How to Play a Chord on the Guitar

Chords are basic building blocks of songs. You can play a chord (the simultaneous sounding of three or more notes) several ways on the guitar — by strumming (dragging a pick or the back of your fingernails across the strings in a single, quick motion), plucking (with the right-hand fingers), or even smacking the strings with your open hand or fist.

Okay, that’s rare, unless you’re in a heavy metal band. But you can’t just strike any group of notes; you must play a group of notes organized in some musically meaningful arrangement. That means learning left-hand chord forms.

After you think you understand (somewhat) guitar notation, your best bet is to jump right in and play your first chord. Start with E major, because it’s a particularly guitar-friendly chord and one that you use a lot. And it’s pretty easy.

After you get the hang of playing chords, you’ll eventually find that you can move several fingers into position simultaneously. For now, though, just place your fingers one at a time on the frets and strings, as the following instructions indicate:

  1. Place your 1st (index) finger on the 3rd string, 1st fret (actually between the nut and 1st fret wire but closer to the fret wire).

    Don’t press down hard until you have your other fingers in place. Apply just enough pressure to keep your finger from moving off the string.

  2. Place your 2nd (middle) finger on the 5th string, 2nd fret.

    Again, apply just enough pressure to keep your fingers in place. You now have two fingers on the guitar, on the 3rd and 5th strings, with an as-yet unfretted string (the 4th) in between.

  3. Place your 3rd (ring) finger on the 4th string, 2nd fret.

    You may need to wriggle your ring finger a bit to get it to fit in there between the 1st and 2nd fingers and below the fret wire.

This is how your E chord should look after all your fingers are positioned correctly. Now that your fingers are in position, strike down through all six strings with your right hand to hear your first chord, E.

[Credit: Photograph courtesy of Jon Chappell]
Credit: Photograph courtesy of Jon Chappell

One of the hardest things to do in playing chords is to avoid buzzing. Buzzing results if you’re not pressing down quite hard enough when you fret. A buzz can also result if a fretting finger accidentally comes in contact with an adjacent string, preventing that string from ringing freely.

Without removing your fingers from the frets, try “rocking and rolling” your fingers around on their tips to eliminate any buzzes when you strum the chord.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Advertisement

Inside Dummies.com