Playing Guitar Chords
To master the guitar, one has to learn a few fundamental skill sets and learn them very well. One of the most important skills one has to learn is the ability to play guitar chords.
What is a chord?
A guitar chord may be defined as follows:
- A group of (typically three or more) notes sounded together, as a basis of harmony.
- Two or more notes played simultaneously.
Guitar chords, in turn, are simply chords that are played on the guitar.
To play chords one must 'form the notes of the chord' with the left hand (articulator), and strum the notes of the chord with the right hand or strumming hand. The difficulty for beginners usually comes from coordination problems, a lack of empirical knowledge about which notes to play, and or articulation problems.
Reading Chord Charts
Chords charts are helpful in that they indicate which notes on the fingerboard form a given chord. Once you learn how to read a chords chart, you will easily be able to access all of the information you need to be able to form chords. Then you just need to practice proper articulation of the notes, proper strumming technique, and proper coordination of the two.
Reading a Chords Chart is very simple to do once you get the hang of it. Below is a sample chord chart for the 'C'major chord, which is one of the most commonly played chords in all of music.
To read the chords chart look on the left side to find out a reference for which frets you are looking at on the fingerboard. The green notes indicate what notes should be played to form the chord, and the letters on the top of the chords chart tell you which strings you are looking at. Chords charts provide a visual representation of what the notes look like on the fingerboard of the guitar. In this case, the head of the guitar would be at the top of the image, and the body of the guitar would be somewhere down below. The 'x' at the bottom of the image indicates that the given string (directly above it) should NOT be played when you play the chord.
To play the c major chord, all you have to do is put the fingers of your articulating hand on the notes corresponding to the green dots and strum the guitar with you other hand, making sure not to strum the string where the 'x' is located.
You can strum up or down, or multiple times - it doesn't matter. In any case, you are playing a C major chord.
Now that you've figured out how to read a chords chart, you have the basic tool you need to learn to play every chord in the world. Now the tricky part is learning to play the chords you now can easily learn well and to transition from chord to chord with speed and skill.
The trick to playing a chord well is mastering the strumming technique (discussed in the introductory lesson on strumming) and articulating the notes well. So how do you properly articulate notes?
The first step is to make sure the thumb of your left hand is pressed against the back of the guitar neck, roughly in the middle of the neck. The next step is to curve your fingers around the bottom of the neck and to 'press' down the appropriate notes of the chord or chords you are trying to play (in this case the notes that correspond to the green dots in the chords chart above.) Press firmly with your thumb and your fingers, making sure that your fingers are ONLY touching the notes and strings they are supposed to be touching. This is the tricky part. Finally, give a nice strum using your strumming hand, and you're done.
Congratulations! You've played your first guitar chord.
Practice playing the C major chord for at least 5 minutes a day, making sure to incorporate all of the techniques we've discussed so far - namely, how to hold the guitar, how to hold the pick, how to strum properly, and how to articulate properly. Within a couple of weeks you'll be on your way to playing clean sounding chords.
When you feel comfortable with this lesson, be sure to check out the next lesson, which teaches you more beginner chords.
Continue on to Beginner Guitar Chords