Beginner Guitar Lesson - Basic Major Chords
Hey, this is Chris from jamplay.com. In this lesson, we’re going to look at playing three of the most basic major chords on the guitar. Once you have these three chords down, you’ll be able to play a lot of songs. Believe it or not, it’s surprising how many popular songs out there consist of only a few chords. Maybe a minor chord is thrown in here and there. But once you’ve got these under your belt, you’re going to be able to make a fair amount of music, which is pretty cool.
The first chord we’re going to look at is an A chord. There are a lot of different ways to play an A chord on a guitar but we’re going to look at the most basic. [strums]
What I’m doing is I’m placing my second, third, and fourth fingers [pauses], all on the second fret, starting with my D string. D string [plucks], G string [plucks], and B string [plucks]. Okay? I’m doing it in this stack method.
You’ll see some people do this, which is not wrong but this is the easiest way for me to play it [strums]. All right? The other thing that I’m doing here is I’m not using my first finger. A lot of people will play it this way [strums] and that’s fine too. If that’s more comfortable for you, initially, go for it. [strums]
My hands are a little large [strums] and so it’s easier for me to play without my first finger ‘cause my pinky is much smaller than my first finger. Whichever finger you choose, it’s not wrong. One thing that you do want to make sure that you’re doing though is that you have plenty of arch on your fingers. You don’t want -- you see a lot of guitarists play it like this [strums], which is okay in certain settings but when you’re first starting out playing chords, it’s a good idea to keep your thumb back, right behind the chord [strums]. Really, just this direction of your first finger.
And you want to keep this joint of your thumb right on the highest part of the hump of your neck, directly behind the chord. That’s going to help your hand not tire as fast and it’s going to default your playing position to giving you plenty of arch on your fingers. So you don’t wind up with something like this [plucks]. Right? If your fingers are too flat [plucks], you’re going to run into that kind of stuff. That’s a good hand position to be looking at regardless of what chord you are playing for now. [strums] So there’s A. Beginner
The next chord we’re going to look at is D. D is a very popular chord. Now with this chord, we’ve got our first finger on the G string. Second fret, our second finger on the E string, second fret. Now we’re taking our third finger over here, on the B string [strums]. It’s customary when you’re first learning D and really most of the time when you’re strumming it, to only play either these [plucks] four strings or those five-strings [strums]. So, your four-through-one strings or your five-through-one strings. We don’t play the E most of the time [strums], sounds all the strings. So [strums] it’s okay to play the rest of those notes.
I should mention on the A chord [strums], most of the time we only play from five down to one. You can play the E as it is part of the chord [strums]. It’s not quite as awkward there. With the D, we definitely don’t want to play the low E string. [strums] Okay? Keeping all of the hand position ideas that I shared in mind, you’re going to notice that when you’re going to play your D chord [strums], you want to move your thumb down a bit or you want to move your thumb way up.
Resist yours to move it up over the neck, but it’s okay to move it down just a bit because the chord is lower, lower gravitationally on the neck than the A chord. Okay, once again [strums]. Now you might be asking, “Why isn’t your default position to do it without your first finger again?” Well, the reason on this one is there’s a little bit more of a stretch. You’re covering two frets. So it’s actually harder [strums], not impossible, but it’s actually harder to do it that way.
And you’ll find that as we start joining these chords together, that this really isn’t that practical for playing down here. There’s a lot of great ideas that come from playing the chord that way but we’re going to do it this way for now. But I do encourage you to experiment with other fingers. It’s totally fine. So there’s D.
The third and final chord we’re going to look at in this short lesson is an E chord. [strums]
The E chord starts with your second finger, on the second fret [plucks], fifth string [plucks], your third finger right below it [plucks], and then your first finger on the first fret G string [strums].
This is another one that I like to play with this fingering [strums]. And if you’ve watched the barre chord lessons on this blog, you will understand why it’s important to learn A and E multiple ways. So let’s hear how these chords sound together musically. We’ll do just a real basic down-stroke strum pattern. [strumming]
So you can hear with only those three chords there’s a fair amount of music there. You can also hear how it starts to sound a little bit like a song when you start strumming. Now, you’ll also notice that when I was doing that demonstration, I did -- my thumb did creep up just a little bit [strums].
I wasn’t doing this [strums], but I did have upped just a bit, [strums] about there [strums]. You’re going to find that after you learn this basic shapes while keeping your thumb down just a bit to make sure that everything is [plucks] ringing out, when you start putting chords together, like I just did, you’re going to find a comfortable position that your hand lies in and you still get all your notes ringing out. And that’s okay.
Make sure it’s not real extreme [strums], but it’s okay if things move and shift a little bit as you start playing different progressions, progressions being group of chords.
So those are three basic chords that you get used strumming just a little bit. Experiment with the right hand, check out some of our videos at jamplay.com for more chords, more basic progressions, and strumming techniques. We’ll see you soon.