The Five Basic Chord Shapes

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There are 5 basic chord shapes on the guitar. These basic chord patterns are the C, A, G, E, and D major chords. In the next few lessons, we’ll take a closer look at these shape. You should already know the A major chord from our previous lesson.

These are ‘major chords’ which are a type of chord. Major chords are sort of like the default chord in music and from here on out we’ll just refer to the major chords by their letter name. For example, we’ll just refer to A major as simply ‘A’.

  • Try forming these chords and then strum your chord one string at a time.
  • Listen to each note. Does each string ring clearly?
  • Check yourself with the audio samples.

The C Chord

Here’s how to form the C chord:

  1. Place your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the A string (5th string).
  2. Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the D string (4th string).
  3. Leave the G string open (3rd string)
  4. Place your 1st finger on the 1st fret of the B string (2nd string)
  5. Leave the high E string open (1st string)

C

basic guitar chord patterneasy guitar chords

You strum every string except the low E string (6th string).

The G Chord

Here’s how to form the G chord:

  • Place your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the low E string
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the A string
  • Leave the D, G, and B strings open
  • Place your 4th finger on the 3rd fret of the high E string

G

Open_Gbasic chords for guitar

Go ahead and strum all six strings for the G chord.

The D Chord

How to form the D chord:

  • Leave the D string open (hint, hint)
  • Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the G string
  • Place your 3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the B string
  • Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the high E string

D

guitar chordbasic guitar chord patterns

Do not strum the low E string or the A string.  Only strum the D, G, B, and high E strings.

The A Chord

In the previous lesson, we learned how to form the A chord. Let’s recap:

  1. The A string will be played open
  2. Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd of the D string
  3. Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret of the G string
  4. Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd fret of the B string
  5. Leave the high E string open

A

openachords for guitar

Strum every string except the low E string.

The E Chord

Here’s how to form the E chord:

  1. Leave the low E string open
  2. Place your 2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the A string
  3. Place your 3rd finger on the 2nd fret of the D string
  4. Place your 1st finger on the 1st fret of the G string
  5. Leave the B and high E strings open

E

chords for guitarthe basic guitar chords

You’ll strum all six strings for the E chord:

Your Assignment

  • Form each chord above
  • Strum each chord and check for errors
  • Compare your chords with the audio examples
  • It will probably take a few days to memorize all 5 chords, so be sure to revisit them each day until you can form each chord by memory

Next Lesson: The E Chord Group