Learn Guitar Chords: A 6-Step Program For Rapid Chord Skill

Do you want to learn guitar chords? Our 7 step programme is tried and tested and is the perfect road map to learn chords quickly with the minimum amount of frustration.

learn guitar chords

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • The no1 secret to mastering guitar chords.
  • Over 30 essential guitar chords that will make you sound amazing.
  • 2 tricks which will help you learn guitar chords quickly.
  • 10 quick and easy tips for guitar chord practice.

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Before we learn guitar chords, there are a couple of essential steps that we must take.

Step 1) You must have good posture

Good posture is essential if you want to master guitar chords.

Without good posture, you will find it incredibly difficult to learn guitar chords.

To learn more about guitar posture, go here: How To Hold A Guitar

Step 2) Fret chords correctly

When you learn guitar chords, make sure that you use the correct chord technique.

Here are a few simple techniques which will make your chords sound amazing.

  • Use the tips of your fingers.

Aim to fret the chord as close to your finger nail as possible, this will help the clarity of your chords.

  • Place your thumb on the back of the neck. (Make sure your thumb nail is pointed upwards towards the ceiling!)

When you fret chords, your thumb should look like this:

learn guitar chords

  • Bend your fretting hand when you fret chords.

Your fingers must bend when you fret chords, but your first knuckle must be straight.

This allows the chord to breathe, and guarantees that each note will ring out quickly.

Like this:

learn guitar chords

I still can’t learn guitar chords, how can I improve them?

If you find playing guitar chords difficult, try adjusting your wrist. Moving the wrist forward allows for greater chord clarity.

Experiment with the placement of your wrist to enhance the clarity of your chords.

Learn Guitar Chords | 3 String Guitar Chords

The first chords that you should learn are 3 string guitar chords.

Although these chords don’t sound amazing, they’re the perfect warm up exercise for new guitarists.

For this section, the guitar chords we’re going to learn are 3 string versions of.

  • E minor.
  • Gmajor.
  • C major.
  • A minor.

E minor

To play this chord, it actually requires no fingers, it’s SO easy.

Here’s the chord box:

learn guitar chords

(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!)

.

To learn this guitar chord follow these steps:

  • Strum the G string (3rd string), B string (2nd string) and high E string (1st string) at the same time.

That’s it!

G Major

The next guitar chord we’re going to learn is the G chord.

Here’s the chord box:

learn guitar chords

  • Place your 1st finger on the 3rd of the high E string. (1st string.)
  • Strum from the D string. (4th string.)

C Major

The C chord is one of the trickiest 3 string chords. It’s vital that your fretting technique is perfect here.

This is because when you fret the 1st fret on the B string (2nd string) the G (3rd string) and E strings (1st string) must ring out when you play this chord.

We don’t want ANY dead notes.

Here’s the chord box:

learn guitar chords

  • Place your 1st finger on the 1st fret of the B string. (2nd string.)
  • Strum from the G string. (3rd string.

Am Chord

The Am chord is the hardest 3 string guitar chords.

This time we’re going to introduce a second finger.

Here’s the chord box.

learn guitar chords

  • Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the G string. (3rd string.)
  • Place your 1st finger on the 1st fret of the B string. (2nd string.)
  • Strum from the G string. (3rd string.)

Practicing Chord Progressions

Practicing chord progressions is the best way to practice your guitar chords.

Let’s learn a couple of essential chord progressions.

G – Em

This is one of the EASIEST chord progressions you can do on the guitar.

For this progression we’re going to strum each chord 8 times.

Like this:

G                        Em

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Here’s what it sounds like:

‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift

The next progression we’re going to learn is ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift.

This chord progression as it only uses 3 chords for the WHOLE song.

The progression goes:

Am |C Major |G Major

Click play on this audio clip to learn this song.

Now you’ve mastered 3 string guitar chords, let’s move on to stepping stone chords.

Learn Guitar Chords | Stepping Stone Chords

Learning stepping stone chords is the best way to learn guitar chords.

Stepping-stone chords are easier versions of more advanced guitar chords.

These chords are perfect for beginners, as they’re easy to play and sound great!

Here’s an example of some stepping stone chords in action.

learn guitar chords

Download a free beginner chord guide and learn easy versions of every chord

 Say goodbye to frustration and twisted fingers. Say hello to MAKING MUSIC.

  Learn beginner-friendly versions of every chord.

  This is one of our most popular guides and will improve your chord ability quickly. Click here to download the guide.

 

I don’t want to learn easy guitar chords, give me the hard stuff!

Your enthusiasm is great, but trust us, learning easy guitar chords is the fastest way to learn guitar chords.

Think of it like this:

If you were running a marathon, when you start training you wouldn’t start by running 25 miles.

You’d build up the pace, start with 1 or 2 miles and gradually increase the distance.

This is exactly how you should learn guitar chords, start with the easy ones, move to the next set of chords then eventually ‘graduate’ to harder chords such as open chords and barre chords.

The 4 most popular stepping stone chords are:

  • G6.
  • C major 7.
  • Asus2.
  • Dsus2.

Let’s learn them!

G6

learn guitar chords

  • Place your 2nd finger on the 3rd fret of the low E string. (6th string.)
  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the A string. (5th string.)
  • Strum ALL the strings.

C Major 7

learn guitar chords

  • Place your 2nd finger on the 3rd fret of the A string. (5th string.)
  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the D string. (4th string.)
  • Strum from the A string. (5th string.)

Asus2

learn guitar chords

  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the D string. (4th string.)
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the G string (3rd string.)
  • Strum from the A string. (5th string.)

Em

learn guitar chords

  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the A string. (5th string.)
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the D string. (4th string.)
  • Strum ALL the strings.

There are SO many more stepping stone chords out there. To learn more, go here: 14 Easy Beginner Guitar Chords.

Learn Guitar Chords | Open Chords

Once you’ve mastered stepping stone chords, the next step in your guitar journey should be to learn open chords and barre chords.

Regardless of what style or genre of guitar you want learn, you should always begin by learning chords.

There are 2 types of chords: ‘open chords’ and ‘barre chords’.

  • Open chords – This should be your focus. These are chords that are played on the first 3 frets and are MUCH easier than barre chords.
  • Barre chords – These chords require you to make a ‘barre’ and press down on the strings while also forming chord shapes with fingers 2,3 and 4.

FYI, here’s what a barre chord looks like:

learn guitar chords

Learn open chords first!

Ok, so we need to focus on OPEN CHORDS first.

Let’s look at which open chords you should learn and in what order.

Ok, here’s comes’ a big tip!

Learn chords in ‘batches’

The first batch of open chords you should learn are:

  • Am.
  • C.
  • D.
  • Em.
  • G.

open chords

(These are the most common guitar chords of all.)

If you find a chord too difficult, you can always refer back to the stepping-stone version of each chord.

The best way to learn chords quickly is to follow our stepping-stone approach.

This is a proven method for quickly developing your finger dexterity and control while also allowing you to have fun and make music.

Our motto is ‘make things easy & fun’ and the stepping-stone chord system is a fundamental part of that philosophy.

The premise is very simple: there is an easy version of every chord.

As a beginner guitarist you should learn the easy version before you learn the harder standard version.

Let’s look at some examples:

learn guitar chords

As you can see the easier stepping-stone chord versions are simply different voicings of the original chords.

If you feel happy to tackle the standard versions then by all means begin with the standard versions, but most people find it much easier to use the stepping-stone version to get started. (Then after a few weeks you can move on to the standard chord versions.)

Batch 2

The next batch of chords you should learn are:

  • A.
  • E.
  • F.
  • Bm.

A, E, F and bm

These chords crop up often, but not as frequently as the chords in batch 1.

As you can see, the standard chord versions are getting tougher. Check out those F and Bm chords. (Ouch!)

Stick with the stepping-stone versions here and you’ll be fine.

Batch 3

The final batch of chords you should learn are:

  • B
  • Dm
  • Fm.

learn guitar chords

These chords appear less frequently, but they are still essential chords to know.

guitar playing

How do I practice these chords?

The best way to practice these chords is by playing songs that include them. To learn easy songs, go here: 10 Easy Songs On Guitar

However, if you prefer you can do ‘drills’ to really focus on building your muscle memory.

The secret to build muscle memory is to do things SLOWLY and CORRECTLY.

You will want to rush as your dexterity improves, but it’s vital that you don’t.

Sure, we want your overall speed to improve, but you will see how much more mistakes you make when you try to change too fast.

Push yourself, sure, but don’t forfeit your technique too much otherwise your accuracy will suffer.

Learning chord drills is a very mechanical way of learning how to play guitar.

It’s not the most enjoyable way to learn guitar chords, but some people prefer this.

What we want to do here is learn how to change from one chord to another

Some chords simply don’t crop up together (due to differences in key) so it’s not as simple as saying “practice changing from every chord to every other chord”.

No, that would be a waste of time!

So we’ve mapped out the most useful changes to help you learn guitar chords.

(It’s far more beneficial for your musicality to learn SONGS that you love. But some people like to have a clear program they can follow and that’s what will follow.)

Batch 1: Am, C, D, Em and G.

These chords frequently appear together, so we can literally practice these in any order and any sequence (and that will be valuable practice).

Practice each change 10 times before moving onto the next one.

  • Am to C. (x 10.)
  • Am to D. (x 10.)
  • Am to Em. (x 10.)
  • Am to G. (x 10.)

Then we can move onto changes that start with C.

  • C to Am. (x 10.)
  • C to D. (x 10.)
  • C to Em. (x 10.)
  • C to G. (x 10.)

Next, let’s look at some D changes.

  • D to Am. (x 10.)
  • D to C. (x 10.)
  • D to Em. (x 10.)
  • D to G. (x 10.)

Now some Em changes

  • Em to Am. (x 10.)
  • Em to C. (x 10.)
  • Em to D. (x 10.)
  • Em to G. (x 10.)

And finally some G changes.

  • G to Am. (x 10.)
  • G to C. (x 10.)
  • G to D. (x 10.)
  • G to Em. (x 10.)

learn guitar chords

Batch 2: A, E, F and Bm

We have to practice this batch differently because these chords aren’t in the same key. (Don’t worry about why right now!)

So there’s no point practicing these like we did with batch 1.

For this batch we need to mix it up; we’ll be blending chords from one batch to the next here.

These are the most common changes that you’ll encounter.

  • A to E. (x 10.)
  • E to A. (x 10.)
  • F to C. (x 10.)
  • F to G. (x 10.)
  • C to F. (x 10.)
  • G to F. (x 10.)
  • G to Bm. (x 10.)
  • Em to Bm. (x 10.)
  • D to Bm. (x 10.)
  • Bm to A. (x 10.)
  • Bm to Em. (x 10.)
  • Bm to G. (x 10.)
  • Bm to D. (x 10.)

And finally we’re going to blend all three batches!

  • B to E. (x 10.)
  • B to A. (x 10.)
  • E to B. (x 10.)
  • A to B. (x 10.)
  • Dm to F. (x 10.)
  • Dm to C. (x 10.)
  • Dm to G. (x 10.)
  • F to Dm. (x 10.)
  • C to Dm. (x 10.)
  • G to Dm. (x 10.)
  • Fm to Dm. (x 10.)
  • Fm to C. (x 10.)
  • C to Fm. (x 10.)

learn to play guitar

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Timing & rhythm when practicing chord changes

Because these chord transitions are so common it really doesn’t matter what timing you use to learn them.

It will all be muscle memory that you ‘put in the bank’ and will benefit from in the future.

However, here are a few tips and tricks which will help you master your timing.

  • Stay on each chord for at least 8 beats.

This will give you time to make the chord change, tidy up any messy or buzzing strings, and prepare for the next chord change.

  • A tempo of around 100-120 BPM would be perfect. But feel free to mix it up.

Use a metronome to set this and count the beats as you play.

We recommend the smartphone app ‘Metro Timer’. Give it a shot, it’s good.

You can also just google ‘metronome’.

Learn Guitar Chords | Barre Chords

One of the hardest chords you can learn is a barre chord.

Before you try and learn how to play barre chords, it’s essential that you know how to barre.

For 3 easy tips and tricks on how to learn barre chords, watch this video.

Barre Chords fall into two categories.

  • E shape barre chords.
  • A shape barre chords.

We refer to them like this because each barre chord is based on the open E and A chord shapes.

Here’s a classic E chord

how to hold a guitar

Here’s an F barre chord (E shape)

learn the F guitar chord

Can you see how the shape of the chord is EXACTLY the same?

Here’s a classic A chord

 learn the A chord

Here’s a B barre chord (A Shape)

learn guitar chords

Notice how the B barre chord, uses the A shape.

The first barre chord we’re going to learn is the F chord.

learn the F guitar chord

 

  • Barre your 1st finger from the 1st fret of the low E string (6th string) to the high E string. (1st string.)
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the A string. (5th string.)
  • Place your 4th finger on the 3rd fret of the D string. (4th string.)
  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the G string. (3rd string.)
  • Strum all the strings.

You can also play a minor version of this chord.

Fm Chord  (E Shape)

learn guitar chords

 

  • Barre your 1st finger from the 1st fret of the low E string (6th string) to the high E string. (1st string.)
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the A string. (5th string.)
  • Place your 4th finger on the 3rd fret of the D string. (4th string.)
  • Strum all the strings.

Now we’ve learnt how to play barre chords with an E shape, let’s learn some which use the A shape.

For this example, we’re going to learn the B barre chord and the B minor chord. Both of these barre chords use the A shape.

B Chord (A Shape)

learn guitar chords

  • Barre over on the 2nd fret from the A string to the high E string. (1st string.) Use your first finger!
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 4th fret of the D string. (4th string.)
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 4th fret of the G string. (3rd string.)
  • Place your 4th finger on the 4th fret of the B string. (2nd string.)
  • Strum from the A string. (5th string.)

B Minor Chord (A Shape)

learn guitar chords

  • Barre over on the 2nd fret from the A string to the high E string. (1st string). Use your first finger!
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 4th fret of the D string. (4th string.)
  • Place your 4th finger on the 4th fret of the G string. (3rd string.)
  • Place your 1st finger on the 3rd fret of the B string. (2nd string.)
  • Strum from the A string. (5th string.)

Moveable Shapes

One of the coolest thing about barre chords is that they are transferable shapes.

This means that you can get around 44 different chords out of 4 different chord shapes.

How do I do this?

To learn guitar chords around the fret board, you must know what the root note of a chord is.

The root note of a chord is the first note of a chord.

  • For E shape barre chords, the root notes are on the E string. (6th string).
  • For  A shape barre chords, the root note is on the A string. (5th string).

To change the key of the chord, we must move it to a different root note/fret.

In order to do this, we must know what the root notes are on the E and A strings.

Here they are:

E String Root Notes

e root notes

A String Root Notes

A root notes

To change the key of your chord, move your barre chord to a different fret.

For example, to play an A barre chord:

  • Move your E shape to the 5th fret.
  • Move your A shape to the 12th fret.

Or if you wanted to play a D flat minor barre chord, you would either:

  • Move your E shape barre chord to the 9th fret.
  • Move your A shape barre to the 4th fret.

This trick works for both E and shapes with major and minor chords.

What about other chords?

There are hundreds and thousands of guitar chords.

Try and learn as many chords as possible as this enhances your musicality.

To learn advanced guitar chords, check out this lesson: Jazz Guitar: A 5-Step Programme For Rapid Jazz Skill

Find Out What You Should Learn Next With Our Guitar Map

If you want to understand where you’re up to in your guitar journey you should take a look at our Guitar Map. It will show you what you ‘should’ know by now (and also what you need to learn next to move forward as a guitarist).

Most people find that the Guitar Map shows them how everything fits together and best of all, it will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that are holding you back.

(There is often just one piece of information that holds people back, 1 key insight that they need to know so they can continue moving forward and improving in their guitar journey.)

We made the Guitar Map so people like you can quickly identify what you don’t know, that you need to know next. We hope that makes sense!?

NOTE: The Guitar Map is now included in our free special report: 'The 7 Steps To Guitar Mastery'.

Want free guitar tips and video lessons delivered to your inbox?

Join over 30,000 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.

NGAEM

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Mike Kennedy - National Guitar Academy Founder

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