How to play guitar chords

To play the guitar, you'll need to know chords. This article describes chord positions on the guitar and shows you simple chords and songs you can play right away.

What is a chord

Chords can be described as a harmony of three and more tones played simultaneously. Chords can be played on the guitar and other instruments. We won't go into music theory in greater depth here. What's important to know is that the chord fingering determines the length of played strings, which changes the height of the issued tone. Three and more of these tones in harmony create a chord. Used most often in European tradition are chords based on the tertian system and derived from scales.


The guitar's fretboard is found on its long neck. Right-handed players have the fretboard on their left, left-handed players on their right. The strings run along the fretboard in the following order (starting with the thinnest): E - B - G - D - A - E, and are also divided into frets. It is the frets that determine the height of tones in chords.

In time, pressing the strings produces callouses on your fingers, making it gradually easier to hold the strings down. The joy from playing your first song makes it all worth it. 

How to read chord diagrams

The diagram shows the fretboard and the place where the string should be pressed to create the chord. The strings are from E (the thick string at the top) to the high E (the thin string below). The first row above is the nut near the head of the guitar, unless stated otherwise. The solid dots indicate the place on the frets where the fingers press the strings. An open dot means that you strum the string without pressing it. An x mean that the string is not part of the chord and should not be played.

These are diagrams of the most common chords. These are the most basic chords you can use to play hundreds of songs.

Books on playing the guitar are available here.

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