The Ultimate Guide How to Learn Guitar Chords

How to Learn Guitar Chords

Now that you have your new guitar whats next? There are a few things every beginner guitar player needs to learn. Chords are one of them.

Like me and every guitar player that started playing the guitar. Everyone starts out in the same place. Wondering how to learn guitar chords? When you first start learning how to learn guitar chords. You need to learn quite a lot of basic techniques. Guitar fundamentals such as: You need to learn how to hold your fretting hand properly, how to use your strumming hand, How to make the chord. How to transition between the chords. 

There are a lot of tips and tricks to get you started, and in this Ultimate Guide you will learn the fundamentals that will put you on a fast track to playing guitar chords.

What You Need to Know About Learning Guitar Chords

A lot goes in to learning guitar chords. When you first start learning guitar it may feel a little over whelming. To learn the necessary techniques that are needed to learn guitar chords.

But like learning a lot of things, like riding a bike for example. When you start it is a lot to learn all at once. When you first started out it was really shaky-touch and go. It took a lot just to keep the bike balanced and upright. But after a lot of practice you learned how to ride a bike.

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In the same way it will seem like there is a lot that goes into learning guitar chords. There is! But once you learn it, and practice the fundamentals it becomes second nature. Before you know it you will be playing chords.

In this Ultimate Guide to learning guitar chords you will learn the techniques to make fretting easier. How to hold the guitar pick and use your strumming hand to strum the chords. Learn guitar tips to make the chords, and make them sound good. Then learn how to move from one chord to another. So you can play a song.

What You Need to Know About Your Fretting Hand

Your fretting hand is the hand that you use to make the chords. If you are right handed this would be your left hand. When you hold the guitar with your fretting hand it is important that your hand is relaxed.

When you hold the neck of the guitar you don’t hold it like a baseball bat, or a shovel with the same sort of grip. Some beginners make the mistake of holding the guitar steady by holding the neck. This is incorrect!

How to Learn Guitar Chords
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You just want to have your hand gently touching the neck of the guitar. This way your hand is free to make a chord.

When you are holding your fretting hand properly. There should be space between the neck of the guitar, and the palm of your hand. You can see through at the bottom of the neck.

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Where to Place Your Fingers on A Guitar 

When you play a chord you want to place your fingers on the strings so that there is no buzzing or unwanted noises. To do this there are a couple of things you need to remember.

First you want to play close to the fret as possible. In case you don’t already know this. The fret is the metal wire going up the guitar neck. When the strings are held against the fret a sound is produced.

You want to place your fingers directly behind the fret. This will eliminate any buzzing from the strings.

The second thing that you need to remember is to play on the tips of your fingers. If you are not playing on the tips of your fingers then your fingers inevitably will mute other strings. This happens a lot in the beginning when you are learning chords.

So if you hear a buzzing or a muted string. Meaning the string is not ringing out when you play it. Check to make sure your playing behind the fret on the tips of your fingers.

How to Hold Thumb When Playing Guitar

When your making chords your thumb needs to be at the back of the guitar neck. Usually it is going to be located towards the middle of the neck. If your thumb is up high, and even over the top of the neck. Then making certain chords becomes impossible for new guitarists.

When your thumb is peaking over the top of the neck of the guitar. Then you will see that your hand is now prostrate against the strings. There is very little room between your hand and the guitar. Making it difficult to make the chords.

Like wise with your arm position. The position of your arm allows you to make chords easier. You will find that keeping your elbow in close to your body will allow you to make the chord. Sometimes you may have to lower your left shoulder, and lean into the guitar making it easier to play.

These are all tips that make it easier for a beginner to play the guitar. After a while the tips become part of your natural routine.

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Fretting Hand Position When Making the Chord

Techniques to remember:  

  • Position your fingers behind the fret
  • Play on the tips of your fingers
  • Your thumb is in the middle of the neck
  • Make sure there is space between the neck & your palm
How to Learn Guitar Chords
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These techniques at first will be a constant thought in your mind. When your making a chord. But after practice it will be second nature. Then you will automatically do them. Without really thinking about it.

How do You Practice Guitar Chords?

Learning chords can be a little difficult at first. Lets cover some practical tips to make it as easy as possible. You want to take one chord. With the use of a chord chart, and see where to place your fingers. Click the link if you need to know how to read a chord chart. 

When you make a chord say your making a D chord. You are going to set your fingers in place. 1st finger is on the 3rd string, 2nd finger on the first string, and the 3rd finger on the 2nd string.

Remember the basic techniques previously mentioned. Take your time to make sure you are applying all the basic skills needed to form the chord properly.

Next take the pick in your strumming hand, and pick one string at a time. Start plucking at the 4th string. What you want to do when you pick the string is; listen to see if the string is ringing out properly. If it is ringing out and sounds good, go to the next string. Pick the 3rd string and listen. Continue this process with the remaining strings.

If you get to a string and it is not ringing out. Stop and find out why. Maybe it’s muted with another finger touching the string. Maybe your fingers to far from the fret, or maybe on the fret. What ever the case maybe. Find the problem and correct it. Then go to the next string.

If you need help with learning where to place your fingers. When your making chords check out this link to First Position Chords.

A Tip to help make chords. When you practice making chords after you have put your fingers in position for that chord. Look at your fingers examine where they are on what string. Then remove your fingers from the guitar. Then make the same chord again.

Related Article: Beginners Guide to Guitar Practice.

Chord Transitioning a Step by Step Process

Chord transition means to change between chords. This is a slow process to get the hang of, and it can be frustrating. If it gets overwhelming take a break. Then come back to it.

First things first. Before you can move between chords. You have to know the chords without thinking about it. If you have to stop to think about what finger goes where. It just won’t work. You need to know in your mind that if someone says play a C chord you know exactly where to place your fingers.

Let’s say your going to transition between the G, C and D chords.

First let’s go over basic chord technique. You won’t need to worry about strumming. Let’s concentrate on your “fretting hand.”

Start with the C Major chord –

  • Make sure your hand is relaxed, and position your hand on the guitar with your thumb resting on the back of the neck.
  • When you’re placing your first finger on the 2nd string at the 1st fret, make sure you’re playing on the tips of your fingers. This is the B string (2nd) string.
  • Your 2nd finger is going to line up behind the fret on the D string, the 4th String. At the 2nd fret.
  • Your third finger is at the 3rd fret of the A string, the 5th  string.

Make sure your hand is in a comfortable position not to far forward or backward. You want to be able to see between the bottom of the guitar and your hand.

3 things to remember:

  1. Your hand is relaxed.
  2. You’re playing on the tips of your fingers.
  3. Place your finger directly behind the fret. To stop fret buzz.

Note: That if your elbow is close to your body this helps your hand get into a natural position to play the chord.

Next the G Major Chord; Place your pinkie on the 1st string of the high E string the (1st string). Then Place your second finger on the A string, the 5th string, at the second fret. Then place your 3rd finger on the low E string, the 6th string at the 3rd fret.

You could make the G with your 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers respectfully.

Remember to keep your hand relax, your fingers bent and behind the fret, and your elbows in. Try strumming the chord.

When you first start playing guitar it takes time to build up finger strength and dexterity. So making chords maybe a little tough, but you will get there with practice. Click this link for a lesson on guitar technique & finger strengthening.

How to remember a chord

Make the G chord, position your fingers on the fretboard. Make sure sure it sounds proper by using the technique previously mentioned. Then really look at the G chord finger position.

Hold the chord position for about 30 seconds. Concentrating on how the G chord feels. Then remove your hand from the guitar neck, and then try to make the G chord again. Another method is to look away and visualize what the G chord looks like. The more ways to think, and meditate on a chord the easier it will become to memorize it.

Switching between chords

To start just use two chords to switch between. Let’s use the G and the C chord. Start by making the G chord, and remember visualize what the C chord looks like, and then move to it. This process in your mind, you will need to think of the C chord. Then what fingers go on the strings. Before you can actually make the C chord.

For example if you’re playing a song. You don’t go from playing the G chord then have to stop, and think about what chord is next. Then think how do I make the chord? Then what fingers do I use. NO! You have to think a head to “visualize” the chord, and then make it in a split second.

A Good practice is to go from the G to the C a couple of times then go from the C to the G. The more you practice chord transitioning the easier it will become. It will become second nature.

Once you practice from the G to the C, and from the C to the G. Use the same practice method, and go from the G to the D chord.

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Switching Smoothly between chords

To accomplish switching between the chords smoothly you need to practice consistently. The more you practice consistently, the more you build muscle memory. This is programming your mind and muscles to do what you want them to. So practice chord changes multiple times a day to get your muscle memory working for you, and making these chord changes easier.

To practice use this chord progression G, C, G, and D. Don’t worry so much about fancy strumming. We want to concentrate on switching between the chords. Just strum down and wait four beats.

Start with your hand on the G Then strum. The next chord in the progression is C, switch to C then strum down, wait for a measure (1, 2, 3, 4) then change the chord. Remember to think ahead. What’s the next chord in the progression? The next chord is G, Play the G, wait for the count, and then switch to the D chord.

After you feel comfortable switching between these chords try strumming four times then switch to the next chord. Try strum down at first, and then strum down up, down up, down up down up, and switch.

When you practice this it may go slow at first, but with time and muscle memory you will master chord transitions. The aforementioned way to practice is great for all chords.

Related Article: How to Strum a Guitar with a Pick.


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How to Hold a Guitar Pick 

There are different ways to hold the guitar pick. The way that you hold the pick makes the difference in how the guitar sounds. When the strings are plucked. An average guitar pick is shaped like a triangle with three sides. One that is more pointed. Then two other sides that are shaped more rounded.

If you play using the pointed part of the pick against the strings. Then the sound will be more pronounced. When you use the round part of the pick to play. First off you won’t be able to pick individual strings as easy. Also you will get a softer tone.

When you hold the pick there are some techniques that when applied makes it easier to play the individual strings. To learn how to hold a guitar pick for strumming & picking click this link:10 things every beginner guitar player needs to know.

Guitar Chords for Beginners PDF

Guitar players need to learn Basic chords. After you learn these chords you will be able to play hundreds of songs. Here is a good place to start with 11 Essential Chords You Should Know PDF.

Related Questions

What is the Easiest Guitar Chord?

There are a lot of “easy chords”. But one of the easiest guitar chord is the Em chord. It is pronounced the E minor chord. This chord you only need to use two fingers. The Em is played with your fingers on the A string and the D string. Which is the 5th and 4th strings.

Your 2nd finger is on the 2nd fret of the 5th string. Your 3rd finger is on the 2nd fret of the 4th string. When you strum this chord. You start at the 6th string, and strum all strings.

Related Article: What is the easiest Country song on guitar.

Basic Guitar Chords Finger Placement

First step to learning chords is to learn where to place your fingers. There are a lot of basic guitar chords. That is why I made the page for “first position chords”. Where I explain exactly where to place your fingers, and what strings to strum for each chord. If you want to learn basic guitar chord finger placement. Click this link for first position chords.


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