Open Chords Guitar: The Ultimate Guide

Open chords guitar are the foundation of all music. Learning open chords is a rite of passage for every beginner guitarist and in this lesson we’re going to show you every kind of open chord possible.

open-chords-guitar

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In this free lesson you will learn:

  • 25 open chords that every beginner must-know.
  • 5 quick tips that will boost your musicality and chord knowledge.
  • The no1 secret that will help you learn chords as quickly as possible.

Open Chords Guitar – What Are They?

Open chords guitar are chords that use the open strings of the guitar, this means that you don’t have to fret every single string.

  • Some of the strings can ring open, having open strings allows us to have deep sounding chords that sound amazing.
  • The term “open chords” is used to differentiate them from barre chords. The open chords guitar players use are on the first three or four frets of the guitar.
  • All of the open chords guitar you need are presented in this guitar lesson in alphabetical order, from A to G.

Learning these open chords will enable you to play all of your favourite songs and will instantly improve your chord knowledge. Let’s get started!

open-chords-guitar

Open Chords Guitar – A Major Chords

All chords on the guitar have either a major or minor quality. There are types of chords out there, but for now don’t worry about them.

Today we’re going to show you the main A major chord as well as a few other easier versions.

Pro Theory Tip!

Your ears already know the difference between major and minor chords: major chords sound happy, and minor chords sound sad.

The musical alphabet goes A B C D E F G, so we’re going to start with A major. To get a handle on what the musical alphabet is and its relationship to guitar string names, check out this lesson:

Guitar Notes Explained: A Guide For Beginners

Open Chords Guitar – A7

A simpler and immediately playable version of A major is the A7 chord. It looks like this:

open-chords-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!)

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You can use either your index and middle fingers (fingers 1 and 2) or your middle and ring fingers (fingers 2 and 3) to play that chord. You’ll strum that chord from the A string down.

This chord has a bluesy feel and works fantastically in genres such as blues, rock and funk.

Open Chords Guitar – Asus2

Another simpler substitute for A major is Asus2, which looks like this.

open-chords-guitar

This chord has a ‘dreamy’ feel to it and works wonderfully for acoustic musicians and country players.

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Open Chords Guitar – A Major

The full A major chord, abbreviated “A”, is one of the open chords guitar players use all the time. Here are some options for playing it.

open-chords-guitar

open-chords-guitar

open-chords-guitar

Any of the fingerings will work for the A chord; whichever one you can do is the right one. However, we recommend using the ‘123’ fingering.

Pro Tip!

If you are trying to learn a song and you come across an A chord, you can always use a A7 or Asus2 chord instead. This is a great way of adding flavour to your songs.

A Minor Chords

The parallel to the A chord is the A minor chord, abbreviated ‘Am’. In this section we’re going to learn two versions of A minor.

  • A Minor.
  • A Minor 7.

Open Chords Guitar – Am7

The first version we’re going to learn is Am7. This is an easy two-finger version of the A minor chord.

open-chords-guitar

Open Chords Guitar – Am

If you’ve got Am7 down and want to make it sound even sadder, try the full Am chord. It is played from the A string down.

open-chords-guitar

Fun Fact

If you strum the Am chord, you may have a song pop into your head. It is the first chord in songs like “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” by Tom Petty and “Angie” by the Rolling Stones. Am and Am7 are open chords guitar songwriters use to convey a melancholy mood,

open-chords-guitar

Quick Tip

If you wanted, you could use the Asus2 chord discussed above as a substitute for the Am chord, because the quality of suspended chords is that neither major nor minor. They are ambiguous and handy!

Pro-tip: When strumming open chords guitar players try to use the very tops of their fingers, to avoid touching adjacent strings and accidentally muting them. Touching adjacent strings will come in handy later when you WANT to mute them, but for now, go for a clear tone on each string.

B Major Chords

B major is one of those chords that is only fully expressed as a barre chord, so when playing open chords guitar players generally use the B7 as a replacement.

The B7 is not exactly an easy chord to get to because the full version requires all four of your fingers, but there is a gateway version you can use. Let’s check that out.

Open Chords Guitar – B7 (Simple Version)

open-chords-guitar

This shape is a VERY common shape, this is one of the open chords guitar players use a lot because it sounds good in lots of places around the fretboard.

Every string in the shape above is part of the B7 chord except for the open E string, which with a little practice you’ll be able to fret on the second fret with your pinky.

Open Chords Guitar – B7 (Full Version)

The full B7 chord looks like this, and it is played from the A string down.

open-chords-guitar

Open Chords Guitar – B Major Triad (Bonus Chord!)

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try a simple B major triad; it’s not convenient, but it contains all the elements of a proper B chord.

open-chords-guitar

Open Chords Guitar – B Minor Chords

B minor, abbreviated Bm, is another slightly inconvenient chord. Both of these friendlier Bm chords are technically called Bm11, but they are open chords guitar players can use right away!

Your musical career does not have to wait until you’ve learned all the chords; just ask the Ramones!

Open Chords Guitar – Bm11

open chords guitar

 

open-chords-guitar

Here are two fantastic versions of the Bm chord. You can use either of these chords instead of a Bm chord, they will work brilliantly.

The second one is really just an A minor shape moved up two frets. MUCH more about that in a later lesson.

Open Chords Guitar – Bm Triad

A triad is a ‘3-note chord’, it’s the simplest way to theoretically think about a chord.

However, don’t worry too much about the theory behind this chord at the moment, just concentrate on adding it to your arsenal of open chords! Here it is:

open-chords-guitar

open-chords-guitar

C Major Chords

To make an easy C major chord, all you need is one finger and three strings.

open-chords-guitar

Combine it with the one-finger G major chord, and you have an open chords guitar progression that you can turn into a song!

Open Chords Guitar – Cmaj7

For a fuller version of C major, which happens to be one of the prettiest open chords guitar players can make, you can use just two fingers and make a Cmaj7 chord.

easy-chords

Why use anything else? It’s perfect just the way it is.

Open Chords Guitar – C Major (Full Version)

To make a full C chord, you will need to use three fingers, like this. It is played from the A string down.

easy-guitar-chord

Pro-tip: When you go to make the full C major chord, get your third finger on the fifth string before doing anything else. This will situate your other fingers over the strings they need to be on

Open Chords Guitar – C Minor

C minor isn’t the easiest chord to play in an open position. However, there are a few open string versions that you can use, here they are:

Open Chords Guitar – C Minor (2 Finger Version)

open-c-minor-chord

The trickiest part about playing this chord is avoiding the low E, A and high E string. To do this with ease, just focus on playing the D, G and B strings.

Open Chords Guitar – Cm (The Easiest Version)

This is a super-cool version of the Cm chord as it only uses two fingers! When you play this chord, be careful not to strum the B (2nd) and E (1st) strings as this will turn this Cm chord into something else.

Cm-2-finger

If you’d like to learn other versions of the Cm chord, go here: 4 Easy Ways To Play The C Minor Guitar Chord

D Major Chords

D major is not the simplest of the open chords guitar players use, but it is one of the most prevalent, so here are some of our favourite versions of the D major chord.

Dsus2

open-chord

Dsus2 is a fantastic easier option for guitarists to know. It’s also a great ‘stepping-stone’ for the guitar player who is struggling with the D major chord.

D Major

The D major chord is one of the most popular chords in music and it looks like this:

open-d-chord

D7

The other D major chord you can use as a beginner is a D7, a bluesy version of D and one of the most comfortable open chords guitar players use!

easy-chords

All D chords, whether major, minor, suspended, or seventh, are played from the D string down.

Chords form the foundation of all music for us as guitarists. However, it’s sometimes to work out what music you like.

To help you out, check out this article from Rolling Stone Magazine which tells you what the greatest songs of all time are: 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time

Open Chords Guitar – D Minor Chords

D minor is officially documented in the movie “This is Spinal Tap” as the saddest key. In a musical emergency, you can use Dsus2 as a substitute for D minor.

Dm looks and sounds like D has been drinking! Here is how to make a full Dm chord.

Dm-guitar-chord

easy-open-chords

E Major Chords

E major is one of the most satisfying open chords guitar players use because it uses all six strings and sounds especially full and resonant.

Open Chords Guitar – E7

One of the easiest versions of the E major chord is a two-finger substitute, E7. This looks like this:

E7-guitar-chord

This chord is great for those bluesy moments.

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.

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E Major

Here is the full E major chord.

open-e-chord

Pro Chord Changing Tip!

E and B7 are two open chords guitar players use together all the time, and you can practice changing between them by flip-flopping your first and third fingers.

From E, your first finger goes north to the A string, and your third finger goes south to the D string. Add your pinky, and you’re on the B7.

E Minor Chords

Widely regarded as the easiest open guitar chord guitar players regularly use, the Em7 chord is a great substitute for Em.

Open Chords Guitar – Em7 (1 Finger Version)

E-minor-guitar-chord

Open Chords Guitar – Em (2 Finger Version)

Em is not much more difficult and is a classic addition to every guitarists chord arsenal.

Em-Guitar-Chord

Quick Challenge

Try strumming Em four times and then A7 or A four times, and see if you can do it without stopping a steady strum. This is a great way of practicing chord changes and will instantly improve your musicality.

F Major Chord

F major appears pretty regularly in advanced beginner and intermediate guitar songs, but it is not one of the open chords guitar players can just sit down and master on the first day.

Fortunately, there is a beautiful substitute: The Fmaj7.

Open Chords Guitar – F Major 7

Fmaj7 looks like this. It is played from the D string down.

open-fmaj7-guitar

Practice changing between the Fmaj7 and the C or Cmaj7 chord; strum four or eight Fmaj7 and then the same number of C or Cmaj7, try to do this without stopping. There might be a song in there.

Open Chords Guitar – F Minor

Although there are no easy open chords guitar players can use for Fm, there are a couple of easier versions of this chord, here are a few of our favourites.

easy-open-f-minor

Fm-guitar-chord

Both of these chords are super similar and take a while to master, so take your time with these chords and practice mastering one of the coolest minor chords of all.

To learn more versions of the Fm, check out this lesson:

Fm Chord – Easy Shapes For Beginner Guitarists

guitar-chords-easy

G Major Chords

G is among the friendliest open chords guitar players use as beginners because there are so many options. The G chord can be played with one finger on four strings.

G-guitar-chord

If you are not ready for the full G chord but you need a little more depth in the sound, try this G6.

G-chord-openr

And here is the full G chord, using all six strings. There are two versions: the standard three-finger G and the big G, which you should use if you are planning to play a lot of bluegrass music or Jethro Tull.

g-chord

g-chord-guitar

Open Chords Guitar – G Minor Chords

As with C minor and F minor, there are no easily accessible Gm open chords guitar players can use.

However, you can find a few of our favourite versions here:

G Minor Guitar Chord For Beginners

What Do I Do With All Of These Chords?

Mastering the open chords guitar players use is a key guitar skill. You need to get the chord shapes into your fingers’ and that involves a lot of repetition.

Chords travel together in families, which are referred to as keys. The key denotes the central note of a melody and the central chord of the song.

If you’d like to learn more about guitar keys, go here: Guitar Keys: An Essential Guide

Practice making and changing between these chords, row by row, in whichever version works best for you.

C  |  Fmaj7  |  G  |   AM

A  |  D  |  E

G  |  C  |  D  |  Em

E  |  A  |  B7

D  |  G  |  A  |  Bm

Mastering these open chords means you can play thousands of rock, pop, blues, and folk songs.

Because these are the friendliest open chords guitar players learn as beginners, these are also the chords most frequently used in songs written on guitar.

Once you’ve developed some hand strength by practicing the open chords guitar players learn first, you can round out your chord vocabulary by starting barre chords.

If you’d like to learn more of those chords, go here:

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