Introduction to Basic Guitar Chords

So what are the Basic Guitar Chords and how are they made up?

Chords are made up from various notes on the guitar, notes that sound pleasing when combined. Before I introduce you to some basic guitar chords, let me use a metaphor to first describe what chords are.

When you read, as you are doing now, you see a collection of letters from the alphabet put together to make words. Compare this to musical notes and chords. The musical notes are the metaphorical equivalent of the letters, those notes are combined to make chords, the metaphorical equivalent of words. Of course the correct notes need to be combined in order to make those chords, just as the correct letters are needed to form the word. For example take the word 'quick'. If I replace the 'i' in the word with an 'a' it no longer says 'quick', it says 'quack'. If we look at the notes contained in the chord of 'E' we have the notes EBEG#B and E. But if I change the G# to a G the chord is no longer an 'E', it becomes Em (E minor). See the diagram below.



Words are combined with other words to create sentences, and likewise, chords are combined with other chords to make progressions. The sentences become the building blocks of paragraphs, and chord progressions become the building blocks of songs. That's the technical bit over!

But there is not a lot of point in learning chords just to say "I know how to play an Em" (although it's a good start). No, we learn chords as the building blocks for playing and writing songs. How much fun would it be if we just sat and spoke a series of unrelated words to each other? About as much fun as playing a bunch of unrelated chords played with varying tempos. Not a lot of fun. We want to hear sentences that make sense, and chord progressions that 'fit' together to make songs.

Lucky for us guitarists there are really only a handful of chords required to accomplish this, they are the basic chords that we need to learn, and which can be rearranged in particular orders to play any amount of songs. In fact we can bring the number of basic guitar chords required to play most songs down to just three, this is called the 'Three Chord Trick'. Using this method and something called transposing we could get through a whole evening playing different songs, how cool is that? Just imagine, the next time you tell somebody you play the guitar and they say to you "oohh cool, do you know ALL the chords?", you can say "Yeah, ALL the most important ones". Like, dude!

After a while though you will yearn for new chords, you will want to substitute certain chords for others to give the songs a different feel or vibe. Lucky again for us guitarists there are hundreds of different chords and chord voicings to feed that yearning.

But to get started lets take a look at the basic guitar chords. If you are unsure of how to read a chord diagram (example below), then check out this page which should explain all you need to know.


If you already know how to read a chord diagram, then proceed to...

Major Chords

Minor Chords

5th Chords

Back from Basic Guitar Chords