Learn Guitar Chords – Major Chords

This series of articles will teach you basic guitar chords and then show you how to play these guitar chords at different positions on the fretboard to give different chords. We will start off with basic Major chord patterns first.

Take a look at the chord below. This is the chordbook version of the E Major chord, usually abbreviated to just E.

E Major Chord E Major Chord

The fingering I prefer to use is shown below

E Major Chord - Alternative Fingering E Major Chord – Alternative Fingering

This leaves my first finger floating above the strings. I can then move this chord to any position on the fretboard and lay my first finger down forming a bar across the first, second, and sixth strings one fret below my second finger.

The root note of this chord is the note being played on the sixth string. By knowing all the notes on the sixth string, you can play any Major chord on the guitar.

Just in case you don’t know the notes on the sixth string, here they are:

Sixth String NotesSixth String Notes

Using this principle, we can move the first finger up to the third fret to play a G Major chord or the fifth fret to play an A Major chord. The G chord is shown below.

G Major ChordG Major Chord

The problem with this is that if you want to change from a G chord to D chord, you have to slide from the third fret right up to the tenth fret. This is where the next chord shape comes in handy.

A Major Chord A Major Chord

This is an A Major, or just A, chord. Note the X at the sixth string showing that this string isn’t played. This isn’t the text book fingering for this chord. You usually see variations of the first, second, and third fingers being used but I find it a bit cramped so I would use the fingering above if I was going to press each string with a different finger.

Played like this, you still have the first finger floating over the strings so you can slide it up the fretboard and hold down the first and fifth strings with your first finger bar.

The root note of this chord is the note being played on the fifth string. In the example above, it’s the open A note. Here’s the fifth string notes to learn just in case you don’t already know them:

Fifth String NotesFifth String Notes

The problem is that you might have trouble changing from this chord shape to the previous one and back quickly. This is my lazy man’s A chord:

A Major Chord - Alternative Fingering A Major Chord – Alternative Fingering

Here, you’ve replaced the second, third, and fourth fingers with a third finger bar. This might take some practice to get the finger pressed down on the strings and bent at the joint so that the first string still sounds clean and not muted.

Notice, that I’ve also shown the sixth string being played. In theory, the lowest note played should be the root note of the chord, in this case A. The open sixth string, E is actually part of the A Major chord, but in theory again, this chord would be called A/E. This means it’s an A Major chord with E being the lowest note played.

Whether you play the sixth string or not is up to you, see how it sounds. Even if you can’t get the first string to play, you will still get the E note from the note played on the fourth string. It all depends on your playing style. If you’re going to strum and play properly, you want all the notes to sound cleanly. If you’re going to thrash and turn up the distortion, it doesn’t matter whether you play the sixth string or not or whether the first string note is playing clean. Just practice at it and find what’s best for you.

Using this chord shape, the diagram below shows it moved up to the third fret to produce a C chord.

C Major ChordC Major Chord

You’ll now see that changing from a G chord to a D chord doesn’t need moving from the third fret to the tenth, just to the fifth.

Here’s a tip to change from one chord shape to the other and back quickly. When you change from the first chord shape, lift the fourth finger off the string and rotate the third finger tip off the fifth string and lay it down flat on the second, third, and fourth strings.

Changing back is the opposite. Roll the third finger up so that the tip is back on the fifth string and drop the fourth finger back on to the fourth string. You don’t have to even move the second finger off the third string. Try it out.

This first article has showed you how you can play any major guitar chord by just knowing two chord shapes and the notes on the fifth and sixth strings of your guitar. There are other shapes but this should give you a good start.

We will take a look at minor chords in the next article.