The First 8 Guitar Chords (2023)

by The First 8 Guitar Chords (1)

Overview

Open chords are the first chords people learn on the instrument. They are called open because they incorporate open strings with fingered notes as well.

It is easiest to start by learning 8 common open chords. These are E, A, D, C, G, Em, Am and Dm.

We’ll show diagrams for each of these chords below. There’s a couple of steps involved in learning the chords. Firstly is to learn to finger the chords with your left hand so you can strum it and have all the appropriate notes ring out.

After being able to finger the chord while allowing yourself time to move your fingers to the appropriate fret and position a major skill you will need to learn is to be able to transition between the chords smoothly. For example, a typical chord progression may hold each chord for say 4 or 8 beats and you will then need to be able to change to the next chord quickly end efficiently so that there is no break in the music between chord changes.

This skill can take some time to develop. I recommend starting to learn this with basic chord progressions that involve what we will term “pivot fingers” to make the transitions between chords easier when your first learning to change chords. These pivot fingers are a finger that does not change fret or string between two consecutive chords. As you are already fingering the first chord, you can simply keep your pivot finger in place while you adjust your other fingers to the next chord in the progression. This means you have one less finger to worry about in finding the next chord as its already in place.

After presenting the 8 common open chords below, I’ll include a number of chord progressions that use these chords and involve pivot fingers in the transitions between chords. These progressions should be simpler to pick up than progressions that do not involve using pivot fingers.

I recommend to learn to finger and strum the 8 common chords and as you do this, work your way through playing these progression that utilize pivot fingers.

As you work on these progressions, you will need to be utilising a strumming pattern to strum the chords with with your right hand and your pick. This topic of developing different strumming patterns can become quite involved but the way I would approach it at this point is to learn a few different strumming patterns and then be able to apply any of these strumming patterns you have learned to any of the chord progressions we present.

You can see some basic strumming patterns that can be used for this in our basic strumming patterns resource.

Once you are able to play these “pivot finger” progressions with different strumming patterns and transition between the chords smoothly you should be in a good position to start to tackle chord progressions that utilize these 8 common open chords but don’t necessarily have pivot fingers to help the transitions. At this point there are heaps of different songs you will be able to strum along to. After presenting our “pivot chord” progressions, I’ll include a number of chord progressions based on the 8 common open chords and indicate a song that utilizes each of the progressions, you should learn these progressions with the various strumming patterns you have learned and you might also like to play along with the recording of the song and try to figure out the strumming pattern that is used in the actual recording.

Once you can do this, you will have a reasonable grip on playing with open chords, you can then start to learn more open chords and strumming patterns to increase you vocabulary. At the bottom of the article we present some more open chords to learn following the 8 common ones. It will then be up to you to learn to finger the new chords and find progressions that involve the new chords to practice with as you increase your chord vocabulary. It is my hope that by learning the 8 common chords in the method above, you will have the skills to learn more open chords, progressions and strumming patterns yourself.

(Video) 8 Guitar Chords You Must Know - Beginner Guitar Lessons

So now, down to the material we’ve talked about.

The 8 Common Open Chords

These are the 8 common open chords that can be used to strum along to countless songs.

First, some notes on reading the chord diagrams. Take a look at this C chord diagram:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (2)

The diagram represents a vertical fretboard. The leftmost string is the low E string and the rightmost is the high E string. Each diagram represents the first few frets of the guitar plus the open strings. Each black dot shows where you need to fret the corresponding string and the number in the dot indicates which finger you should use to fret the note. The fingers are numbered 1 for the index finger, 2 for the middle finger, 3 for the ring finger and 4 for the pinky.

Also, when a string does not have a black dot on it there will either be a cross or a circle above the string. These strings do not have any fretted notes. A circle indicates the string should be allowed to ring, playing as an open string while the cross indicates the string should not ring out during the chord and should not be strummed with your right hand during the strumming pattern.

For each of the 8 common chords, here is a chord diagram and photo of the chord being played.

A few things to note when looking at the photos are the angle at which the wrist is bent as well as the angle of curvature in the knuckles and finger joints. This will be different for each player depending on the size and shape of their fingers and hands but seeing the examples in the diagrams should still be useful. Feel free to experiment a bit to see what you find comfortable.

The First 8 Guitar Chords (3)

As you try to play these chords, a few points to note:

  • For the most part, you want to try and press the string down with your finger tips rather than the flesh on the front of your finger.
  • As you play each chord, check for each string that each finger is only pressing the desired note and is not touching the other strings that would result in dampening, or muting the string and stop it from ringing out.
  • Pay special attention that as you strum the chord, you are only strumming the desired strings and not strumming any of the strings that have a cross above them in the diagrams.
  • As you first learn the chords, allow yourself to slowly find a good hand position to finger the chord with your right hand and then when its sounding clearly, practice some of the basic strumming patters shown here while holding the chord down. This will help you learn the strumming pattern in preparation for applying it to the below chord progressions without the additional difficulty of having to change chords while learning the pattern.

Pivot Finger Chord Progressions

Here are the chord progressions that utilize a pivot finger where one finger can be held in place while you change chords. This makes the chord change easier as there is one less finger you need to worry about when changing chords.

For all these chord progressions, you can keep repeating the chord progression until it is feeling more comfortable.

We’ll start with progressions just involving two chords to make the changes between chords easier. You should learn all of these progressions, before moving on to the other progressions, and apply the strumming patterns we’ve talked about to them.

(Video) 8 Guitar Chords For Beginners

Two Chord Pivot Finger Progressions:

||: Am | | C | :||

This chord progression above has two pivot fingers, the 1st and the 2nd finger. To change chords you simply keep these two fingers in place and move the third finger to the desired location.

||: Em | | G | :||

For this progression the 1st finger is the pivot finger.

||: A | | D | :||

Once again, the first finger is the pivot finger for the above progression.

||: E | | A | :||

For this progression, the first finger is the pivot finger but you do need to slide the finger from the first to the second fret between E and A while holding it down. You then slide the finger from the second to the first fret to change back from A to E.

||: Em | | C | :||

The 2nd finger is the pivot finger here.

||: Am | | A | :||

Once again, a 2nd finger pivot.

||: Em | | A | :||

2nd finger pivot again.

We will now work on progressions with more than two chords. Each chord change involves a pivot finger similar to the above progressions.

The First 8 Guitar Chords (4)

For the next three progressions, the pivot finger needs to slide a fret while moving to and from the E chord as detailed above:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (5)

And finally:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (6)

For virtually all of these progression, each chord is held for 8 beats. When you are comfortable with this try the same progressions but only holding each chord for 4 beats instead of 8. This will be a bit harder as you are having to change chords more quickly.

Something to note here is we are unable to present any pivot chord progressions involving Dm from the 8 common chords. This is because this chord does not share any common fingerings with the other chords. You will need to get used to Dm with progressions that don’t involve pivot fingers.

(Video) 8 Open Chords That You Should Know! | Guitar for Beginners

Chord Progressions From Popular Songs

Here are some examples of using only these 8 chords to be able to stum along to popular songs. Along with each chord progression, I’ll indicate which section of the song uses the chord progression and sometimes embed a youtube video of the track so you can try strumming along with it.

Knocking on Heavens Door – Bob Dylan


The First 8 Guitar Chords (7)

This song uses this one chord progression through the whole track.

Runaway Train – Soul Asylum

Chorus Chord Progression:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (8)

This progression is used for the chorus at 1:05 and 2:15 in the video as well as repeating from the last verse till the end of the song from 3:04 in the video till the end.

Zombie – Cranberries

Chord Progression:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (9)

This chord progression is used throughout most of the song, only occasionally reverting to the more simple:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (10)

A lot of this song uses different fingerings of the chords with distorted guitar, but these are still the chord progressions adopted and you can still stum along to the song with an acoustic or clean guitar sound. Strumming these chords on an acoustic would be a good way to do an unplugged version of the song.

Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

Most of this song uses the progression:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (11)

Except the chorus at 0:39, 1:18 and 2:24 which uses the progression:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (12)

(Video) Your First Guitar Chords - Beginner Guitar Lesson #8

Apart from these progressions, there are just a few other points that hold a single chord such as the second and third choruses that hold the final D chord for a couple of bars.

Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd

The whole song uses the progression:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (13)

If your getting quick with your chord changes you can add in another C chord right before the repeat:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (14)

Bad Moon Rising – Creedance Clearwater Revival

The whole song repeats the progression:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (15)

Aint No Sunshine – Bill Withers

The following progression is used through most of the song:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (16)

The key to making this sound good is to carefully pick which strings you strum. For example, it sounds better without strumming the top E string on the G chord.

Additional Chords:

Once you’ve got these 8 chords working well, here are some other chords around the open position I find useful. There’s also an addition to the chord chart notation here. Take the F chord:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (17)

The curved line across the first and second string implies you should barre these strings with you finger as shown with the first finger holding down the first and second strings in the photo:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (18)

(Video) The 8 Guitar Chords You MUST Know - Beginner Chords on Acoustic Guitar

The Chords:

The First 8 Guitar Chords (19)

by The First 8 Guitar Chords (20)

FAQs

What are the first chords to learn on guitar? ›

The 7 essential most used beginner chords ALL guitar players should learn first are E major, E minor, A major, A minor, D major, C major and G major. With these chords, you'll be armed with the power to play literally thousands upon thousands of different songs.

What are the 9 essential guitar chords? ›

You can already try looking (and listening) for the difference between the major and minor versions of the same chord.
  • E major chord. ...
  • E minor chord. ...
  • A minor chord. ...
  • C major chord. ...
  • D major chord. ...
  • A major chord. ...
  • F major chord. ...
  • D minor chord.

What are the 4 magic chords? ›

It turns out that the four magical chords are E, B, C# minor and A. But with so many chords to choose from, why did dozens of hit songs end up with the same four chords? At first glance, it seems strange that so many songs should have the same chords.

What are the 3 cowboy chords? ›

Also called “cowboy chords,” these basic open chords require only three fingers on the fretting hand: index, middle, and ring.

What are the 3 most important guitar chords? ›

G, C and D are some of the most commonly used chords in popular music and are used in literally thousands of songs (we'll list some of the most well-known later). Also, they're not too difficult to learn and they sound really good together (hence their popularity).

What are the 4 most used guitar chords? ›

Our latest Quick Video Lesson focuses on the four basic chords you need to learn to play hundreds of the most popular 4 chord songs on guitar. The four chords you are going to learn in our latest course are Em, C, G, and D, and you'll master two of them with this simple step-by-step video.

What are the 5 basic guitar chords? ›

The 5 chords we'll look at are the C major, A major, G major, E major, and D major. The reason we use all major chords is that the minor versions of any of these chords just require tiny adjustments.

What should beginner guitarist learn first? ›

Playing open chords

Open chords are one of the first skills a beginner guitarist will learn. Master just three, and you can play a whole host of popular songs. Aside from attending guitar lessons, following a chord chart is one of the best ways to get acquainted with the basics.

What are the 3 Magic chords? ›

The I (tonic), IV (subdominant) and V (dominant) chords (primary triads) together encompass all seven tones of the tonic's major scale. These three chords are a simple means of covering many melodies without the use of passing notes. There are tens of thousands of songs written with I, IV and V chords.

What is the most used guitar chord? ›

C major. This is arguably the most common chord of all-time. This is the C major chord, or the C chord. It consists of the C, E and G notes from the C major scale.

What is the devil's chord? ›

In music a tritone consists of two notes that are three whole steps apart, such as “C” to “F#.” Not found in either the major or minor scales, and due to its discordant sound, it has been called “the Devil's Chord.”

What is the most famous chord progression? ›

1. C - G - Am - F (I - V -vi - IV) This just might be the most popular chord progression in Western popular music. There is an actual mathematical explanation as to why it's such a pleasant progression.

What chords do Foo Fighters use? ›

Arpeggios and powerchords (Guitar One)

These add9 and 7sus4 chords will give you a typically Foos-style flavour, and the warm but cutting light overdrive tone is authentic too.

How many chords are there in guitar in total? ›

We also haven't included every possible combination of notes on the fretboard, or anything with a root above the 24th fret. However, all of the guitar chords used in an academic and/or practical sense are accounted for, bringing our number of guitar chords to the 2210 total.

How many hours does it take to master guitar? ›

More Arbitrary Ratings of Proficiency
LevelHours NeededDaily Practice Investment
Beginning625156 days
Intermediate125010 months
Advanced25001.8 years
Expert50003.5 years
5 more rows

What is the hardest guitar chord to learn? ›

However, the barred C chord is one of the hardest guitar chords for beginners. Although it involves the same notes but is rearranged (in a different order), this chord is more challenging to play. That is because we also need a bar in order to play it. Place your index finger across the strings on the third fret.

What is the hardest guitar skill? ›

Barre chords

We promise we're not winding you up when we say that barre chords are the hardest guitar technique. The reason most guitarists can do them is because they're essential, not because they're easy.

What is the easiest guitar chord? ›

Basic Em Guitar Chord (E Minor Chord)

Em is the first beginning guitar chord you should learn. It's one of the most basic guitar chords not only because it's easy, but because it's used all the time in a lot of different songs. The small m after the E means minor. Think of minor as a flavor of sound.

How many guitar chords do you need to know? ›

Many guitar players will tell you that there are only 5 chords to concern yourself with as a beginner. They are the five Major chords mention earlier: E, G, C, A, and D. Major is a word that describes the quality of the chord. The spacing between the notes in music is what gives the chord their quality.

Which is the most important skill for A guitar player? ›

Develop Your Timing

Not developing your sense of timing is a surefire way to find yourself in an embarrassing situation the first time you play with other musicians. When you're first learning how to play the guitar, it can be easy to forget to work on your timing because you aren't playing along with anyone else.

What 3 guitar chords should I learn first? ›

Guitar chords chart for beginners

The first chords to learn on guitar are Em, C, G, and D. Let's get started in “first position” or “open chords.” These chords are played close to the nut and utilize a number of open strings. The next chord you should learn is C, or C major.

What are the 12 chords? ›

There are 12 unique notes at the piano, which means we can build a major chord on each of those 12 notes - C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, Ab, A, Bb, an B. There is also a secret formula that only the wisest of piano instructors know about that allows you to build major chords starting on any note!

How many hours should you practice guitar a day? ›

For most people, 30–90 minutes per day seems to be a good goal. Total beginners may see good results in just 15 minutes per day.

Is it OK to learn guitar by yourself? ›

The good news is, you can absolutely teach yourself guitar! It may have been hard to learn on your own time 20 years ago, but now great information is everywhere. The power of the internet has created an awesome database of resources for those who really want to learn.

Can I learn guitar in 3 months? ›

You can learn the basics of guitar in 3 months as long as the length, quality, and consistency of your practice is good. You also need to be highly motivated and have the ability to take constructive criticism in a positive way.

What is the gypsy chord? ›

Minor 6 chords are used often in Gypsy jazz music instead of minor 7 chords. The formula for these two voicings, from low to high, is root–6–b3. (For Am6, that's A–F#–C; for Dm6, it's D–B–F.) Gypsy jazz has a distinctive diminished quality to it, which is achieved with the minor 6 chord.

What are the basic 4 chords? ›

The chord progression consists of four basic chords:
  • C major (chord symbol "C")
  • G major (chord symbol "G")
  • A minor (chord symbol "Am")
  • F major (chord symbol "F")

What is the happiest key in music? ›

Noisy shouts of joy, laughing pleasure and not yet complete, full delight lies in E Major. Naïve, womanly innocent declaration of love, lament without grumbling; sighs accompanied by few tears; this key speaks of the imminent hope of resolving in the pure happiness of C major.

Why is it called a 7th chord? ›

A seventh chord is a chord consisting of a triad plus a note forming an interval of a seventh above the chord's root. When not otherwise specified, a "seventh chord" usually means a dominant seventh chord: a major triad together with a minor seventh.

What is the most famous guitar riff of all time? ›

And now, here are some of the best guitar riffs of all time.
  • 5: Guns N' Roses: Sweet Child O' Mine (1988) ...
  • 4: Deep Purple: Smoke On The Water (1972) ...
  • 3: The Rolling Stones: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction) (1965) ...
  • 2: Chuck Berry: Johnny B Goode (1958) ...
  • 1: Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991) ...
  • The best of the rest.

Who is number 1 guitarist of all time? ›

1: Jimmy Page

The mastermind behind hard-rock giants Led Zeppelin is without a doubt the best guitarists who ever lived. Jimmy Page's clamorous fusion of blues-rock and hyperactive riffage took the revolutionary spirit of Jimi Hendrix's innovations and turned them into pure magic.

What is C tritone? ›

A tritone is an interval made up of three tones, or six semitones. In each diatonic scale there is only one tritone, and it occurs between the fourth and seventh degrees of the scale, so in a C major scale this would be between F and B.

Is a tritone a fourth? ›

The Tritone sits between a perfect fourth and a perfect fifth. You usually find it in the form of an augmented fourth or diminished fifth. The Tritone consists of three whole steps, also known as whole tones. As far as musical distance is concerned, the Tritone is perfectly symmetric.

Why is it called a tri tone? ›

In music theory, it's called the "tritone" because it's made of three whole steps. "The reason it's unsettling is that it's ambiguous, unresolved," says Gerald Moshell, Professor of Music at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

What is the most stable chord? ›

The tonic (I) chord is the most stable chord in the diatonic progression.

What are the catchiest chord progressions? ›

Top Ten
  • vi-V-IV-V. Starting on a vi is pretty unusual, but here it sounds great against the V-IV-V combination. ...
  • IV-I6-ii. A 3 chord progression here, which starts on the IV and adds a 6th to the root, before closing on a ii. ...
  • I-V6-vi-V. ...
  • I-V-vi-iii-IV. ...
  • i-III-VII-VI. ...
  • i-V-vi-IV. ...
  • i-VII-III-VI. ...
  • I-vi-IV-V.

What is the longest chord name? ›

The longest of all chord of a circle is called a diameter.

What is the Hitchcock chord? ›

A minor major seventh chord, or minor/major seventh chord (also known as the Hitchcock Chord) is a seventh chord composed of a root, minor third, perfect fifth, and major seventh (1, ♭3, 5, and 7). It can be viewed as a minor triad with an additional major seventh.

What are Disneys 4 Keys? ›

Every Disney Parks cast member is familiar with our longstanding tradition of The Four Keys – Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency – which have guided our approach to guest service for more than 65 years.

What is Disney's 5th key? ›

The Five Keys—Safety, Courtesy, Inclusion, Show and Efficiency—serve as the basis on which all Cast Members make decisions to provide the greatest hospitality to Guests. The Five Keys are also the most valued standard for Oriental Land Co., Ltd.

What are the 10 basic chords on a guitar? ›

The 10 first guitar chords you should learn are A Major, A minor, C Major, D Major, D minor, E Major, E minor, E minor 7, F Major, G Major.

What are the 7 guitar chords? ›

Seventh chords are chords that include the root plus the 3rd, 5th, and 7th intervals above the root. Another way to think about it is a seventh chord is a triad plus a 7th interval.
...
Types of Seventh Chords
  • Major 7th.
  • Minor 7th.
  • Dominant 7th.
  • Half-diminished 7th.

What are the 5 main guitar chords? ›

The 5 chords we'll look at are the C major, A major, G major, E major, and D major. The reason we use all major chords is that the minor versions of any of these chords just require tiny adjustments.

How many guitar chords do I need to know? ›

Many guitar players will tell you that there are only 5 chords to concern yourself with as a beginner. They are the five Major chords mention earlier: E, G, C, A, and D. Major is a word that describes the quality of the chord. The spacing between the notes in music is what gives the chord their quality.

What is the easiest chord to play on a guitar? ›

Basic Em Guitar Chord (E Minor Chord)

Em is the first beginning guitar chord you should learn. It's one of the most basic guitar chords not only because it's easy, but because it's used all the time in a lot of different songs. The small m after the E means minor. Think of minor as a flavor of sound.

How many chords are there in total? ›

Remember there are 4017 possible chords before we ever even get into voicing! There's so much variety that sometimes it's good to forget about theory for a second and just experiment.

Can you learn guitar at 40? ›

You are never too old to learn guitar. You can start learning guitar at any age. While younger people tend to learn faster, you are still capable of learning guitar as a beginner whether you are 30, 40, 60, or even 70.

What is a 5 chord? ›

The number 5 is used to indicate a power chord because the chord contains the 1st (root) and 5th notes of a major scale. When written, the chord will have the number 5 next to the root note: To find a power chord, you'll need to know the notes of the scale it belongs to.

How many chords are there in guitar? ›

There are separate chord-forms for chords having their root note on the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth strings. For a six-string guitar in standard tuning, it may be necessary to drop or omit one or more tones from the chord; this is typically the root or fifth.
...
Key signatureMajor keyMinor key
F♯G majorE minor
2 more rows

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