Here are some beginner-friendly tips for playing chords on the guitar.
What Is a Chord?
A chord happens when you play several individual notes together instead of plucking each one on its own. Some notes sound better with each other than others, and the combinations are named after the sounds that the notes produce together.
Thinking in Shapes
A big part of guitar playing is thinking in shapes and building muscle memory. All the chords that exist are thought of as shapes on the fretboard, which helps with memorizing them. Even scales and melodies form shapes on the fretboard.
Pay attention to the shape each chord forms and how it feels to form that shape with your fingers. The point of this exercise is to build up a muscle memory for each chord shape, so that in the end you can play without looking down at your instrument – or even with your eyes closed!
Tip: Make sure you’re playing with your fingertips – if fingers are flat, the strings below will be muted or cause some other disturbance. Check each string.
For this chord you’ll need only two fingers, middle and ring.
The next shape is exactly the same plus an additional finger. Keep the minor shape, adding the index finger.
Tip: Listen to the difference between major and minor, go back and forth slowly a few times.
Take the E major shape and slide all fingers down one string. With Am, you only strum from the A-string down, so thickest E-string not ringing!
Transitions – how you move between chords – are super important, and it’s all about being smooth and direct. If you take your fingers off completely, you’ll waste a lot of time. Instead, you’ll need to know where you’re going and get there as smoothly as possible.
Be sure to start slow – give your hands time to build up the muscle memory for the shapes and transitions between them.
Practice with your eyes closed, or in the dark, that way you’ll learn to rely more on how the chords feel and sound rather than how they look.
Ideally, you’ll get to a point where if someone mentions the E major chord your fingers automatically crook into the shape, even without the guitar!