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Guitar Chords

by Brian Hawthorn

The 15 Must Know Guitar Chords

The following guitar chords are used in every style of music. These chords are essential if you want  to play the guitar. Start with the easiest ones first (Em, A7, Am, D. A few of these guitar chords are a little more difficult (F, B7). To learn the guitar it is best to pay close attention to which fingers to use and place your thumb at the back of the neck of the guitar.
15 basic chords

Guitar Chords - Understanding The Diagrams

Chord diagrams are displayed vertically. The thicker black horizontal rectangle along the top is the nut. The other horizontal lines below the nut represent the frets (usually only 3 or 4 frets are displayed). The 6 strings are the vertical lines with the thinnest (the 1st string) always on the right.

Chord diagrams
  • Chord diagrams mark which finger to use by using a number. Number 1 indicates the index or pointing finger, number 2 is the middle finger, number 3 is the ring finger and number 4 is the baby or small finger.
  • The thumb is not used to play any chords.
  • An “x” above the string in a chord diagram means that you don’t play that string. It’s not part of the chord.
  • An “o” above the string means that the string is strummed and is to ring with the other strings.
  • The 1st string (the thinnest) is actually called the top string because it is the highest sounding string. The 6th string (the thickest) is called the bottom string because it has the lowest sound. This sounds a little confusing but just remember that the reference is strictly referring to how high the notes sound.

It’s very important to remember that the 1st string is the thinnest string. When you break a string (and you will), knowing this will ensure that you’ll get the correct replacement string from the music store.

The Best Position For the Thumb

The normal and best position for your thumb is as in the photo on the back of the guitar neck. Although it looks as if players are gripping the guitar, with your thumb in this position your fingers are are actually squeezing the notes.

Use the recommended finger patterns. The reasons will become apparent as you learn. Press the strings with your fingertips. There are a few exceptions such as the F chord. With the F chord you use the inside of your 1st finger to cover both the 1st and 2nd strings. You then use your fingertips to press the rest of the strings.

Thumb Position

Strumming The Guitar

Hold the pick between your thumb and index finger as in the photo.

Holding the pick

When strumming down strum all of the strings (except those marked with an “x”) When your rhythm has an up-strum, lightly play only the 1st or 1st and 2nd strings.

A common strumming pattern is:


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