Who this lesson is intended for
This lesson is intended for beginners first starting to learn the guitar.
Able to play the chords in Part One and can strum between them while keeping a steady rhythm.
A basic understanding of guitar tabs or standard notation.
The purpose of this lesson is to introduce you to some more basic ‘open’ chords. It will also explain basic strumming between chords.
Introduction to the basic chords
If you can play the chords from the other lesson (Em and D) and are comfortable strumming and changing back and forth between them, you can move on to learn some new chords. If you are still having some trouble with Em and D, keep practicing and only come back to this lesson after you can play the two chords with ease. You may find the next two chords a little harder to play. Some chords need your fingers to stretch out a fair bit, which is why I created the simple exercises lesson. You should play the exercises from that lesson a few times as a warm up before you try to play these chords.
THIRD CHORD: G
The next chord we will look at is called G or ‘G Major’. By looking at the chord diagram, you can see that all six strings are to be played. There are three open strings (represented by the three white circles) and three notes to be fretted (the three black dots). The fingers used for these notes are 2, 1 & 3. Sometimes you will see G written using 2, 1 & 4 or 2, 3 & 4. As I explained with Em, there are many different ways to play the same chords so you can use any of the finger combinations. In the video demonstration I show the different ways you can play G. To play G, start off by placing your first finger on the second fret on the fifth string. Then you can reach across with your second finger and place it on the third fret on the third string. The hard part is to reach with your third finger and place it on the third fret on the first string.
Some people may have trouble stretching their hand out to do this. If you can’t reach with your third finger or when you play the chord some of the strings sound muted, use your fourth finger instead of your third. The fourth finger has less strength so many people may prefer using the third finger. Use the simple exercises in the earlier lesson to build up strength in your fourth finger. Once you think you have your fingers in the correct position, strum all the strings and listen to how it sounds. If it sounds good (listen to the video to hear what it should sound like), play each string separately to make sure your fingers are not accidentally muting the open strings.
Look at the shape your hand makes when you play G. The fingers form a triangle shape. Remember that shape to help you memorise how to play G.
FOURTH CHORD: Am
The fourth chord we will look at is called ‘A Minor’. Have a look at the diagram below and think about what you need to play before reading my explanation.
So you should have noticed four points.
1. Only five strings are to be played (the X on the sixth string tells us not to play that string)
2. Two of the strings are played open (the two circles on the fifth and first string tell us to play the string open)
3. Three notes are to be fretted (the three black dots)
4. The fingers: first, second and third are to be used (written inside the black dots)
If you picked up on all of these points, you know how to read chord diagrams properly. Start off by placing your first finger on the first fret on the second string. Then reach across with your second finger and place it on the second fret on the fourth string. You then take your third finger and place it in-between the other two fingers on the second fret on the third string. Look at the shape your hand makes and try to remember how it looks so you can remember Am.
When strumming this chord, make sure you don’t play the sixth string. Try to memorise how many strings each chord uses so you always know how many strings are to be played. The chords so far are:
Em: Uses all six strings
D: Uses four strings (first to fourth string)
G: Uses all six strings
Am: Uses five strings (first to fifth string)
Strumming between the chords
Just like last lesson, have a go strumming each chord four times then change over to the other chord. The tab below shows that you start by playing G four times, then change to Am and play it four times. Continue this in a loop starting very slow to get used to the change. Keep in mind that Am only uses five strings.
The tab below is an example of how you can practice the four chords we have looked at so far. Play D four times, change to Am and play it four times, then change to Em and play it four times, then change to G and play it four times. Take your time playing this and get used to the changes.
Once you can play the above tab, have a go playing other combinations using the chords we have looked at. Strum each one four times then change to a different chord. You need to practice switching between all the combinations to you are comfortable with changing to any chord. I have written out combinations you should try.
Starting on G: G to Em, G to D, G to Am.
Starting on Em: Em to G, Em to D, Em to Am.
Starting on D: D to Em, D to G, D to Am.
Starting on Am: Am to Em, Am to G, Am to D.
If you can play all of those combinations well, you will feel comfortable changing from any chord to any other chord. Some changes will be very easy (eg: Em to Am) and some may be tricky (D to G). Practice all of them until they all feel natural.
My experience with basic open chords:
This is the way I learned how to memorise chords. By strumming between two chords, I was able to memorise the chord positions and how to change between the chords while keeping a steady rhythm. If you can think of other ways to memorise the chords, by all means do it. But keep in mind that using flash cards or any other method that doesn’t use the guitar will not help you play them. I’ve seen websites try to sell flash cards to help memorise chords. While they may help recognise chords, they won’t help you play them if you aren’t actually strumming them.
With every new chord you learn, practice changing between it and all the other chords you already know. I have emphasised the need to switch between chords because that’s what you will need to do when playing. If you are playing with another musician or trying to sing while playing, you will need the skill of changing between chords in a flash. But don’t worry if it still takes you a while to change between them, it is a skill that will improve every time you practice. If you are having trouble with some chords and need help, post a video response to the video for this lesson and I will try to help you out.