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First Step

This page is for one of the most important aspects of learning guitar:  how to play guitar chords. Chords are 3 or more notes played at the same time.

Important first step: You’ll need to know how to read a chord diagram before you proceed.

There are many types of chords, but you should start with the five basic chord shapes.  The next step is to learn all the chords on our common open chords chart.

For The Progressing Student

Once you can play a few chords, you’ll be ready to start strumming, so be sure to check out our Beginner Strumming video course.

At this point you’ll want to learn about power chords, too. Learning them will set you up for the next step: learning barre chords.

Types Of Chords

The most common types of chords major chords and minor chords, but there are other types of chords such as 7th chords, suspended chords, diminished chords, and so on. Some of them may have strange sounding names at first, but don’t let the names scare you.  Usually we’re just adding or changing a note here and there to create different sounds.

In the tables below you’ll find the formulas used for chord construction.

As a general rule major chords can be substituted with anything in the “major” table. And minor chords can be substituted with anything in the “minor” table. Keep in mind that substitutions should only be used sparingly unless you really want to jazz it up. Let your ear be your guide!

Then there’s the dominant 7th chords which are called ”dominant” because they are a common substitution for the dominant chord in a song. The dominant chord being the 5th (V) of the tonic (I) (in other words he 1st chord which is the key signature).