Every guitar player needs to develop the ability to play a set of basic guitar chords. Fortunately, by knowing only about a dozen chords, you can play at least a simple version of most of the songs ever written! Below you will see diagrams that show you how to play a set of basic guitar chords, perfect for the beginner to practice on!
The chords are presented in "families" of three chords that are related to each other musically- they just plain sound "right" played in various sequences. The chords in the "A Family" correspond to the key of A, with the A chord being "home base", typically used to start and end a song.
All of the basic chords shown below are in the "open position". This means that at least one of the strings, and usually more than one, aren't pressed while playing the chord. These are the easiest to learn, and enable the beginning guitarist to build a solid foundation for more advanced chord forms such as Barre chords, in which one finger presses down multiple strings across the fretboard.
If you are just learning, pick out one of the chord families below and practice forming one of the chords, strumming, and transitioning to the next chord in the family. Repeat as necessary until you are comfortable with the each chord shape, and able to make smoooth transitions to the other chords in the family. Practice makes perfect! (I learned most of these basic chords playing the Neil Young tune "Heart of Gold".) As a matter of fact, if you learn all the basic guitar chords below, you are well on your way to being able to play most Neil Young songs!
First Step-The A Family Chords: A, D, and E
Here are three basic chords (A, D, and E) that are the primary chords in key of A. These are among the easiest chords to learn. I recommend starting with these! Practice by playing them in any sequence: A...D...E...
A Major (A)
D Major (D)
E Major (E)
Next Step- The D Family Chords: D, Em, G, and A
The D Family chords build on those in the A Family (above). The basic guitar chords in the D Family are D, Em (E minor), G, and A. So here we add Em and G. For me, Em is definitely one of the easiest chords to play, and as a minor chord, one with a really cool sound! Again, take the approach of practicing an individual chord, and then transitioning to the next one in the family, and the next, and the next, and the ....
After you learn a few chords, practice will become much easier because you can play actual songs! But first you need to pay your dues by learning the individual chords, and how to quickly and smoothly transition from one to another.
Again for the D family you will play these chords: D...Em...G...A
E Minor (Em)
G Major (G)
More Basics- The G Family Chords: G, Am, C, D, and Em
Now were getting somewhere! The G Family of chords consists of: G...Am...C...D...Em. To play these family of basic guitar chords, you only need to add the Am and C chords. Below are the chord diagrams for these additional two chords.
A Minor (Am)
C Major (C)