Many beginner guitar players have their musical sights set on playing songs that they’re familiar with but are really too technically challenging for their level.
Playing songs we love is, of course, the reason that most of us took up the guitar in the first place. But getting to that level of talent is a journey that begins with something much more fundamental: Guitar chords.
Chords form the foundation of any song you listen to on the radio. The combination of two or more notes that harmonize beautifully creates musical textures that vocalists can sing melodies over and guitar players can play lead runs over.
That’s why as a new guitarist just starting out, learning a good set of guitar chords for beginners can make or break your musical journey.
Some of the best songs ever performed using nothing more than just these basic chords. Tunes like “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas, “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty, Jeff Buckley’s cover of the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah”, and lots of other classic songs are perfect ones to learn with just a few simple chords. Many songwriters believe that a song isn’t truly a good song unless it sounds good with just a singer and a guitar.
Flashy guitar tricks are fun and definitely something to strive for as you become more advanced. But for now, let’s set a goal to make sure we can pick up a guitar and play 3-4 chords while singing over the top of them. Here’s how to get started:
A Quick Intro to Music Theory:
The first thing to understand is that not all chords sound good together. If you want to be proficient at the guitar (or any instrument really), you’ll need to know that eventually learning chord progression theory will be really important. But for now, let’s highlight one basic thing you should understand.
Chords by themselves are a combination of notes. Those notes live on a musical scale that exists between a high octave and a low octave. Think of it as the keys on a piano. Between two C-notes, there are 12 notes.
When you play a set of chords, most of the time they come from the same group or family of notes – a thing we musicians call a “key”. When someone sings or plays a note that is off key, believe me – everyone notices! The trick to staying in the key is to play notes that harmonize over one another in a pleasing and audible way.
That is where we’ll begin: Here is a series of chords in the key of C-major that will harmonize together no matter which orders you put them in.
The 7 Awesome Guitar Chords for Beginners to Learn
To play these chords, cover the string at the fret number indicated below:
C – x32010
D – xx0232
Em – 022000
F – xx3211
G – 320003
Am – x02210
Bdim7 – xx0101
There you have it!
No matter what order or how you put these chords together or what order you play them in, they will sound beautiful together.
Try just a simple C to Am chord progression. Right away it should sound like other songs you’ve heard (since lots of pop music uses simple progressions like this).
Now try putting 4 of them together. How about G, Em, C, and D? Again, because each one is from the same key, they will all harmonize over one another.
Still got your doubts about whether you think beginner guitar chords like these ones will ever be useful? What if I told you that the amazing and beloved Pink Floyd song “Wish You Were Here” is actually made up of just these simple chords:
Wish You Were Here (Verse)
C / / / D / / / Am / / / G / / / D / / / C / / / Am / / / G / / /
Putting it all Together:
There are literally millions of other variations of chord families and chords themselves that we could learn and play. But that’s the beauty of the guitar. You never really ever run out of new ways to put sounds together and create something new!
For now, I encourage you to master these 7 guitar chords for beginners. Not only will they help you develop your own creativity, but I think you’ll also find that you’ll be able to master lots of songs you’ve probably heard before. In no time you’ll be ready to perform in front of others.