Learning guitar chords is one of the first things that many players set out to do, which is understandable because once they’ve got some down they’ll be able to strum along to a few of their favourite songs.
Guitar Chord Diagrams
You may have come to my Guitar Instructions website with the intention of learning guitar chords. That’s great, but if you’re new to this you’ll need some help understanding all the different diagrams and guitar tab notation that appears on the different pages here.
Diagrams for Learning Guitar Chords
Diagrams and notation are essential because they allow anyone to explain exactly where you need to put your fingers and which strings to strum in a simple diagram. If you’re interested in learning guitar chords you really need to understand these diagrams (luckily it’s not difficult).
The alternative would be to write out in detail that you need to take you left hand and put your middle finger on the third fret of the 6th string, your index finger on the second fret of the 5th string and your ring finger on the third fret of the first string then strum all the strings at once with your right hand. That’s a lot of words that took me a while to type in and took you a little less than a while to read.
It would have been far simpler just to say, “Look at the diagram below”.
“Serial Number” Diagrams
Often used to describe how to play guitar chords on the internet, these “serial numbers” provide a an easy and clear way of presenting any given chord using only text. This type of notation is very basic but extremely effective and is often the best, or only, option on websites that don’t easily allow users to insert images into their comments.
The numbers representing the chords are usually wrapped in parentheses. The first number indicates which fret the 6th string should be held on, the second number the 5th string and so on. An “X” indicates that the string should not be played and a “0″ indicates the string should be played open, without holding it against the fretboard at all.
As an example, a G Major chord would be written like this: (320003). The notation tells you to hold down the 3rd fret of the 6th string, the 2nd fret of the 5th string, the 3rd fret of the 1st string and play all the other strings open.
“Proper” Chord Diagrams
On this website, I prefer to use “proper” chord diagrams such as the one below. They are much easier to read at a glance than the serial numbers described above.
This is a G Major chord.
You’ll notice the diagram is arranged as if you are looking at the neck of the guitar from the front with the fretboard pointing towards the sky. In this orientation the strings are presented with the thickest string (the E string or 6th string) on the left and the thinnest string (top E or 1st string) on the right. Going from left to right across the neck then, the strings are E (6th string) , A (5th string), D (4th string), G (3rd string), B (2nd string), E (1st string).
The “O” symbol at the top of the diagram indicates that the string in question should be played “open” (i.e. without holding it down against the fretboard at all). In some cases, you’ll see an “X” at the top of a chord diagram, which means that you do not play that particular string at all.
Another technique you might see described is the Barre Chord, which is a useful concept to grasp when learning guitar chords. This is where all of the strings are held down at a particular fret by laying the index finger across several, or all, of the strings at a particular fret. To play a G major as a barre chord, you could barre all the strings across the 3rd fret on the fretboard and make the following shape.
This too is a G major chord, just played using a different fingering. Notice the number “3″ that appears in the top left of the diagram to indicate the position of the chord on the third fret of the fretboard.
Hint for Learning Guitar Chords with a Barre
A useful tip if you find it difficult to hold down all of the strings when fretting a barre chord is to rotate your index finger slightly away from you. This has the effect of taking the strain off your finger muscles slightly by making use of the fact that your finger is not designed to bend sideways (and therefore holds the barre more easily). If you are getting individual strings buzzing, try moving your finger up the fretboard slightly so it fits closely behind the fret you are playing. It might also help if you play each string of the chord individually so that you can identify which strings you are not holding down properly and can adjust your finger position accordingly.
Hopefully these tips will help you when learning guitar chords and enable you to progress faster, which will make you a happier and better guitarist.