Section 1 – Open Chords

I’m going to assume you’ve just picked up a guitar for the first time and it’s in tune. If it’s not in tune, I recommend you get a clip-on tuner like the Snark. These are great because they’re more mobile than a pedal and they’ll tune acoustic as well as electric guitars.

You want to always play in tune. I know it sounds obvious but a lot of new players don’t bother tuning their instrument. You may need to tune a couple or more times a day depending on how much you play and the climate where you live as this can make a guitar go sharp or flat.

Open Chords are so-called because they’re played using a combination of the first three frets and the open strings.

Here are your first three chords: C Major or just plain old C.

C major chord guitar

In the diagram above the black dots are where you put your fingers and the numbers show you which finger goes where. 1 = index finger, 2 = middle finger, 3 = ring finger and 4 = pinky. The white dots mean that you play the open strings as part of this chord, and the X means a string is not played.

Once you have your fingers in the right place, practice strumming/sounding the chord. You’ll find that you have to adjust your finger placement to get all the notes to ring out clearly, especially the open strings. This will probably feel a little uncomfortable at first but that will pass. If it doesn’t sound right, play each of the notes separately to find out where the problem is.

Here’s D Minor or Dm:

d minor chord guitar

For the Dm chord you only need to strum the top four strings. Again, make sure each note rings out clearly. If you’re comfortable using a pick to strum by all means go ahead, but you can also just use your thumb at this point.

Our next chord is E Minor or Em:

e minor chord guitar

Of all the chords so far, this one is probably the easiest to master because you only have to hold two strings down and strum all six strings.

Checkpoint: Before you go any further, make sure you can play these chords with each note ringing out clearly. Don’t worry about strumming at this point, just concentrate on producing a clean sound for each chord.