will become second nature.
🎶🎸Apply This Fingerpicking Pattern to a Chord Progression 🎶🎸
Let’s take the ii-V-I chord progression and practise this strumming pattern with these chords. We are doing this in the key of C. Give this a go…
- Am7 – D7 – Gmaj7
Notice how in bars 3 and 4 where we switch between the G major 7 and the G Major?
This creates a little bit of melody in the chord progression. Feel free to keep it simple though and just fret the G Major 7 or even a G chord. Check out this post to learn a variety of beautiful fingerpicking songs.
Experiment with different flavours from the ten levels of chords and try creating your own fingerpicking patterns, combine them with chord progressions, or for a shameless plug, check out my Fingerstyle 101 which covers everything you need to know about fingerpicking for beginners and early intermediate guitarists.
💡 Unleashing Your Creativity Through Strumming and Fingerpicking 💡
Once you’ve mastered these two classic strumming and fingerpicking patterns, let your creativity take flight!
Explore various styles like folk, blues, or classical, and see how strumming and fingerpicking patterns bring new life to your favourite songs. From intricate melodies to gentle arpeggios, the possibilities are endless.
As with any new skill, practice is key!
Take it slow at first, focusing on getting the rhythm right. Remember, strumming and fingerpicking are not just techniques – they’re a journey of self-expression through music. 🚀🎵 Whether you’re playing for yourself or an audience, let your emotions guide your fingers and tell your story.
Guitar Keys for Beginners
Now then, let’s unlock the secrets of “guitar keys”. This little bit of theory is like the glue that holds everything you have learnt so far together. Let’s shed some light on this fundamental aspect of playing the guitar and setting you on the path to becoming a confident musician. 🎸🌈
🗝️ What are “Guitar Keys” anyway? 🗝️
Think of guitar keys as the secret code that determines which chords and notes sound harmonious together in a song. Each key has its unique set of chords and a corresponding scale, and understanding keys is essential for playing songs and improvising on the guitar.
🎹 The Key Ingredients: Major and Minor Scales 🎹
At the heart of each guitar key lies a pair of scales: the major scale and its close companion, the minor scale. The major scale has a bright and cheerful sound, while the minor scale brings a touch of melancholy and emotion to your melodies.
Pentatonic scale guitar – this is another type of scale that is like a stripped back version of the Major or minor scale.
🎵 The Major Key Magic 🎵
In the world of major keys, the most common ones for beginners are C major and G major.
Here are the chords for each of these keys.
- C Major – C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am
- G Major – G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em
* Note – There’s an extra chord in each key called a diminished chord. These can sound as ugly as Cinderella’s sisters and take some skill to make work in a musical context, so we won’t be talking about them here.
* Remember, as mentioned earlier, in the key of C you might want to swap the G for a G7 and in the key of G you might want to swap the D for a D7. If you prefer the sound of the normal Major chord though, that’s ok too. The choice really is yours!
🌟 The Minor Key Marvel 🌟
For the realm of minor keys, the beginner-friendly ones include A minor and E minor.
These are essentially the same as the key of C and G Major, but in these keys, the focus is more on the minor chords. If you play more minor chords, you will tend to call these keys by the minor name and not the Major name.
- A minor – Am, C, Dm, Em, F, G (uses the same chords as the key of C Major)
- E minor – Em, G, Am, Bm, C, D (uses the same chords as the key of G Major)
Key Takeaway – When it comes to studying keys in music, start simple. Choose one key and learn it fully. The C Major or G Major is a great key to begin with. Study the songs you know how to play and see which of these songs fall into your chosen key. You could learn more songs in your chosen key to begin studying too.
That pretty much wraps up this epic post. Now then, you can “right click” and hit save to download your guitar chart below (but do read on for more useful pointers in this article):
Download Your Free Guitar Chord Chart PDF
Is This an Acoustic Guitar Chord Chart OR an Electric?”
You might wonder about the difference between the acoustic and electric guitar and how this chord chart fits both types of guitars. In some ways, there’s a world of difference between electric and acoustic guitars. Well, here’s some background about both:
- Acoustic Guitar: The Raw Soul – Acoustic guitar is full of raw soul and is the classic troubadour, producing sound naturally through its hollow body and sound hole. No amplification needed!
- Electric Guitar: The Electrifying Dynamo – Enter the electric guitar – a true rockstar’s weapon of choice! This powerhouse guitar relies on amplification to electrify its sound. With magnetic pickups and an electric system, it cranks up the volume and unleashes a world of possibilities.
…BUT when it comes to chord charts, is there a version purely for electric guitarists? Is this specifically for acoustic guitar?
Nope, you only need one chart showing you the chords on the guitar and this is it.
That’s the key thing – when it comes to the fundamentals, there really isn’t much difference between the playing of electrics and acoustics. This chord will serve all.
Demystifying the Theory Behind These Chords for Guitarists
As a guitarist, you hold the power to create a mesmerising musical canvas with just a few well-placed chords.
Understanding the theory behind simple chords is like unlocking a treasure chest of musical possibilities. So, let’s dive into the theory of crafting simple chords, providing you with the foundation to strum with confidence and compose your musical masterpieces! 🎶🔍
What Are Chords, Anyway?
At its core, a chord is a combination of three or more notes played together. On the guitar, chords are created by fretting multiple strings simultaneously. These harmonic blends form the backbone of songs, providing the harmony and structure that make your melodies soar.
🎹 The Magic of Triads 🎹
The simplest chords you’ll encounter are triads, which consist of three notes – the root, the third, and the fifth. These triads lay the groundwork for countless songs and musical styles. Check out this post on guitar triads for more.
In a major chord… the root note forms the foundation, the third adds either a happy or sad flavour (depending on whether it’s a major or minor third), and the fifth gives stability.
To build a major triad, follow this simple formula:
- Start with the root note (the name of the chord, like C or G).
- Move up four half-steps (semitones) to find the major third.
- From the major third, move up three more half-steps to find the perfect fifth.
For example, a C major triad consists of the notes C, E, and G.
It’s similar for a minor triad, the theory doesn’t get all that much more complicated for all chords. Of course, there are other types of chords too such as “power chords”. These are used in rock and heavy metal tunes.
Phew, that’s a lot to take in there. You might want to read this article multiple times for it to fully make sense (please bookmark it and come back to it regularly). We will wrap up this post now with this list…
A List of Guitar Chords in the Chart
Here’s a list of all the chords in the chart for easy reference. Use this as a quick guitar chord finder that you can reference at any time.
- Level 1 – G (“folk” D C)
- Level 2 – Em, Am, G (rock)
- Level 3 – A E
- Level 4 – Bm, Dm, F
- Level 5 – Fmaj7 and Fadd9
- Level 6 – D7, E7, A7
- Level 7 – Esus4, Asus2, Asus4, Dsus2, Asus4
- Level 8 – G7, C7, B7
- Level 9 – Cmaj7, Gmaj7, Amaj7, Emaj7, Dmaj7
- Level 10 – Amin7, Emin7, Dmin7
Learning the Main Guitar Chords Quickly and Easily
These are just the core beginner guitar chords that are the foundation of nearly all the music we hear in the Western world. Genres such as rock, pop, blues, jazz, country, soul, and more base their sound around the chords on this chart.
In fact, I reckon you could play 99.43% of all top 40 songs for the last six decades using this guitar chord chart and a capo.
Yes, there will be chords NOT on this list that you may know, and there may be other chords that you want to learn to increase your repertoire, and that’s ok.
…BUT don’t spend too much of your time focusing on learning lots and lots of chords that don’t feature on this list.
If you have played the guitar for less than two years and still consider yourself to be in the beginner guitarist category, stick with these chords, and only learn new chords when they pop up in new songs you are learning
Once you learn these chords in this chart, you can move on to barre chords (in fact, as long as you have good technique, I recommend you start practising barre chords early on in your guitar playing).
And do keep in mind…
There are so many other fundamental skills that every guitarist should master.
Getting good at this wonderful but sometimes frustrating instrument is NOT just about studying a guitar chord chart.
It’s also about getting good at things such as fingerpicking, strumming, theory, fretboard, scales, arpeggios, rhythm, writing, arranging, playing songs, and plenty more, it makes no sense to focus on learning too many chords apart from the crucial chords that you really should know.
A Summary of These Guitar Chords for Beginners
Right, that was a long post, but I hope you enjoyed it.
I think I need a lie down while listening to an Enya record now to relax.
Now there’s no more need to search for guitar chords online anymore. Save yourself time, and click the following link to download your beginner guitar chord chart for free (right-click the link and hit ‘save as’). You can print it out, use it as a screensaver, or get it tattooed down your arm if you really like.
Also, feel free to use the guitar chart on your own website, but please link back to this page if you do so.
Leave a comment below. I’d love to know your thoughts on this post and will be happy to answer any questions you have!