An introduction to guitar chords – open chords

Back when I was in music theory one in college I was asked what a chord was, while they were being serious I replied with a sarcastic explanation “A group of notes that go boom”. However this is a great explanation of what a chord is. A chord is a group of specific notes that are played simultaneously. On the guitar there are many different ways to play guitar chords, but the simplest and typically the first that people learn are open chords.

Open chords on guitar are chords that are low on the guitar neck, typically 3rd fret and below. Open chords also contain open strings. If they do not contain open strings then they are not considered open chords. If you have played guitar before you probably have played an open chord already, because these are very common guitar chords.

In this lesson I am going to show you the most common open chords. Practice these slowly. Spend the time you need to learn them well. This is your basis for much more knowledge in the future. The good news is that if you work on these chords you will learn them relatively fast. Let’s dive into it, shall we?

open chords GThis is the Open G Chord. On the Low E string play the G note with your middle finger. On the A string play the B note with your first (index) finger. On the high E string play the G note with your ring finger. Strum all the strings.

open chords CThis is the Open C Chord. Do not strum the low E string. Place your ring finger on the third fret of the A string. Put your middle finger on the second fret on the D string. And your first (index) finger on the first fret B string.

open chords DThis is the open D chord. Do not strum the low E string and the A string. Place your first (index) finger on the second fret G string, ring finger third fret B string and middle finger second fret high E string.

open chords E This is the open E chord. There are 2 ways to play this and you should become comfortable with both. The first way to finger this is to place your middle finger second fret on the A string, ring finger second fret D string, and first (index) finger first fret G string. This is good to use in open position.  The second way to finger this chord is to place your ring finger second fret A string, pinky second fret D string and middle finger first fret G-string. Getting comfortable with this fingering will make barre chords easier. You can strum all the strings.

open chords E minorThis is the open E minor chord. finger this chord the same way as the E above except leave off the first fret on the G string.

open chords AThis is the open A chord. Just like the E chord there are 3 ways to finger this. The first approach which I never use, but a lot of books suggest is the classical approach. You place first (index) finger second fret D string, middle finger second fret G string and ring finger second fret B string. I find the second and third approach easier and they are both similar. You can barre your first (index) finger or ring finger across all 3 strings. the ring finger is best for barre chords in the future.

Experiment with the different fingerings for the different shapes. I suggest you become familiar with as many different options as possible. It pays off to be flexible on guitar. With these chords you can play millions of songs. A lot of acoustic guitar players rely on these chords primarily because of the open sound they have is full. If the songs are in a different key then they put on a capo. Find some of your favorite songs and start learning them and playing them with these chords to help you get them under your fingers. These chords are a foundation to a whole world of knowledge.

Open chords are a valuable thing to know. They are just a group of notes played simultaneously with open strings that are typically played low on the fret board. Spend the time to learn these shapes and learn to strum some of your favorite songs with these shapes. In the end you will be glad you did. All guitar players that are past the beginning stages of playing know these chords, they are so vital that it would be almost impossible to progress without knowing them.

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