Basic Guitar Chords for Beginners (chords series, Ep. 1)

beginning guitarist chord theory series: how to learn guitar chords - beginner to advanced chords Oct 20, 2020

This is the first lesson in a series on how to learn guitar chords from the ground up. This first part is on the fourteen basic guitar chords for beginners.

My new multi-lesson series on how to learn guitar chords

The guitar is a special instrument because it's melodic and harmonic. It can play a supporting role in music or be featured as a lead.

Nearly half of our job as students of the guitar is to be studying harmony and chords. That's why I'm launching a multi-video series on how to learn guitar chords from the ground up. 

This lesson series will cover everything from basic guitar chords for beginners to complex seventh chords, chord extensions, inversions, rootless chords, and much more. 

Most importantly I'm going to be talking about how to think about chords, how to see them on the fretboard, how to analyze them, and how to create them from scratch using music theory.

Triads on guitar

All of the guitar chords in this lesson are triads. Triads are three-note chords with a root, a third, and a fifth. Don't worry about what that means for now because understanding the theory behind chords is exactly what we're going to cover later in the series. 

Chords A through G

Look at the guitar chords chart below and you'll notice that there's a triad chord for every letter of the alphabet through 'G'. This is a great way to remember the first seven major chords that you should know: A major, B major, C major, D major, E major, F major, and G major. 

There are also seven minor chords, each corresponding to the letters A through G. The only difference is that we will be playing C# minor, F# minor, and G# minor instead of their natural-note alternatives.

Why are these the first guitar chords to learn?

If you try playing through the chords in the guitar chords chart below you'll find that they aren't all easy to play. So why are these what I recommend as the first guitar chords to learn?

I recommend these fourteen chords first because they are all the major and minor triads that exist in the most common keys to play on the guitar: C, A, G, E, and D.

Later in the series we'll talk about which chords exist in which keys and you'll see how many of these same fourteen chords get used over and over again.

How to practice barre chords

Yes, barre chords are hard! Barre chords are chords that require fretting multiple notes with the same finger. These are notoriously hard. I recommend every guitarist start grappling with them as soon as possible. 

When working on barre chords at first you will hear notes buzzing and getting muted. That's normal and that's okay. Let it happen and let them be hard. The physical conditioning required to play barre chords takes time. 

Important: Do not practice barre chords for an extended period of time. Just like you need recovery time after lifting weights, you need recovery time after working on barre chords if they are new for you. Practice them for only a few minutes at a time. 

Guitar chords chart notation and fingering

Pay attention to the "x" marks and the "o" marks. "x" means that you do not play that string while "o" means that you play an open string. 

Watch the video for left hand finger recommendations and demonstrations of each chord. 

"4th" means that the fingers fretting the notes closest to the head of the guitar should be lined up with the 4th fret

Guitar chords chart: The 14 basic guitar chords for beginners

Lesson content outline with YouTube timestamp links:

0:00 - Lesson Intro
0:42 - 14 Chord Shape Diagrams Explained
4:46 - Chord Demonstrations
9:03 - Lesson Outro

How to learn guitar chords lesson series outline

Series playlist on YouTube

• Ep. 1: Basic Guitar Chords (for beginners and beyond)
• Ep. 2: The Source of Chords (scale theory)
• Ep. 3: Labeling Chord Notes (chord tones)
• Ep. 4: Chords in a Key (chord numbers)
• Ep. 5: Finding Other Chord Tones (chord scales)
• Ep. 6: Adding the 7 (seventh chords)
• Ep. 7: More Chord Tone Options (extended chords)
• Ep. 8: Inverted Guitar Chords
• Ep. 9: Simple Jazz Chords
• Ep. 10: Advanced Jazz Chords

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