A chord is a number of notes, usually 2 or 3, played at the same time(almost!). The most common kind of chord is a triad, which is three notes played at the same time. With a guitar, you can produce chords by strumming across the strings simultaneously with either the fingers or a plectrum/pick.
Basic Chord Types
The first thing to know is that there are many different kinds of chords. The three most common being major, minor, and sevenths. How you use these chords will dictate the kind of music or mood that you’ll produce. For instance, if you need a sober or sad feel then use minor chords. If you want a happy or joyful sound, then you should be using major chords. If you would like a jazz feel to your music, then seventh chords are often the way to go.
Commonly Used Chords
In the first few months of learning the guitar you will need to learn about 14 chords fluently (and a lot more later!) so you can get a really good grip on playing. The ones that most start with are: A, C, D, E, F, G, Am, Dm, and Em chords (the little “m” means that it’s a minor chord.)
5 steps to learning chords
1. The first thing to do is to get a chart showing at least the basic guitar chords and this will show you what the fingering is for each chord so you can begin to practice. Plenty of sites on the Internet have charts you can download for free.
2. Once you have a grasp of a few of these then start to practice changing between 2 of them and then work up to 3 and so on.
3. With the other hand practice strumming with fingers or pick as you change chords. Make sure that you are getting a good sound. If it doesn’t sound quite right check that you are pressing the strings down firmly and also check that the guitar has not gone out of tune as the more you practice the more often you will need to check the tuning.
4. Now is the time to put all this together and to start playing some little tunes that just use the chords you have been practising. If you are brave enough you could also try singing along if that is something you are aiming for in the future. My favourites when starting out were the Beatles (showing my age!) as many of their songs have a limited number of chords, are easy to play and the words are easy to remember. It also really helps when learning if you know what a tune should sound like.
5. This last step is so important: practice and play every day or as often as is possible. It is not easy to learn the guitar, so the more practice you can get the faster will be your progress and hence the bigger the incentive to practice even more. Before long you will have a collection of tunes you can play reasonably and this is a great encouragement. Also split your time between just basic practice where you are learning chords and hand changes and playing where you are learning to play tunes and hopefully enjoying yourself. Once you get some tunes you can play fairly easily then play them a lot to exercise and strengthen your fingers: this is part of the learning process as well.
Finally – Good luck, and happy playing.
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