Chords In The Key Of G – How to use the most popular guitar chords of all

The chords in the key of G are probably the most common guitar chords of all. This is a fundamental group of chords for all guitarists to know. So let’s dive in!

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • how to find chords in the key of G major
  • how to play the most useful chords in the key of G major
  • 10 simple songs using chords in the key of G major

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The chords in the key of G are:

G, C, D, Em, Am, Bm, F# diminished

Why is knowing the chords in the key of G so useful?

It is useful to know how chords go together in a specific key for 6 important reasons:

  1. it can help you work out elusive chord progressions in your favourite songs;
  2. it can help you develop and strengthen your composition and songwriting skills by creating moods;
  3. it can take your jam sessions into new and more interesting places;
  4. it can make your accompaniments to singers more varied;
  5. it can help you play along with different instruments that have fixed tuning;
  6. it can enrich your improvisation skills and lead guitar work.

Now let’s discuss keys and why they matter…

(Then we’ll look at each chord in the key of G and discuss it in more detail.)

What is a key?

As the word suggests, a key is a sequence of notes that will help you slot into and unlock the secrets of a piece of music that otherwise, on first listening, seem tricky to work out.

There are many different keys, but all of them are made up of a set pattern of notes that correspond to a musical scale.

What is a scale?

A musical scale is set of notes that follows a defined pattern of sounds.

The commonest scale in western music is a major scale and it follows the tune of doh-rey-me-fah-soh-lah-tee-doh, made popular in the song from ‘The Sound of Music.’

The 7 notes of the major scale always follow a pattern of 7 intervals:

2-2-1-2-2-2-1

For example, the scale of G major is:

G A B C D E F#

You will notice that there is only 1 sharp note.

In stave notation, you can spot when a song is in the key of G major by looking for this:

chords in the key of g

Learn the 12 EASIEST beginner chords with our famous FREE guide

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How does this help you with the chords in the key of G major?

The chords in a major key always correspond to the major scale pattern, so logically, the chords in the key of G major follow the same pattern as the scale of G major.

However, there are 2 important points to remember:

First, for a chord to be consider as part of the key family, it must be made up from the notes of its parent scale. Therefore all the chords in the key of G major must be created from combinations of the seven notes:

G A B C D E F#

This means that although the scale might have A in it this does not mean the chord of A will be, since an A chord contains C# which is not in the scale of G major.

Second, to make it simple, the chords in a major key must stick to this pattern:

MAJOR, MINOR, MINOR, MAJOR, MAJOR, MINOR, DIMINISHED

Sometimes Roman numerals are used to help identify these. Major chords are capitalised and minor and diminished chords are lower case:

I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii

chords in the key of g

So, what are the chords in the key of G major?

Well following the pattern outlined above, the chords in the key of G major must be:

G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F#dim

Now you know the notes to play, you can play the chords of G major all day!

Brilliant! Now let’s look at those chords in more detail.

The three most commonly used chords in the key of G major are:

G C D

These three chords lie at the heart of most tunes in G major from folk or blues to grunge and death metal.

Here are some examples of G C D chord songs:

  • Chuck Berry’s ‘No Particular Place To Go,’
  • Led Zeppelin’s ‘Hot Dog,’
  • Queen’s ’39’ or
  • Van Morrison’s ‘Brown-Eyed Girl.’

They can also form the basis for your own songwriting adventure.

The chord of G

The chord of G is based on the first note or root note of the G major scale.

G is a very versatile chord with a bright uplifting sound and because it can be played in a variety of positions it is suitable for all levels of guitarist.

The basic chord of G is made from three notes:

G B D – that is the first, third and fifth notes of the G major scale.

How these notes are fretted across the 6 strings of your guitar creates the different variations possible. The great news is that each variation has a slightly different effect.

chords in the key of g

In theory, you can create all sorts of G chords, however you might find you will need extra long fingers to be able to stretch to every option.

For example, D B G D G B  would be challenging, whereas G B D G D G is quite easy.

Let’s look at the easiest option (the numbers in the chord box indicate the preferred positioning of each finger):

G Major

chords in the key of g

 

The chord of C

The chord of C has a happy voice and is based around the fourth note of the G major scale.

It appears in many tunes as it belongs to a natural set of chords that give a simple sound. The neat trick about a C chord is it can be played with 1 or 4 fingers depending on your level of ability.

The basic chord of C should include the three notes:

C E G – these are the fourth, sixth and first notes of the G major scale.

Let’s look at the easiest option (the numbers in the chord box indicate the preferred positioning of each finger):

C Major

chords in the key of g

The chord of D

The chord of D has a bright voice and quite ‘poppy’.

It is based around the fifth note of the G major scale. The chord of D requires at least 2 fingers, but has enough variations to satisfy most players of all levels.

The basic D chord should include:

D F# A – these are the fifth, seventh and second notes of the G major scale.

Let’s look at the easiest option (the numbers in the chord box indicate the preferred positioning of each finger):

D Major

chords in the key of g

Download our lead guitar cheat-sheet to make things easier

It can be disorientating for guitarists to understand which scales work with which keys.

With this in mind, we created a cheat-sheet; a key and scale-finder that you can use again and again.

The chord of Am

The second chord in the key of G major is A minor.

It is based on the second note of the G major scale. This chord is great for creating sad moments in an otherwise straightforward song. It is a go to chord in any repertoire and can be played in a range of fret locations.

The basic chord of Am is made from three notes:

A C E – these are the second, fourth and sixth notes of the G major scale.

Let’s look at the easiest option (the numbers in the chord box indicate the preferred positioning of each finger):

A minor

chords in the key of g

The chord of Bm

The third chord in the key of G major is B minor.

This chord works well if a melancholy feel is required. It is a trickier chord to use as its harmonics can be at odds with a guitar’s standard tuning, so it needs careful fretting.

The chord of Bm is made up from three notes:

B D F# – these are the third, fifth and seventh notes of the G major scale.

Let’s look at the easiest option (the numbers in the chord box indicate the preferred positioning of each finger):

B minor

chords in the key of g

The chord of Em

The sixth chord in the key of G major is E minor.

This chord is very important because it is the relative minor chord of G.

  • It is great for changing the overall positive mood of verses or choruses, created in the key of G major, into a gloomier, bass boom feeling of a bridge or middle eight.
  • It can be played in a host of positions on the fret-board regardless of your ability.

The chord of Em is made up from three notes:

E G B – these are the sixth, first and third notes of the G major scale.

Let’s look at the easiest option (the numbers in the chord box indicate the preferred positioning of each finger):

E minor

chords in the key of g

The chord of F#diminished

The seventh chord in the key of G major is F#dim.

  • This is an edgy chord that adds an element of mystery to tunes, almost like a musical question mark or to keep the listener guessing about what will happen next. As such it has to be treated with caution and not overused.
  • Like Bm, it needs to be fretted carefully to avoid sounding discordant in standard tuning.

The chord of F#dim is made up from three notes:

F# A C – these are the seventh, second and fourth notes of the G major scale.

As you may notice it resembles the chord D7 (this can be used as a substitute). 

Let’s look at the easiest option (the numbers in the chord box indicate the preferred positioning of each finger):

F#diminished

F# diminished

Bonus knowledge!

Now you know the main chords in the key of G, as a bonus you will also have automatically learnt all the main chords in the key of Em, because Em is G major’s relative key!

Therefore, the chords in the key of E minor are:

Em F#dim G Am Bm C D

Because the emphasis is on the minor chord, this key can be considered to be G major’s more plaintive twin sister.

What can I do next with all these chords in the key of G major?

Now you know the 7 main chords in the key of G major, you can:

  • play loads of new songs
  • compose some amazing tunes
  • jam along or improvise like a guitar legend

10 Songs that use chords in the key of G major

Hundreds of songs use the chords in the key of G major and they cross all musical genres, including classical guitar.

Here are 10 to whet your appetite. They are, believe it or not, simply based around the chords of G C D with  a few extra chords from the key thrown in.

  • Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd (C D Am G  Em)
  • Come As You Are – Nirvana (Em G D)
  • Blackbird – The Beatles (G Am C D Em)
  • Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd (D C G)
  • Nothing Else Matters – Metallica (Em D C G Bm)
  • Good Riddance – Green Day (G C D Em)
  • Lyin’ Eyes – The Eagles (G C Am D)
  • Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash (G C D)
  • Sweet Child of Mine – Guns ‘n’ Roses (D C G)
  • Banana Pancakes – Jack Johnson (C G D Am)

Some songs written using the chords in the key of G will drop in an occasional sharp chord so don’t be surprised if an A chord or B chord pop up from time to time, as these often give songs a bluesy twist.

Composing using chords in the key of G major

Your knowledge of the chords in the key of G major can help you to compose a range of tunes that capture very different moods or ideas.

Play any chord from the key of G with any other chord from the key of G and it will sound good!

For blues songs or pop songs with a 1950’s feel, use the chords G C D as your starting point use a 12 bar blues sequence.

For a soulful sound add a minor chord to create the pattern – G Am C D – ‘Stand by Me’ is a good song to listen to.

For added boom use Em as an ending to a chord sequence – G D/F# Em.

Add some suspense at the end of a chorus by using F#dim, before going back to a verse or into a bridge.

Simply running through the 7 basic chords will start to suggest songs. For example, The Beatles’ ‘Here There and Everwhere’ follows this pattern.

6 great ways to jam along to songs in the key of G major

Now you know some songs that use chords in the key of G major and E minor, you can jam along using your knowledge of scales, too.

For example, if you have a friend who plays the chords to ‘Let Her Go’ by Passenger, you can improvise using the scales of:

  • G major,
  • G major pentatonic,
  • E minor and
  • E minor pentatonic.

Or, if you want a bluesier sound why not try using:

  • G minor and
  • G minor pentatonic.

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How To Tune A Guitar: A Guide For Beginners

Need to know how to tune a guitar? We’ve got you covered. Let’s dive straight into this essential beginner guide.

You’re at the start of a wonderful journey and we’re so pleased you’re here. 🙂

It’s vital that you learn how to tune a guitar; it’s essential knowledge for a beginner guitarist.

FACT: You can be the best guitarist in the world, but if your guitar is out of tune you will sound bad.

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • The notes of a guitar in standard tuning.
  • How to tune a guitar using an electronic guitar tuner.
  • How to tune a guitar using a smartphone app.
  • How to tune a guitar using other instruments.
  • How to tune a guitar using its own strings (and your ears!)
  • 6 tips to keep your guitar in tune & sounding great

Sound good? Let’s do it.

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.

how to tune a guitar for beginners

How to tune a guitar in standard tuning

There are several different guitar tuning profiles, but the most popular one by far is ‘standard tuning’.

In standard tuning, the notes of the guitar, from thickest to thinnest are:

E, A, D, G, B, E

how to tune a guitar

(If you don't understand the above image please read our article "How To Read Guitar Chordboxes In 60 Seconds". It will make everything clear!)

How to remember the notes of the guitar strings

Here’s two useful mnemonics to help you remember the order “E, A, D, G, B, E”.

  • Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears
  • Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie

Pick whichever one you like best, or make up your own. (The sillier the better.)

Now we know the notes we’re aiming for we can tune the guitar

You’ve already learned the first half of how to tune a guitar, well done!

Now we need to look at how to tune a guitar to E, A, D, G, B, E.

how to tune an acoustic guitar

How to tune a guitar to E, A, D, G, B, E

Look at your guitar’s headstock (the thin end of the guitar).

You will see small ‘keys’ that you can turn. We call these ‘machine heads’.

Each string is attached to a machine head of its own. When we turn a machine head we change the pitch that the string is tuned to.

how to tune a acoustic guitar

How do we know what note the string is tuned to when we’re turning the machine heads?

Easy. We use a tuner to tell us! 🙂

If you’re wondering how to tune a guitar with what you have at hand there’s 4 methods (we’ll cover each one in turn):

  1. How to tune a guitar using an electronic guitar tuner.
  2. How to tune a guitar using a smartphone app.
  3. How to tune a guitar using other instruments.
  4. How to tune a guitar using its own strings (and your ears!)


Learn the 12 EASIEST beginner chords with our famous FREE guide

  Stop struggling. Start making music.

  Learn 12 beginner-friendly versions of every chord.

  This is our most popular guide and it will improve your chord ability quickly.

How to tune a guitar using an electronic guitar tuner.

When people ask me how to tune a guitar I always say the same thing: All things considered, electronic guitar tuners are the best option.

They are fast and accurate. (When you have a decent electronic guitar tuner you simply won’t need to worry about how to tune a guitar again.)

how to tune a guitar

The interface of ALL tuners is broadly the same.

You pluck a note and the tuner shows you the note you played.

The tuner shows you this in three ways:

  • It will tell you the string it thinks you’re trying to tune.
  • It will show you with an oscillating ‘needle’ how far away from the note you are.
  • It will show you with a light whether the note is too low or too high.

You need to get the needle in the middle.

how to tune a guitar for beginners

On the picture above the ‘needle’ is perfectly in the middle. (Can you see the thin, black vertical line?)

Because the needle is perfectly in the middle, the green light above it is lit. This note is perfectly in tune!

We can see it’s tuning the A string (the 5th string) because in the top left corner it says “5A”.

  • If the needle was over to the left, the green light would not be lit. The red light to the left of it would be lit and this would tell us the note was too ‘flat’ (too low).
  • If the needle was over to the right, again the green light would not be lit. The red light to the right would be lit and this would tell us the note was too ‘sharp’ (too high).

Got that? Ok, let’s tune up!

1 – Turn the tuner on.

2 – If necessary, tell the tuner the string you want to tune. (Most tuners default to ‘auto-detect’ the strings, but some tuners need to be manually told what string you want to tune.)

Important! If your tuner is manual, then make sure your tuner is ‘listening’ for the correct string that you want to tune. If the tuner is set to  ‘listen’ to a different string to the one you are tuning you may overtune the string and it will snap!

3 – Pluck a string.

4 – Look at the tuner. Is the needle in the middle? If not turn the machine head one way or the other.

5 – Pluck again. Which way did the needle go? If it went towards the middle, keep going! If it went away from the middle, turn the machine head in the opposite direction.

6 – Repeat the cycle of A) pluck string B) look at tuner and C) turn machine head until the needle is in the middle.

.

how to tune a guitar

While tuning, pluck the string a LOT.

Most beginners are quite timid and pluck once and then wait for ages while the tuner ‘listens’ for a note that’s stopped ringing.

Don’t do this. You should pluck, pluck, pluck away!

The more your guitar is ringing out a note the easier it is for the tuner to hear, so pluck lots. (About once a second is ideal.)

If you want to learn more about the notes of the guitar fretboard read our article:

Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners

There are 3 different types of electronic tuner.

  1. Vibration-based
  2. Microphone-based
  3. Plug-in / pedal-based

Ideally, we want you to know how to tune a guitar with all three.

It’s pretty easy: ‘get the needle in the middle’ remains our aim.

Vibration-based electronic tuners

Vibration-based tuners clip on to your guitar’s headstock. I love these!

They are brilliant if you’re in a noisy place as they detect the note’s pitch through vibration, so if there’s lots of noise around, it doesn’t affect the tuner (because it isn’t reliant on a microphone).

clip-on-tuner

Once in position and switched on they will usually automatically show you what note your string is tuned to when you pluck it. (You don’t need to worry about ‘manual’ or ‘auto’ detection.)

They are very accurate and have colour LCD displays that are easy to read, even in bright sunlight. (The ‘needle’ is indicated by different colours.)

This is my favourite vibration-based tuner. The Snark.

Microphone-based electronic tuners

Microphone tuners are great and they don’t add any clutter to your guitar headstock like the clip-on vibration-based tuners do.

The only downside is that the microphone must be able to hear the guitar clearly. If there’s other music in the room (or sound from the TV, or whatever) that will throw the tuner off course.

qwik tune

You can use these for all acoustic guitars and if it has a jack input you can use it for electric guitars too.

how to tune an electric guitar

As with the clip-on vibration-based tuners these sometimes automatically detect strings, but depending on your model you may have to preselect the note manually.

If you want a recommendation, you can’t go wrong with a trusty Korg GA1.

how to tune a guitar for beginners

Plug-in and pedal tuners

Plug in tuners are VERY accurate and connect directly to your electric, bass or electro-acoustic guitar via a jack lead.

They are expensive, but awesome. My favourite is the Boss TU3. It’s built like a tank.

boss-tu-3

Pedals operate like any tuner (the lights represent the ‘needle’), but of course you have to stomp the pedal to activate or deactivate them.

How to tune a guitar using a smartphone app.

For most modern guitar learners smartphone apps are a good cheap starting point when learning how to tune a guitar.

There are hundreds of free and paid smartphone apps that are decent. They operate exactly the same as the microphone-based electronic tuners that we covered above.

guitar tuna

‘Guitar Tuna’ was good, but it’s getting bloated now. ‘OmniTuner’ is good too.

Search around, the app landscape changes fast and there’s always a new top dog.

How to tune a guitar using other instruments.

If you already play a musical instrument, it’s possible to tune your guitar to it (especially if it has a fixed tuning such as an electronic keyboard).

To learn how to tune a guitar in this way you will need to find E2 A2 D3 G3 B3 E4 on your instrument. (On a keyboard or piano, E2 is two octaves below middle C4.)

You or a friend may need to play each note on your instrument, holding it down as a ‘drone’ so that as you tune your guitar you can listen carefully for the moment the notes start to resonate and sound the same.

(Once you have your low E string, you can tune the others using the below method.)

“Open strings” are strings that are not being pressed (fretted) onto the guitar neck. When you pluck a string without pressing down on any frets, we say you are playing an ‘open string’.

zA 26

Spock likes guitar.

How to tune a guitar using its own strings (and your ears)

Here is a good 6-step method for ’emergencies’, like if your electronic tuner isn’t to hand and your smartphone’s battery is flat. It’s the ‘anytime, anywhere’ method of how to tune a guitar.

Step 1 – Tune the 6th string

Tune the thickest open string as accurately as you can to a low E. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just ‘guesstimate’ what the thickest string usually sounds like.

(All the other strings will be tuned relative to this, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s a little sharp or flat.)

Step 2 – Tune the 5th string

Place your first finger on the fifth fret of the thickest string. This will give you an ‘A’ note that will sound exactly like how you want the open 5th string to sound.

You can now tune the 5th string to match the note you are holding on the 6th string.

6 how to tune a guitar

Keeping your finger on the fifth fret, gently pick both the 6th string and the open 5th string in turn, gradually turning the 5th string’s machine head until the two notes are in harmony.

You need to listen carefully here. The two notes will ‘resonate’ when they match.

Step 3 – Tune the 4th string

We’re going to do the same thing again here, except a string higher.

Place your first finger on the fifth fret of the 5th string. This is a D note.

5 how to tune a guitar

Keeping your finger on the fifth fret, pluck the 5th string and then the open 4th string one after the other, at the same time turning the 4th string’s machine head until the note of the 4th open string chimes like the note of the fifth fret of the 5th string.

Step 4 – Tune the 3rd string

Same again. Place your first finger on the fifth fret of the 4th string. This gives a G note.

4 how to tune a guitar

Keeping your finger on the fifth fret, pluck the 4th string and open 3rd string alternately, turning the 3rd string’s machine head until the 3rd string is in harmony with the fifth fret of the 4th string.

Step 5 – Tune the 2nd string

It’s different here. Place your first finger on the fourth fret of the 3rd string. This gives a B note.

3 how to tune a guitar

Keeping your finger on the fourth fret, pluck the 3rd string and open 2nd string alternately, turning the 2nd string’s machine head until the 2nd string rings brightly with the fourth fret of the 3rd string.

Step 6 – Tune the 1st string

Place your first finger on the fifth fret on the 2nd string. This is an E note.

2 how to tune a guitar

Tune the thinnest and last string to that, again by turning the 1st string’s machine head until the tone of the 1st string dings with the fifth fret of the 2nd string.

  • So you can see we tuned each string to the prior string. To remember this pattern, think “5 5 5 4 5”.
  • Don’t forget the 2nd string is the only one that uses the fourth fret to tune from. All the others use the fifth fret.

how to tune acoustic guitar

6 Top Tuning Tips

Guitars are more sensitive than most people realise, so bear these things in mind.

1) Tune up EVERY time you play.

This is non-negotiable. As a beginner, your ears won’t be able to tell if your guitar has gone slightly out of tune.

Guitars drift out of tune every day and there is nothing more demotivating for a guitar learner than sounding bad when playing. (I often speak with guitar learners who are feeling down because they think they’re not playing ‘well’, but their guitar is out of tune!)

This isn’t an optional thing. As musicians, we should tune our instrument as part of our routine EVERY time we play.

2) Keep your guitar out of hot places

Your guitar is like any other piece of wood. Temperature affects it. Keep it out of the sun, out of your car on a hot day etc.

Don’t ever rest it against a radiator or any other heat source.

3) Keep your guitar out of cold places

It doesn’t have to be Arctic, even a gentle draft from under a door will nudge your guitar out of tune.

Don’t leave it in your car overnight!

6 guitar tuning tips

4) Loosen the strings before storage or transport

Loosening your guitar’s strings slightly beforehand allows your guitar to relax and cope with changes in humidity and temperature.

Store your guitar somewhere dry and cool. Away from radiators, air conditioners and any damp conditions.

5) Avoid impacts, big and small

Any kind of bump will knock your guitar out of tune. Of course, if it falls over it will go out of tune, but even little bumps (like a door opening against it) will knock it out.

Also, remember that general play causes your guitar to go out of tune from the constant pressing of your fingers on and off the strings. It happens. It’s normal.

(String-bending solos will always cause a re-tune, too.)

6) Replace your guitar’s strings regularly.

Dirty, corroded and over-stretched strings become brittle and harder to tune. They also sound terrible!

Change your strings every 6-8 weeks.

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Join over 100,000 other guitar learners and subscribe to our guitar-tips-by-email service. (It's free.)

We'll send you a series of lessons that will move you to the next level of your guitar journey.

Learn how everything fits together quickly, easily and effectively. We share ninja tips (for instant fun!) but also timeless fundamentals that will deepen your understanding.

Popular Lessons

How To Learn Guitar: An 11-Step Programme For Beginners

10 Easy Songs For Beginners

How To Strum A Guitar

How To Choose The Perfect Beginner Guitar

Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners

How To Play Lead Guitar

3 Easy Ways To Play Bm

More Cool Guitar Stuff

Learn about the National Guitar Academy: About Us

Visit our YouTube channel for fun guitar videos.

Join us on Facebook for daily guitar tips.

Listen to our Learn Guitar Podcast for rapid guitar progress.

Check out our free chord lessons.

 
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