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.
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:
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:
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.